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The GOP’s Demographic Challenge (Part I): Amnesty

If I’m any indication, Barack Obama and the current Democratic leadership could be God’s greatest gift to the Republican Party. I’m probably about as demographically “blue” as one can get: young(-ish!), African-American, Jewish, coastal big city, public interest lawyer, product of liberal elite education, former Obama Kool-Aid drinker, etc., and yet, in all likelihood I’ll be voting Republican this fall, and I recently sent my first ever contribution to a Republican candidate.

It’s not all Obama’s fault, of course. Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, the rest of the Democrats in Congress, even the Democrats who run the city in which I reside, share no small part of the blame. But for some reason, it was Obama who really dramatized for me for the first time in my life the difference between, as Mark Levin puts it, “Liberty” and “Tyranny” in such a visceral and fundamental way that I can no longer avoid the inescapable conclusion that some of the most basic elements of our way of life are at risk if the Democrats are not removed from power in Washington as soon as possible.

In furtherance of that cause, and considering the demographic unlikeliness of my conservative leanings and my relatively extensive experience in working politically with various non-white U.S. populations, I thought it might be interesting to some here at Red State if I shared some thoughts and tried to contribute to the dialogue that I’ve seen in other diaries on how the GOP and the conservative movement in general might confront its demographic challenges in “majority-minority” communities such as the one in which I live and work.

Now, in the short term, I think the demographic issue is not that important. 2010 will probably be an election, like most off-year elections, that is primarily about “base turnout” and so the current Republican base, now energized by the Tea Party and the very real threat of socialism, combined with the demoralization of the Obama voters, will probably be sufficient to take back many of the seats won by Democrats in 2006 and 2008.

Let me tell you, however, that most Democrats are smugly unconcerned, taking comfort in the fact that the ethnic groups that are growing most quickly tend to vote Democratic and the groups that are declining tend to vote Republican. That may in fact partly explain the suicide mission that the Democratic Party appears to be on in its quest to ram through its unpopular agenda despite the outcry of popular anger against it: the Democrats can afford to take a few losses in November 2010, if in the process it can further solidify its hold over the various “constituencies” that make up its voting coalition.

But all is not lost. Shifts do happen. Let’s never forget that from the founding of the Republican Party until the 1930′s, it enjoyed the same kind of allegiance from black Americans that the Democratic Party does now, due to its opposition to slavery. Let’s also never forget that it is the Democratic Party whose history is stained with the legacy of Jim Crow segregation. And within the Asian and Latino populations there remain significant subsets — Cubans and Vietnamese for example — that still vote Republicans for the most part.

But most fundamentally, as I will explore in further depth in coming diaries, the fact of the matter is that the base of nearly every community of color in the United States is ideologically far more aligned with conservativism than with progressivism. It’s only a kind of accident of history that things are aligned as they are today; they needn’t and won’t be forever. And the delusional idiocy of Obama and the Democrats has created the window of opportunity for this realignment to begin.

I’ve watched very closely over the past year how “hope” and “change” have translated into debt, coercion, incompetence, capriciousness and deceit, and it has not been pretty. For years, I’d hear conservatives bray on about “freedom” and I honestly had no idea what they were really talking about. As an American, I took for granted that I was “free” to do what I wanted within the general bounds of Constitutional law and public morality. What Obama and the Democrats have made me understand about liberalism, progressivism and socialism, however, is that freedom is indeed very much at risk when the government grows to large, too intrusive, to coercive; without a healthy free market, there can be no real freedom.

Obama and the Democrats have exposed the basic fact that the government can never provide all that they promise. You can actually hear this exact point in the pronouns that he uses: “We need to provide jobs for people”, “We need to provide health care for people”, “We must make loans available to people”, “We must stop global warming”. There is literally nothing on Earth that Obama doesn’t speak of as if it’s under his control, and within his job description. I think he truly believes this to be the case.

But it’s too obvious to state that he’s deluded in this. Yes, the United States presidency is indeed a powerful station, but he cannot possibly do the things that he wants to do. In fact, the more that he tries to do them, the further he seems to get from achieving his objectives. And it can only be so, because government cannot possibly provide for the needs of everyone in the world, or control the Earth’s climate, or create jobs and business opportunities for all who need them. There just ain’t enough power and money in the world to do that. And the more he tries, the more he sucks up money and energy from the free market, which is actually the only place where everything he wants to happen could happen, with free people working hard, creating and innovating in order to provide for their own needs and create jobs and wealth.

And I finally understand now why conservatives poo-poo the “grand plans” of liberals, progresives and socialists to remake the world along the lines of some utopian ideal worked out in late night bullshit sessions in Harvard dormitories. Black nationalists used to be fond of saying, “the white man’s heaven is the black man’s hell”. Well, it turns out that in one place after the other, “the liberal’s utopia is the common man’s hell”. And I understand why: because the more “successful” they are in implementing their “agenda”, the more the rest of us will be reduced to begging, scheming and conniving for a little piece of the government’s largesse, which will be less and less generous with each passing year.

And I can’t be the only one. In the community I live in, the official unemployment rate now hovers just below 20% and if you include people who are not counted because they have given up trying or exist in the underground economy, it’s probably twice that. Everywhere I look around me, public entities are facing record deficits — furloughs, layoffs, cuts in services. Democrat-controlled, all of them. The old adage that the problem with socialism is that “sooner or later you run out of other people’s money” has come home to roost. And nobody on the Democratic side of the aisle has any ideas about what to do about it, and it doesn’t even seem to be high on their priority list. Meaningless jibber-jabber about “green jobs” that area measured in the hundreds just add to the insult.

We can and will discuss social issues and national security and a host of other issues where fault lines exist, but to find the keys to demographic realignment, I would think that “it’s the economy, stupid” will continue to be as true now as it was in 1994 and 1980 and on and on. If the Democrats continue to fail on the economy at such as epic scale, people will surely be more than open to what the Republicans might have to say about an alternative course of action.

In the face of this, no matter what ethnic group we’re talking about, the Republican Party will win quite a few of us over with a simple message delivered over and over again, to all who will listen: only the free market, free of confiscatory taxes, burdensome regulations, and impossible mandates, has the potential to deliver the “hope” and “change” that we so desperately seek right now. People need to be asked whether they would rather beg, weasel and connive for a meager piece of a shrinking pie of government handouts, or work hard as proud and free people in an environment rich in opportunity to realize their dreams in life. And people of color probably have more direct experience with the horrors of being reliant on government to provide for their needs than anyone else in our society, so this message will resonate.

But . . . the obvious question is of course, this is nothing new, really, so why hasn’t this message worked until now?

Well, truth be told, in recent time, most people of color haven’t gotten too much further in their analysis of conservatives and the Republican Party than the basic question of race itself: the Republican Party is seen as anti-black, or -Latino, or -Asian and that’s the end of the story. The Democrats are friendly to members of their group; the Republicans are not.

So what to do about that? I’ve lurked around Red State enough to know that there is a certain degree of teeth-gnashing at the idea of making any kind of explicit racial appeal — the whole premise of conservativism is individualism and a common American identity. Ethnic group politics are fundamentally antithetical to that.

Well, I’d like to suggest a third, more obvious alternative, one that I’m genuinely surprised Republicans haven’t done far more with: capitalizing on “wedges” that exist within the Democratic coalition that happen to coincide with basic elements of the conservative platform. That is to say, if Republicans find themselves ideologically aligned with one part of the Democratic coalition against another (particularly if that “part” happens to be a community of color), then they should demonstrate their commitment to that issue and that community by focusing on pushing it through to victory. Again the lens through which these issues should be seen primarily have to do with economics, and the value that the Republican Party can bring to the table in terms of presenting an alternative where all people can solve their own problems through individual initiative and hard work in an environment rich with economic opportunity.

I’ll start with the first issue that even before the age of Obama turned me against the Democrats: illegal immigration.

Citizenship ought to be an issue that transcends left and right, Democrat and Republican. Any politician that does not subscribe to the basic idea that being a citizen of America is a special and unique privilege that ought to mean something significant in the world, then I believe that that person does not deserve to hold public office in this country. People of color understand this better than anyone. Black Americans died for the rights of citizenship. Asians and Latinos (legal immigrants) crossed lands and oceans, paid large fees and waited for years for the chance to take the oath of citizenship.

But many Democrats and yes some Republicans seem to want to dissolve the boundaries between American and not American. They want to confer jobs, rights and benefits on people, irrespective of whether or not they are citizens. As this winter passes into spring, it looks as though the new Democratic suicide mission of the year will be comprehensive immigration reform. I know it seems crazy in the wake of the huge losses in popularity incurred during the health care reform fight, but you must understand that amnesty is the Holy Grail for the Democratic Party: if amnesty goes through, the Republicans are finished for a generation at least as a political party. All of credit for the amnesty will to the Democrats, and all of the new voters and their children will vote Democratic. And they will have been introduced into the United States with the understanding that if you flaunt the law, and make the right political moves, then you can win and prosper. That is a recipe for the corrosion of the essential integrity of our society.

If the Democrats will amnesty for illegal immigrants, that will be end of American citizenship as something that has any meaning whatsoever. The floodgates will be open, and the privileges of citizenship will have to be eroded because of the infinite number of claimants. Citizenship is a basic element of a free society and the Democrats are not standing up for it. I believe that if the Republicans can stake out that ground, it would go a long ways towards the goal of confronting the demographic challenge.

Yes, I know there are those who will say that to fight against amnesty is to permanently concede the Latino vote to the Democrats. I think that’s shortsighted, but I’ll discuss that in a moment. The bigger point is that there are deep schisms within the Democratic coalition over immigration. Putting aside white working class objections for the moment, African-Americans and all kinds of legal immigrants, especially from Asia, aren’t too happy with the massive line-jumping that is going on with illegal immigrants. Black people are literally being run out of their homes by the influx, sometimes violently, and whole categories of jobs that used to be predominantly black have become entirely Latino and mostly illegal. The schools in urban neighborhoods are overwhelmed with kids who cannot speak basic English, and the social service systems are similarly overtaxed. Again, it’s the erosion of any meaning to citizenship, where being an American means nothing as you compete for jobs, housing, education and social services from people who are not. Unchecked illegal immigration means that the economic opportunities available to citizens are greatly reduced, causing them to increasingly rely upon government for what they need, even as that government is itself increasingly taxed by that same out-of-control immigration.

OK, you say, but what about the Latinos? Won’t Republicans be branded as knuckle-dragging, xenophobes for a generation at least? Well, yes and no. Let’s keep in mind, first of all, that Latino voters are by definition (we hope!) Latino citizens, and the negative impacts of illegal immigration fall more heavily on Latino citizens than on any other group. It’s not an accident that Cesar Chavez was a “ferocious opponent of illegal immigration”.

But the modern-day Latino/Democratic leadership, unlike Cesar Chavez in his prime, is not really interested in what’s best for the Latino “man on the street”; they are more interested in the power that comes from changing demographics. But what’s good for the handful of leaders at the top is clearly not what’s good for the rank and file at the bottom.  Maybe that’s why in polls, immigration ranks below not only the economy, but also education, health care, national security and the environment in importance to Latino voters.

So, yes, if Republicans stand up against amnesty, there will be cries of racism and xenophobia from Democratic Latino elected officials and their various echo chambers, but there will also be millions of Latino citizens who will ultimately benefit from better wages, schools, services, etc., if the battle against illegal immigration is won once and for all. What’s more valuable, a generation of law-breakers cum citizens who learned all of the wrong lessons about how things work in the U.S., or millions of law-abiding voters who will see material improvements in their quality of life?

Part II: The Unions

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