Two nights ago, I attended a debate moderated by Jack Cashill between Kris Kobach*, chairman of the Kansas Republican party and immigration restrictionist who successfully assisted the state of Arizona in defending its tough enforcement laws that went into effect at the beginning of 2008, and Richard Nadler of Americas Majority Foundation, a conservative organization in favor of open borders (and no, there is not an apostrophe in between the "a" and the "s" in AMF's name).
Kobach argued the familiar to regular readers--Arizona's enforcement policies have had an appreciable effect on reducing the illegal immigrant population in the state, in the process leaving the state of Arizona unexpectedly better off by more than $40 million (illegal immigrants cost the system a lot more than they contribute to it), buttressed by Robert Rector's exhaustive study showing immigration, especially of the illegal variety, transfers billions of dollars from taxpaying citizens to immigrants.
Nadler argued states experiencing the greatest economic growth over the last several years are also the states with the largest immigrant populations. He suggested that immigration was part of the reason for this speedier economic growth, although stated he could not prove which way the causation arrow pointed. He also argued that if Hispanics vote more heavily Republican, the GOP leadership will become more firmly pro-life (an issue of great concern to him). The report he authored and referenced did not distinguish between legal (H1-B, EB-5, etc) and illegal immigrants, as Kobach continually pointed out.
Reaffirming my belief that Steve Sailer is the most underappreciated intellectual in the US (Levitt, Gladwell, and even Nadler are more-or-less household names, but Steve's still a relative unknown, even though he's had high-profile exchanges with all of them), Nadler opened by attacking Steve together with Michelle Malkin. No one in the room had mentioned either of them.
Steve is the reason I was there, as my defense of Frances Semler (who was also in attendance) is how I met Jack Cashill and had the Zenith invitation extended to me in the first place, and AE wouldn't have the (modest--quality over quantity!) readership it does today without him. Consequently, I pinned my ears back after the swipe.
The setting was intimate, as the club meets by invitation, so after a 45 minute back-and-forth between Kobach and Nadler, Q&A was opened up to the floor of about 30 people. The audience was a virtual who's who list of prominent local conservatives like Kay O'Connor and Ben Hodge, so I was passed over in favor of august questioners who asked questions like "Mr. Nadler, do you or don't you believe in the rule of law?" Yeah, perspicacious, I know (although given that the correlation between the percentage of a state's population that is foreign-born and its identity theft victimization rate is a strong and statistically significant .75, it's really not a bad question). I approached Nadler afterwards for a lively 15 minute discussion that ended when he said to his wife (dismissively directed at me), "Well dear, shall we go?" His time's a lot more important than mine, so what are you going to do?
As Nadler is unusual among open borders proponents in that he is eager to actually discuss the issue, I've attempted to follow up on the discussion by addressing the assertions he made and both reiterating and substantiating my own. Here is the email I've sent him. I don't suspect Nadler will respond, but if enough readers contact AMF quering about it, there's a chance he might.
Your informative debate with Professor Kobach was greatly appreciated, as was your consideration following its conclusion.
I raised a number of points that were unsatisfactorily responded to. I pointed out that the six (former) members of the Immigration Reform Caucus (previously led by Tom Tancredo and now by Brian Bilbray) who were defeated in their '06 reelection bids represented 5.9% of its Republican membership. In contrast, 16.7% of non-IRC Republicans lost their seats in the same election cycle. The loss rate among IRC members was only a third as bad as what non-IRC members experienced.
You responded by pointing to Hayworth's defeat and pending lawsuits by Republican donors in Arizona against parties Kobach works with. The first point is redundant, as Hayworth was one of the IRC members who anyway only found immigration restrictionism when his House seat became threatened for other reasons (his lifetime immigration scorecard is an underwhelming C+). And as you conceded when I inquired about Chris Cannon's loss in Utah, restrictionism can be a political winner.
Your later point strikes me as being of little relevance. Yes, of course low value-adding industries (if I recall correctly, the person you referenced owns several fast food restaraunts in the area) that employ unskilled illegal labor are going to oppose an end to socializing their costs while privatizing their profits. My perspective is not one of a fast food franchise owner, it's of a US citizen wanting to maximize the quality of life for my fellow citizens.
I asserted that the putative deal-breaking Hispanic vote is a myth. Hispanics comprise about 6% of the voting electorate, while whites comprise 80%. But those figures overstate the importance of the Hispanic vote and understate the importance of the white vote. More than half of the country's Hispanics live in California or Texas, two of the most electorally reliable states. Of the ten most competitive states in the 2004 election, only two are proportionally more Hispanic than the nation at large, New Mexico (third closest) and Nevada (seventh closest). The other eight (in order of competitiveness)--Wisconsin, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, and Oregon, have (far) smaller Hispanic proportions of their total populations than the country as a whole does.
Following is a table showing the demographic composition of the nine states considered "swing" (up for grabs) by CNN election center tracking, the eight that are competitive but leaning McCain, the seven that are competitive but leaning Obama, and the remaining 26 (plus DC) that are electorally safe:
Or, shown dichotomously as states that are competitive and are uncompetitive heading towards November:
Whites are an even more crucial electorate than their four-fifths share of the vote would seem to indicate. The inflated importance of whites comes at the expense of Hispanics and Asians, who are more heavily concentrated in states that have already been decided. Blacks are slightly more concentrated in competitive states than they are in uncompetitive ones.
Keep in mind that electoral votes don't mirror racial demographics. Whites, being older, wealthier, and more civically-minded than blacks and especially Hispanics, comprise a greater share of the vote in a state than their numbers alone would predict. Blacks vote slightly less than their numbers would suggest, and Hispanics much less so--slightly less than half of what their population numbers would suggest. So Hispanic votes are unlikely to comprise even 5% of the total votes cast in the 'toss-up' swing states, and closer to 3% in the competitive states that lean toward either McCain or Obama.
To this you asked if I realized who I was talking to, pointing out that you've done more Spanish-language ads for Republicans than anyone else in the entire country. Yes, I've heard your radio commercials, read your WSJ op/ed pieces, and have seen your NRO pieces. I especially admire your tough questioning of CAGW presumptions. You're a hurricane on the national scene while I'm less than a zephyr breeze. With apologies to Adam Sandler, you're very good looking. I'm not attractive. But credentialism doesn't address the issue at hand!
You then pointed to Florida, clearly a crucial swing state with recurring importance in recent Presidential elections. I responded that more than half of the swing states' Hispanics are in Florida, where Central and South American illegal immigration across the US-Mexican border takes a backseat to Cuban issues among Hispanic voters. Anyhow, my figures include Florida among the swing states. With Florida removed, the Hispanic percentage in the swing states drops from 10.3% to 6.4%.
You informed me there are more people of Mexican descent living in Florida than there are people of Cuban descent living in the state. It is my understanding that just fewer than one million Florida residents of Cuban descent. The state's Hispanic population totals about 3.7 million, so that sounds correct, as I acknowledged to you. But I doubted that the absolute number of Mexican voters in Florida elections surpasses the absolute number of Cuban voters in Florida? Do we know? Regardless, Floridian Hispanics do not have the same concerns Hispanics in Arizona or southern California do, so I think it is fair to say that the Florida contribution to the Hispanic population among swing states oversells the importance of the immigration issue in the eyes of 'swing state Hispanics'.
To this you responded that I let you know how my position works out in November. I was taken aback, as I have no dog in the hunt. Well okay, I admit you're right. Chuck Baldwin isn't going to win on November 4.
But, I returned, is this not the ideal setting for your strategy to deliver Republicans a Presidential victory? We have the highest-profile open borders member of the GOP's national leadership, who teamed up with Ted Kennedy in an amnesty attempt that united the public in opposition and who virtually barred restrictionists from the Republican National Convention, running against Obama, who lost the Hispanic vote 64%-36%, a margin less favorable than Bush enjoyed among Hispanics in '04. Could you ask for a better setup? Yet McCain is getting massacred by Obama among Hispanics. The polls show him losing the Hispanic vote 59%-29%, an Obama advantage that has held steady for several months.
You responded that it doesn't matter what his position is if he's not able to make it known. If his lifetime immigration grade of "D", his amnesty alliance with Ted Kennedy, his acceptance speech at the RNC where he spoke of the "God-given right" of the "Latina daughter of migrant workers" to reach her full potential in America, his choice of strident open borders champion Juan Hernandez as his Hispanic outreach director, or his three appearances before Hispanic groups in July alone--including La Raza--aren't enough, I'm left wondering what is.
Graciously, you allowed me to continue. I asked, from 1976--as far as I was able to find exit polling data broken down by race--to today, how many times has the Republican presidential candidate won the Hispanic vote? You charged that I was reciting Steve's "crazy" idea that there is this "white backlash" strategy Republicans should buy into, and then went on to talk about the work you'd done trying to increase black support for Republicans.
Before getting to that, allow me to answer my rhetorical question: Zero. In at least 36 years, the GOP has never won the Hispanic vote. My next question was going to be how many times during the same period of time the Democratic party won the white vote? Again, the answer is zero. It never happened. More than nine out of ten Republican voters are white. Fewer than two out of three Democratic voters are white. Democrats make up the deficit with blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and other non-white groups, all of whom vote majority Democrat. Simply put, the less white the US becomes, the less Republican it will become.
In the spirit of the "how'd that work out for you?" theme, I asked how effective the black vote-getting strategy worked for you. "It delivered Ohio to Republicans two elections in a row," you answered succinctly. I had no information on Ohio's demographic breakdown in '04, so I simply nodded. Fortunately I followed the standards I rigorously hold myself to--only talk about something if I know what I'm talking about! Black support for George Voinivich in the Senator's '04 reelection campaign is stunning for a Republican to have received. According to the exit polls, he took 32% of the black vote. He won the total vote 64%-36%, so that presumes about a 24% share of the black vote if the race had ended in a dead heat, more than twice the level of support the GOP usually enjoys among blacks. Assuming Bush enjoyed similar support among blacks in Ohio, that is truly impressive.
You proceded to ask me what percentage of Hispanic voters in Arizona supported McCain in '04. I didn't know the percentage, only that it was a majority. Seventy-four percent, you correctly informed me.
But it was never a competitive race. McCain garnered 77% of the total vote. He did better among whites (80%) than he did among Hispanics. His most recent reelection race demonstrated the typical pattern that undermines the myth of the Hispanic swing voter--Hispanics vote similarly to whites, shifted some distance to the left. Not surprisingly, McCain, who is much less popular in the US as a whole than he is in Arizona, has not been able to turn that strong state advantage among Hispanics (or whites or Native Americans, for that matter) into a national one. He will probably garner around 30% of the Hispanic vote in '08, just as is to be expected given that his support among whites will probably decrease 5% or so from the level of support Bush enjoyed in '04.
It's also worth noting that by nearly 2 to 1 (36% to 22%), Arizonan voters believe levels of legal immigration should be reduced. Of course, opinions on illegal immigration are more restrictive than they are on legal immigration. Arizonans don't want open borders either, even though they love McCain.
As it became apparent that I'd blathered on long enough, you closed by saying you could think of no better way for the right in this country to permanently remove itself from power than to take my position on immigration. I said I could--the Iraq war. That, and perceptions of corruption, is what cost the GOP in '06, not immigration.
Allow me now to back that assertion up with more quantitative precision than I was able to off the top of my head. In '06, exit polls showed voters attaching lots of importance to the immigration issue went for the GOP. Those considering illegal immigration either "extremely important" or "very important" (62% of all voters) favored Republicans 54.4% to 47.6%. Chafee and DeWine, two of the Republicans' most hostile opponents of US sovereignty, went down in flames. Bilbray, the California Congressman the WSJ pummeled and John McCain abandoned as he battled for the Republican nod and then again against Democrat Francine Busby in the special election to replace the disgraced Duke Cunningham, won handily the last time around, 53.3%-43.4%.
Voters attaching lots of importance to Iraq went for the Democrats. Those considering the Iraq war either "extremely important" or "very important" (67% of all voters) favored the Dems 53.3% to 46.7%. Voters disapproving of the war in Iraq overwhelmingly threw in with the Democrats. Those who said they "somewhat disapprove" or "strongly disapprove" of the war (55% of all voters) favored the Dems by a staggering 79.7%-20.3%.
Ethical lapses were an act of self-immolation for the GOP. Voters considering ethical issues and those involving corruption "extremely important" or "very important" (74% of the electorate) favored the Dems by 55.4% to 45.6%.
You responded by saying that exit polls are now showing the Iraq war to be a plus for Republican candidates this election cycle. I'm aware of a recent Gallup poll showing the public is now evenly split on whether or not Iraq will turn out to be a success, but overwhelmingly Americans still see it as having been a idea that we should extricate ourselves from as soon as possible. Even if McCain is seen as better able to handle Iraq, inline with his relative perceived strength on foreign policy issues in general, I do not see how the war constitutes an advantage for the GOP. The Republican edge on national security would almost certainly be more pronounced without Iraq in the picture.
Had I more time, I'd have made it clear I feel the same way about your immigration position and the ushering in of a permanent rightist minority. California is case in point--it was once a Republican stronghold. Due to the demographic changes it has undergone in the last couple of decades, it is now permanently blue. It will never be a red state again. As goes California goes, so goes the country, no?
Thank you again for your consideration.
* Kobach, with a handsome, imposing figure (he's an athletic six-and-a-half feet) and an alacritous tongue (he uses no notes--everything's upstairs), is a lot more telegenic than Tom Tancredo. He could be a national champion of the restrictionist movement (and from his time working in AG John Ashcroft's office, he has been one of sorts).