After the 2012 elections, Republican officials said the party had to face its demographic challenges responsibly. Party leaders said outreach to Latino voters was a necessity, and the Republican National Committee’s autopsy report said it was obvious the party would have to support comprehensive immigration reform.
But as the 2014 elections near, Republican politicians have proven that they simply do not care, and the party is arguably more anti-immigration now than any point in modern history. In an unexpected twist, though, the consequences of such fierce, far-right attitudes appear to be non-existent: after two years in which Republicans almost seemed determined to alienate Latinos on purpose, voters appear likely to expand the House Republican majority, and possibly even hand over control of the Senate to the GOP, too.
How is this possible? Nate Cohn crunched the numbers and discovered that Republicans blew off this entire constituency because they could – even if the GOP loses 100% support of the Latino vote this year, the party would still be positioned to keep control of the House and win the Senate.
Even a situation in which every Latino voter in America chose the Democratic candidate would mainly allow Democrats to fare better in the heavily Hispanic districts where the party already wins. This is already occurring, to a lesser degree. Over the last decade, Democratic gains among young and nonwhite voters have allowed Democrats to win a majority of the House vote without flipping enough districts to earn a majority of seats.The Upshot analysis found that if not one of the eight million Hispanic voters supported the Republican candidate, Republicans would lose about a dozen House seats…. But given the Republicans’ current strength across rural areas and in conservative suburbs, the loss of every Hispanic every voter would not be enough to cost them the 17 seats that would flip House control…. In districts held by House Republicans, Hispanics represent only 6.7 percent of eligible voters and an even smaller share of the electorate.
The point isn’t that the GOP will get literally 0% of the Hispanic vote this year, because that’s obviously wrong. Rather, the point is, Republicans realize they could get 0% and keep power anyway.
And it’s not just the House: in the eight states with the closest U.S. Senate races, “fewer than 5 percent of eligible voters are Latino, according to a new Pew Research report.”
With this in mind, the post-2012 recommendations appear to be wrong – sort of.
Republican lawmakers were warned about their demographic problems, but they ignored the calls for change and won’t pay any price at all. Indeed, the party may even soon be rewarded for failing to govern.
The question, however, is whether the GOP recognizes the tradeoff between short-term electoral security and a long-term electoral shift.
Congressional Republicans, by and large, have spent the last two years telling Latino constituencies the party will not try to earn their support. On the contrary, the GOP has occasionally gone out of its way to offend these voters, pushing Latinos even further into the Democratic camp. And two weeks from today, far-right figures will probably feel pretty good about themselves. “See? We killed immigration reform, pushed Latinos away, and won anyway.”
But by creating a semi-permanent wedge between Latinos and Republicans, the party is also setting itself up for long-term failure: the 2016 electorate is likely to look much different than the 2014 electorate, and if GOP presidential hopefuls struggle once again to get Hispanic support, the party will remain locked out of the White House.
Republicans will keep their congressional seats, in other words, but that’s all they’re going to get.