Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Morris: GOP's Southwestern Strategy Didn't Help It At The Polls

The "Southwestern Strategy" is the Sunbelt variant of the Republican Party's old "Southern Strategy", except that the targets of the appeals to voters' racist fears are Hispanics, not blacks. But unlike the Southern Strategy, which still seems to have a death grip on the South, the Southwestern Strategy looks like it may be fading as a political tool in the GOP's tool kit. Rachel Morris of the Washington Monthly notes the following (emphases mine):

Washington has been chewing over election-related numbers for days now, and I'd like to highlight one particular set of data that's probably giving Karl Rove a nasty case of indigestion: the effect of the immigration debate on the midterm results. A few months ago, most House Republicans thought that border security would be, as Rep. Jeff Flake put it to me, their "magic carpet ride" to re-election. Moderate and pro-business elements within the party tried to convince them that a hard-line stance a) wouldn't actually deliver that many votes, and b) would incinerate Karl Rove's efforts to weld Latinos to a long-term Republican majority. And on both counts (as we anticipated in October) they were right. Nearly every Republican who ran primarily on an enforcement-only platform lost. Of 15 congressional or gubernatorial races where immigration was a major issue, Democrats won 12. Even worse for Republicans, the hard-won gains made by Rove, Mehlman and Bush with Hispanic voters in 2000, 2002 and 2004 were essentially obliterated. Voting in presidential-race proportions, Latinos supported Democrats over Republicans in House races by 69-30. In Western House races, Latinos comprised 16 percent of the voters (compared to 8.5 percent nationally), and voted for Democrats in even higher proportions: 72-27, according to CNN's exit poll.
What happened? Morris suspects that it's because the Democrats found a powerful tool to counter the Southwestern Strategy, something even Lou Dobbs advocates -- raising the minimum wage:
Democrats made raising the minimum wage a centerpiece of an aggressive Spanish-language advertising campaign this year, especially in Colorado and Arizona. I don't have any hard data to support this, but I wouldn't be surprised if Democratic gains among Latinos turned out to be a complex mix of dissatisfaction with the war, alienation from a GOP gone nativist, and, at least in some cases, receptiveness to a substantive Democratic policy proposal that directly affects many Hispanic families.
Makes sense to me. Don't like illegal immigration? Make sure that employers 1) pay living wages with benefits, and 2) aren't tacitly rewarded for breaking labor laws the way they are now under BushCo.

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