Rove and Bush correctly perceived that, due to immigration, the Nixon-Reagan coalition, composed almost entirely of white voters, was shrinking in relative terms. Where, in 1960, European-Americans were nearly 90 percent of the population and an even higher share of the voters, today, they are less than 70 percent of the population.
Today, a Republican can sweep the white vote 55 percent to 45 percent, and still lose. And as President Clinton merrily predicted a few years ago, white folks will be just another minority in 2050, as they are already in California and Texas.
In short, Republicans need minority voters to survive as America’s Party. The Bush-Rove solution to the looming demographic disaster is to go all-out to court the nation’s fastest growing minority, Hispanics, who now number 40 million and 13 percent of the U.S. population. But, in seeking to win the Hispanic vote, the inherent defects of the Bush-Rove strategy have become manifestly clear.
First, Hispanics have never voted Republican in any presidential election. In his 49-state landslide in 1984, Reagan, despite a macho image that appealed to Hispanics, managed to win only 44 percent. In national elections, the Hispanic vote ranges between 56 percent and 75 percent Democratic. Thus, the more Hispanic America becomes, the more Democratic America becomes.
Now, an irreconcilable conflict looms. In a House vote before the Christmas-New Year’s break, Republicans endorsed a 700-mile security fence on the U.S.-Mexican border and tough sanctions on corporations that hire illegal aliens. No issue more fires up the populist base and white working-class Democrats than the issue of unprotected borders and the flooding of our cities and towns by some 12 million illegal aliens and counting.
The question Bush and Rove face is this: Can the GOP be both the party that secures the border against Hispanic invaders and sanctions employers who hire them, and still be the party Hispanics will vote for? In the old imagery, if Bush reaches for the bird in the bush, the Hispanic vote, by favoring open borders and amnesty, he may lose the bird in the hand, the support of the white working and middle class that is the heart of the Republican coalition.
Bush and Rove think they can have both. They can’t. But if George Bush’s father, 15 years ago, had only sealed and secured the border and begun to deport illegals, his son and Rove would not be facing the seemingly insoluble problem the GOP is presented with today.
Either Bush and Rove secure the border now, or we can kiss the GOP goodbye.