After nearly a decade of obsession with and pandering to the Hispanic
vote, the leaders of both major political parties are finally being
told an unpleasant truth — the Hispanic vote is overrated. Last week
William Frey, one of the country's leading demographers and a major
expert on immigration, unbosomed this lesson in an interview with The
Washington Times. "The
Hispanic vote is going to be a lot less important than people think," he
Whether it is or isn't is a more important question than which party
or candidate can or should pander to it the most. The belief that the
Hispanic vote is critical to political victory was the main reason
the Republican Party abandoned immigration control after the 1996 election.
Its candidate that year, Bob Dole, won a mere 21 percent of the Hispanic
bloc nationally, and the Open Borders crowd immediately blamed Republican
support for immigration control as the reason.
That was dubious then and even more dubious now, but the GOP under
Newt Gingrich dropped immigration control like a live hand grenade.
Party strategists started yattering about how "the Hispanic strategy" would
replace the "Southern strategy" as the road to party victory.
George W. Bush himself spent much of the 2000 campaign yattering in
Spanish, in the belief it would win Hispanic support.
In fact, though Mr. Bush's Hispanic support was a bit better than
Mr. Dole's, Al Gore walked off with an overwhelming 65 percent of Hispanics.
That has not stopped Republicans from continuing to pander. This year
we have had Mr. Bush's amnesty plan for illegal aliens and yet more
yattering in Spanish. It still doesn't help. Polls show a strong preference
for John Kerry among Hispanics, who is no sluggard himself when it
comes to pandering.
But what Mr. Frey is telling them is that it doesn't matter anyway.
It's true that thanks to mass immigration the Hispanic electorate has
swelled to some 7 million voters, but the numbers need to be qualified.
Mr. Frey notes that "One-third of Hispanics are below voting
age, and another quarter are not citizens. Thus, for every 100 Hispanics,
only 40 are eligible to vote, 23 are likely to register, and just 18
are likely to cast ballots. For blacks the comparable number is 37,
and for whites, nearly 50."
In some states, like New Mexico, Mr. Frey acknowledges that Hispanic
voters may be critical. Hispanics make up 29 percent of the state's
total population and may well swing it in November. But in other states
like Arizona and Nevada, they're simply not that important. "In
both of those states, a disproportionate number of those Hispanics
are not registered or not voting," Mr. Frey says. Hispanics make
up only an estimated 12 percent of Arizona's voters and 10 percent
So what groups will determine the election? It's very simple, says
Mr. Frey. "This race will be determined primarily by white voters."
White voters make up 86 percent of all voters in the most competitive
states, and "This election is going to be won in the Midwest,
largely white, battleground states."
If that's true, does it carry implications for Republican political
strategy? To put it bluntly: Yes.
If the Hispanic vote were really as critical to national political
success as the myth claims, immigration control would indeed be a political
loser (assuming all Hispanics favor immigration, which is by no means
entirely true). No serious politician would support reducing immigration
or controlling the borders if those positions meant defeat, and that's
precisely what the Open Borders crowd harped on in the past.
But if the Hispanic vote is not so important and the white vote is,
then the party's strategy needs to adjust to that reality. It needs
to think hard about how to win and keep the white vote — far more
than it does now.
In 2000, George W. Bush won the white vote—- but only by 54 percent.
In 1972 and 1984 Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan won a whopping 67
and 64 percent respectively — support that translated into a national
landslide. In the 1990s, weaker candidates like George Bush Sr. and
Mr. Dole carried only 40 and 46 percent of whites — which translated
The boondoggle that the current President Bush created with his foolish
amnesty plan for illegals ought to tell him all he needs to know about
the politics of immigration. If he wants to win the election, he needs
to forget the Hispanics and worry about the white voters who put him
in office in the first place.
And if he wants to win and keep the white vote, he needs to forget
about amnesty and the idiocies the Open Borders lobby tells him and
start doing something to control mass immigration.
[This column was originally published on September 28, 2004]
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Political pundit Samuel Francis was an author
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The Washington Times, he received the Distinguished Writing Award
for Editorial Writing from the American Society of Newspaper Editors
in both 1989 and 1990.
See a complete bio and other articles here
Shots Fired: Sam Francis on America's Culture
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