I have spent, as I am sure many of you have, a lot of time in and around Hispanic culture. I don’t mean this in the sense of, “I’ve run in to some Hispanic people from time to time,” but rather in the sense of having gone frequently into their homes and partaken in their life stories. And whether Mexican, Cuban, Guatemalan, or other, I have found that they share many things in common.

They are tireless and dedicated workers. They have dedication to their families - to the principle of family - that would put us all to shame. They are highly religious people, who take their religion (most often Catholicism) very seriously. They keep their head down and go about their business. These are, in other words, Republican voters. ~Leon Wolf, Enchiridion Militis

Before I start on the potentially tangential point of whether these immigrants are in some sense potential “Republican voters,” I should note in fairness that my colleague, Leon Wolf, does argue later in the post for enforcement of the law:

All of that said, I am still a law and order guy. And, I support wholeheartedly any proposal that makes breaking the law more difficult, and more effectively deters lawbreaking in general. Bottom line: I support the Sensenbrenner proposal.

Mr. Wolf’s other points, some of which I am going to disagree with, will have to wait for another post.

Even though I grew up in New Mexico, I won’t pretend that I have spent a lot of time “in and around Hispanic culture,” except insofar as that culture permeates the general culture of New Mexico. I went to school with a fair few Hispanic kids, and we played on the same basketball team, and for the first seven years of formal schooling I went through mandatory Spanish language classes (and this was at private school), but I’m not going to kid anyone that I had close involvement with “Hispanic culture.” In school, we learned as much, if not more, about Spanish colonialism than we did about English colonialism, and our derivative cuisine was a constant reminder that we lived in Nuevo Mexico, but most of what we did learn about the Spanish and Mexican periods made the arrival of Gen. Kearny in 1846 seem like an unmitigated blessing for New Mexico. To my mind, the entry en masse of millions upon millions of Latin Americans seems to be quite plainly a reversal of that change and the introduction of the political habits and mentalities of peoples whose political systems are, in terms of constitutional republicanism, hopelessly flawed. If we want the broken political systems that drive these people out of their countries eventually reproduced here in miniature, we should keep having them come in at the present rate.

No one would challenge the work ethic of most of the people in question, nor necessarily their dedication to family and religion, which are elements of the debate that have always struck me as quite beside the point. Quite aside from the broader questions of assimilating new immigrants and whether or not we should reward illegal immigrants in some sense for having come here illegally, which are the central questions, there is the assumption that Hispanic immigrants should make good GOP voters because they are dedicated to work, family and faith. This assumption seems to be a case of believing something because it should be the case rather than believing something because it is true.

As Michael Dougherty noted the other day in a conversation, black Americans have the very same, often very strong commitments (as well as having, I might add, a far more potent historical reason to identify with the GOP), attenuated severely as they have been by government policy, crass pop culture and demagoguery, and yet there is no question (and there has been no question since FDR) that on all questions of policy, be they fiscal, economic or social (in terms of government supports), the overwhelming majority of black Americans do not see any necessary connection between work, family and faith and the philosophy of government (allegedly) espoused by the GOP. (For the purposes of argument, I will assume for the moment that we are talking about the most genuinely conservative aspects of GOP political philosophy and not so-called “Big Government conservatism.”)

As someone who has lived in a state with a plurality of these ideal Republican voters, I remain to this day baffled why anyone would think long-established American Hispanics or new Hispanic immigrants would be likely to become Republican voters. There is the assumption that morally and socially conservative people have a natural home in the GOP, mostly on account of the radicalism that prevails among the Democrats, but especially among minorities very few of the morally and socially conservative people seem to agree. Certainly, there is a substantial minority of Hispanics, even excluding Cubans, who support the GOP, and these tend to be successful and middle-class Hispanics several generations removed from any immigration.

Needless to say, introducing vast new numbers of the hard-working, family-oriented good Catholics that Mr. Wolf refers to will be introducing batches of new voters for the Democrats, as new immigrants (except for the occasional very odd exception of German liberals and Protestants in the mid-19th century) have routinely flocked to this party. The GOP can never compete with the sheer enthusiasm for immigrants that the Democrats have always managed to muster. Furthermore, even as good Catholics these immigrants will not yet have gone through much assimilation, much less Americanisation, and will in all likelihood embrace the economic and social policies of the Democrats on the mistaken but very frequent assumption among Catholic voters that their religious commitments should lead them to support such measures, which will invariably prove to be more “generous” in their provisions than those the GOP will manage to propose (try as it might in recent years to exceed all previous records of government expansion).

There was a time, immediately after statehood and up until the Depression (less than two decades), when Republicans dominated the state in gratitude for a Republican administration granting New Mexico statehood and when Republicans were the party of relatively more progressive politics. Consistent with that tendency, the then-majority of Hispanics turned to the Democrats on the national level with FDR and never looked back. The local GOP had been ousted from the legislature even earlier and has never since held a majority again. That is the politics of a long Americanised, assimilated Hispanic population free of the pressures and cleavages of minority politics that might tend to push Hispanics leftwards.

If Hispanics in New Mexico remain largely registered Democrats, largely loyal to their party except in an occasional presidential election when there may be some defections, what can we reasonably expect from Latin American immigrants who have far more immediate incentives to support the Democrats? Viewed in terms of historic voting patterns, there is simply no question that enabling or encouraging mass immigration is a long-term death sentence for the GOP and the sorts of policies that it officially advocated, at least up until 5 years ago. The GOP can try to follow Mr. Bush’s lead and engage in a bidding war for the votes of immigrants and their children, but it will lose the bidding and also never be able to keep its coalition together in the process.

Cross-posted at Enchiridion Militis