« Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself | Main | Romney's Bigger Problem »

The Libertarian Matrix Has You

Yes, and if Republicans screw this up - which they may already have done - they’ll lost a huge electorate that should naturally be theirs. Hispanics are hardworking, religious, conservative, and way more family-oriented than white Protestants. But they’ll pick the blue pill if the GOP pushes hard to round ‘em up, send ‘em home, and criminalize their nephews, sisters, cousins, uncles, etc., and they’ll be entirely justified in doing so. ~Joanna, Fey Accompli

Whenever someone repeats the "religious, conservative, family-oriented" line about the primarily Mexican immigrants that we're really talking about (we are not talking about long-assimilated, middle-class Hispanics like Albuquerque's Democratic mayor, Marty Chavez, for example, or the old Hispanic communities of northern New Mexico), I usually let the assumption pass. There are larger things at stake than bizarre arguments about which party can benefit the most from betraying the country, but where is the evidence for these claims about the "religious, conservative, family-oriented" folks? (Another ever-so-minor point: why would religious, conservative, family-oriented voters necessarily even want to support the current GOP?)

It might be interesting, for historical purposes, to establish where the bulk of the primarily Mexican immigrants originally come from inside their own country, and what their religious habits and political preferences in Mexico are before they leave. Perhaps some work on this has already been done--but if it has, you won't see any enthusiasts for mass immigration referring to any of it. They are simply recycling stereotypes of what they assume poor immigrant folk must be like, perhaps because some of our own ancestors were like that when they came here a century or more ago. If modern Mexican society has its fair share of religious, conservative and highly family-oriented people, which presumably it does, these folks tend to be PAN voters and I suspect they are fairly satisfied where they are; the people from the neighbourhoods of the giant sprawl of Mexico City, who routinely vote for the most left-wing alternative, the PRD, probably have different religious and political priorities that few American Hispanics or white Protestant Republicans would understand, much less share. They will not only already want to take the "blue pill," so to speak, but they will not have even considered the possibility of voting for the American version of PAN.

It is my guess, though I might be mistaken, that we are invariably getting a lot more PRI and PRD voters through mass immigration than we are getting the "religious, conservative and family-oriented" ones. (To be fair, it may be that some PRI and PRD voters are also religious and family-oriented in some sense, but they are definitely not conservative and do not understand their religious and family commitments as a natural or obvious fit with conservative politics of the PAN or Republican variety.) Not that having masses of the conservative and religious folks illegally entering this country would be any better, but it would at least make this one largely irrelevant claim of the open borders crowd more credible.

In general, however, the claim that immigrants are typically "conservative" seems the most far-fetched. Typically, new immigrant groups and their descendants have historically voted in overwhelming numbers for the Democrats and remain faithful to the party over several generations. Immigrants are one of the most "natural" Democratic constituencies, and always have been, and this has remained true whether the GOP was the more radical and progressive party (1856-1912) or whether it was the more conservative party. Part of this stems, I suspect, from the political climate of their home countries, where the options have tended to be between two different sorts of solidaristic politics, whether of a traditional religious or social democratic or socialist variety. Another cause is that the immigrants who come here have tended to find themselves on the margins of their home society, whether in terms of politics, religion or economic status (or some combination of these).

I recall that Kuehnelt-Leddihn once made a bracing, but perfectly correct point in one of his books that historically immigrants have not exactly been the highly industrious risk-takers of legend, but typically represent the people who could not make it in their old countries (not necessarily because opportunities were always limited, but because they were not able to take advantage of them), which casts the entire idea in a rather different light.

Daniel Larison | May 08, 2006


I think saying that immigrants vote democrat, because they are immigrants doesn't hit the actual cause. There has always been an urban and rural split in politics. Immigrants predominately locate in urban areas. Urban areas have pretty much always been more interested in public infrastructure and labor issues. I'm not sure there are many areas in this country where immigrants don't vote in similar patterns to their indigenous counterparts outside of the obvious case when their interests are directly effected.

It reminds of the often lamented lack of Republican black voters. The black population as a whole is heavily urbanized and votes such. It does indeed take time for voting patterns to change, but I think the rural/urban demo is the best political analysis tool.

M.Z. Forrest | 05/08/06 12:47

You make a good point that there are other factors that encourage immigrants to identify with the Democrats once they settle here, but this cannot account for why so many immigrants in the 19th century, regardless of whether they came from or settled in urban areas, identified with the Democrats. And the urban immigrant voters identified with the Dems even before the Democrats became the party of extensive government activism. Most Irish immigrants had to pass through major urban entrepots (though my Scots-Irish ancestor did not--he came in via Texas), but a great many of them settled in rural areas or small towns in the West and continued to identify with the Democrats for generations. More than a few still do.

But there are cultural reasons that tend to outweigh the difference created by the urban/rural divide (which is why German liberals in the 1850s unusually overwhelmingly identified with the GOP, because they saw them as kindred spirits favouring political liberalism + industrial protection). I grant that there has to be more complexity to the analysis (the power of Democratic city political machines in Boston, NYC and Chicago, for example, strongly directed immigrant voting patterns in one direction--theirs--but that does not tell us why the earlier immigrants from the mid-19th century identified with the Democrats in the first place). My purpose here was mainly to explode (again) the myth of the Mexican immigrant-as-natural Republican voter and the other stereotype of all Mexican immigrants as the sturdy religious and conservative newcomers open borders advocates typically describe them as being. If Republicans want to succumb to open borders policies, they should have to do so facing the reality that they are committing long-term political suicide or they are committing themselves to inexorable leftward drift to remain competitive with the increasingly radical voters they are letting in. None of them should be able to console himself with the false notion that he is letting in a new wave of future GOP supporters who will help revitalise the moral and political fortunes of conservatism.

Daniel Larison | 05/08/06 13:06

You are signed in, . (sign out)

Remember me?