Posted on July 17, 2019

Republicans Represent Almost None of the Places Most Immigrants Live

Ronald Brownstein, CNN, July 16, 2019

President Donald Trump’s openly racist and xenophobic attacks on four Democratic House women of color, like his threatened immigration enforcement raids in major cities and the sweeping proposed new restrictions on asylum seekers that he announced Monday, underscores his transformation of the Republican Party into a coalition centered on the voters and places in America most hostile to immigration in particular and demographic change in general.

This latest flurry of activity continues the drive by Trump and other Republicans elected mostly from the parts of America least touched by immigration to impose a restrictionist agenda on migration over the nearly undivided opposition of Democrats elected by the areas where most immigrants, both undocumented and legal, actually live. Though greeted without complaint by Republicans in Congress, Trump’s promised raids provoked astoundingly open resistance from the mayors of virtually every large American city, from New York and Los Angeles to Chicago and Houston.


As I’ve written before, attitudes toward demographic, cultural and economic change have become the central fault line between the parties. Republicans mobilize what I’ve called a “coalition of restoration” centered on older, blue-collar, evangelical and non-urban whites who polls show are uneasy or frightened about the fundamental demographic, cultural and even economic trends reshaping America in the 21st century.

Democrats counter with a competing “coalition of transformation” revolving around the groups — young adults, minorities, singles, secular voters, and college-educated whites, mostly concentrated in large metropolitan areas — who are most comfortable with the change.


The result is that hardly any Republicans at any level now represent urban constituencies with the large immigrant populations that Trump has threatened with intensified ICE enforcement or demeaned with his calls for four liberal House Democratic women, three of whom were actually born in the US, to “go back” to where they came from before criticizing America.


{snip} In effect, Trump’s bruising racially-infused nationalism is forcing the GOP to trade support among younger voters for older ones; secular voters for the most religiously conservative, especially evangelical Christians; diverse voters for whites; white collar whites for blue-collar whites; and metro areas for non-metro areas.

Since Trump’s emergence Republicans have consolidated their control of small-town, exurban and rural communities. But that has come with significant losses for the GOP inside metropolitan areas even in red states, like Texas and Georgia.


In 2016, Trump lost 16 of the 20 states where foreign-born residents constituted the largest share of the population and won 26 of the 30 states where they represent the smallest shares. Even in the relatively more diverse states he won, he lost the vast majority of the big urban centers where immigrants and other minorities generally concentrate. Overall, Trump lost 87 of the 100 largest US counties to Hillary Clinton by a combined margin of over 15 million votes, according to calculations by the Pew Research Center. Trump offset these losses by amassing the largest margins for Republicans in decades in small-town, exurban and rural areas.

In 2018 House races, Republicans suffered only very modest losses outside of metropolitan area districts. And they gained three Senate seats in states with large populations of white voters who are rural, blue-collar, or evangelical Christians: North Dakota, Indiana and Missouri. But the party was routed in metropolitan House seats that contained significant populations of minorities, immigrants, singles, college-educated white voters, or all of the above. After sweeping losses in suburban districts from coast to coast, the GOP under Trump has been almost completely exiled from the dynamic metropolitan areas that account for the nation’s vast majority of job growth and economic output.

Democrats now hold over four-fifths of the House seats where minorities exceed their share of the national population and nearly 9 in 10 of the House seats with more foreign-born residents than average, according to a CNN analysis of census data. {snip} The result is that after the 2018 election, Democrats now hold 32 of the 40 Senate seats in the 20 states with the highest share of immigrants in their population while Republicans hold 45 of the 60 in the 30 states with the fewest. In 2020, the top two Democratic Senate pick-up opportuntiies are among the top 20 immigration states — Arizona and Colorado, with Georgia, another high-ranking state, presenting a more difficult chance. Democrats are also targeting about a dozen of the GOP House members remaining in high-immigrant seats.


Trump’s unrelentingly divisive agenda and language — and the sharp Democratic response it has generated — seems guaranteed in the 2020 election to widen the chasm between diverse, white-collar, immigrant-friendly urban America, where opposition to the President is centered, and his strongholds in preponderantly white, blue-collar, heavily Christian, non-urban America.

This week’s repeated use of openly racist language from the White House — like the new policy battles over ICE enforcement and asylum seekers, and the earlier struggles over Trump proposals to measure citizenship on the census, build a border wall, separate children from parents at the border, punish “sanctuary cities,” and slash legal immigration by the largest amounts since the 1920s — show how committed the President is to mobilizing his “coalition of restoration” even at the price of inflaming the Democrats’ “coalition of transformation” and potentially alienating swing voters.