October 22, 2014

Some strategic advice for Republicans on Immigration

For what it's worth, here's my two cents on how the GOP can win on immigration.

The president has advertised his next move - after the elections but before the Senate changes control to Republican hands, he's going to use some sort of Executive action(s) to bypass immigration laws and open the floodgates for illegal immigrants to become legalized. 
Rodríguez’s agency will be front and center once President Barack Obama announces the executive action he’ll take on immigration. Obama said he would take executive action after the elections but before the end of the year.
So Republicans, you know what the president is going to do.  He's going to use the window to not hurt the Democrats too much before the midterm elections, curry favor with Hispanics pre-election to help goose the get out the vote effort for Democrats, and more importantly fundamentally change the voting landscape for generations to come.

There's bad news and good news in that for the GOP.

First the bad news.  There's not much the GOP can do to forestall this.  Consider this - if the GOP in Congress and the Senate act immediately after being sworn in to pass legislation negating the potentially illegal executive action, the president is simply going to veto it.  The GOP, no matter how well they do in the midterm elections, are not going to have the numbers to override presidential vetos on legislation.  True, president Obama visibly becomes the roadblock he has claimed the GOP have always been, but he can spin that as the GOP still being the roadblock - to progress.  The media will eat that up.  With the next election cycle representing an opportunity to re-take the senate, don't count of Democrats to join forces with the GOP to override the presidential veto.  If Obama had moved pre-election, some of them might have had to do so.

There's more bad news.  While the executive actions may be illegal, challenging them in court will take time - years most likely.  By the time any result can come out of it, the damage will already have been done.  In fact even a Supreme Court decision could possibly have a decision mitigated with a disclaimer that too much time has passed and those who have been legitimized cannot now be deemed illegal once again.  So legal recourse will not solve the problem.  It might taint the Obama legacy and some sort of censure might be a result.  Those considerations should not be overlooked, for he will clearly be overstepping his bounds.  But the root problem remains: millions of illegal immigrants legalized and beholden to a liberal Democrat president and his hiers.  That means a major tilt towards liberal voters.

That's pretty bad.

But there is a silver lining to all of this.

Firstly, this trajectory and scurrilous plan should be featured in every Republican commercial for the next two weeks.  And there's no reason additional legislation on securing the border cannot be passed or attempted at least after the new Congress and Senate are seated. Those things may move the dial towards Republicans a hair, but there's a bigger picture at stake here.  Hispanics have traditionally been predominantly liberal voters.  Central and South America have a history of socialism and an often negative view of America.  They also have a Catholic slant in their religiosity.  Their brand of Catholicism often has a bent towards charity towards those in need, whom they often regard as fellow Hispanics.  So changing the hearts and minds of these new voters is not going to be easy.  We on the right view socialism with something more than disdain and our version of Christianity is typically a more Protestant oriented view - the work ethic, and charity being more based on teaching a man to fish than giving him a fish.  There's perhaps a disconnect there.

But can these new voters be co-opted into the Republican fold?  Firstly we should ask, "should they be"?   The answer is yes.  Every voter is a potential conservative, no one should be excluded from the big tent and certainly no one should be excluded from the attempt to persuade them that their votes are perhaps misaligned with their ideals.  Every challenge after all, is an opportunity.

I've written before about how to do this. In fact many times, and in relation to many different topics.  The main point is simple enough though.  The GOP cannot rely on the media to get their message out to these groups.  They shouldn't because it won't work.  They need to go directly to Hispanic organizations, churches, etc. and talk directly to them.  Share the conservative message with them.  And most importantly, listen.  Assuming their existing positions are anathema to conservatism is a political poison pill.  Their expressed ideas for solutions may be socialist, progressive or liberal in orientation, but their concerns are voter-based concerns.  Listening opens up the opportunity to communicate (a) another way to solve their problems and (b) the reasons that the Republican way, will better solve their needs.

It's really that simple.  Engage, listen, talk.

Actually maybe it isn't that simple, maybe the GOP need this spelled out:  once is not enough.  This needs to start immediately, and it needs to be happening frequently and regularly.  The ability to convince voters takes time.  You need to understand their issues.  You need to synthesize them into core issues.  You need to distill them into a message that explains how the GOP solution would work for them.  Think of this as a sales process.  You need to move the voters from Awareness to Interest to Desire and then to Action.  That could take years.

But you don't have nothing to work with from the start.  Those who come here from Latin America are not part of some vast socialist conspiracy to overrun American society.  They left supposed socialist paradises in order to take a risky journey to America.  Why?  It's the land of opportunity.  They wanted to be part of that.   Yes, there are those who want to turn the U.S. into another communist state, there are those who came for criminal reasons, and those who just cannot be persuaded to change their views.  All of those potentialities are true of any group coming to America.

Securing the borders and ensuring that the welfare state is not collapsed by an influx of future wards of the state is still important.  It'll be important to those who have already made it here thanks to Obama's largess.  If they are shown the impact of continuing illegal immigration - from anywhere in the world.

From the perspective of Hispanics arriving in America, they do not want to feel excluded from the opportunity America presents.  Those who immigrate legally shouldn't be, and really aren't excluded from what America has to offer.  But with those here illegally, and the rest of the existing Hispanic community, aren't going away.  This is simply a matter of taking the lemon created by Obama's actions and making lemonade out of it. Even getting Hispanics to a 50/50 split would be a big win for conservatives, but even more is possible if you make the effort.
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