Alex Massie

Does the GOP want to be the Nasty Party?

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David Frum looks at the GOP's slide in support amongst voters under 30 and doesn't like what he sees:

White young people continue to favor Republicans by a thin but real margin of 2 points. The Democrats owe their advantage among youth to a huge lead among young African-Americans (78 points) - and a very large lead (43 points) among Hispanics.

In the past, Republicans could win elections despite their unpopularity among ethnic minorities. But with the huge surge of immigration since 1980 - and especially since 2000 -  the voting map of the United States has been redrawn in ways inherently deeply unfavorable to the GOP. If Republicans face an inhospitable future after 2008, we will hear much of the dreadful legacy of George W. Bush on social issues, the war, the environment, etc. But Greenberg's own work makes clear that these issues matter relatively little...

No, the legacy that will damage his party is the legacy of immigration non-enforcement. This has imported a large new community of people who are both economically struggling (and thus open to Democratic arguments) but who lack deep attachment to the American nation (and who are thus immune to the most potent of Republican appeals). It is these voters who will sway elections in future. And thanks to this president's immigration policies, there are going to be a lot more of them than there might otherwise have been.

There are plenty of perfectly respectable reasons to support restrictions on immigration (though they don't particularly appeal to me) but the suggestion that the immigration tap should be turned off because immigrants vote for the wrong party is not, I'd suggest, one of the more attractive of them. It might be true in a "this is a tough thing to say but someone's gotta say it" kind of way but it's hard to think of a dafter, more disastrous message for conservatives to send than to tell large swathes of the population that they're the enemy.

Aside from the obvious ugliness of doing so, a hostile attitude towards immigrant and minority gorups will cost the GOP support amongst a number of white voters too. Some of those middle-class voters who may not make much of a fuss about their politics but, secreted in the voting booth, generally vote Republican will desert the party if, like the British Tories, they become known as "the Nasty Party". In Britain it became awfully infra dig to admit having voted Tory. This wasn't only true in Hampstead and Islington, but in once Tory strongholds in the Shires too.

Now parallels between British and American politics can only be stretched so far. But allow me to hazard that the Republican party might run some similar risk were it to adopt too much of Mr Frum's rhetoric. In fact, the logic of his argument, it seems to me, supports Bush's effort - or at least desire - to build support amongst black and latino voters, rather than pursue policies which give the impression that the GOP sees minorities as an inconvenient enemy.

One other point: we're often told - rightly, generally speaking - that the United States is unusually, even exceptionally, good at assimilating immigrants and foreigners. Indeed liberals and (especially) conservatives alike tend to think that's one of the things that makes America superior to other countries. Yet to read Mr Frum and many other conservatives, it seems that assimilation stops (and indeed becomes impossible) as soon as the conversation shifts to immigration. How can this be so? Apparently immigrants are only proper Americans and proof of the virtues of the American way when it's convenient for them to be so; the rest of the time they "lack deep attachment to the American nation". Fishy stuff, no?

PS: Does David also worry about too much immigration from Canada? Or are those Canadians who become Americans  generally reliably and sensibly conservative?

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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