Just some quick thoughts about the politics of President Obama’s reported plans to give amnesty to millions of illegal aliens via executive order: It will be fascinating and revealing to see how the Latino/Hispanic community in America reacts over the medium-term, especially at the leadership level.
The conventional wisdom of course is that by circumventing a balky group of Republicans in Congress, the president will cement the loyalty of Latino Americans to the Democrats for generations, and thereby ensure a long string of Democratic presidents going forward because Hispanics are such a fast-growing voting bloc.
The conventional wisdom isn’t always wrong, and Hispanic leaders in particular may indeed follow this course. But recalling the experience of African Americans raises the question of how smart this decision would be.
After all, one of the problems that’s faced African American voters and their leaders for decades now is that they’ve backed Democrats so reliably that Democrats understandably feel free to take them for granted. And so black voter loyalty arguably has led to considerable black political marginalization – especially between elections, when Democrats aren’t focused on mobilizing African American turnout to swing tight races.
Logic, at least, indicates that Hispanic voters could face the same fate if they completely turn their backs on Republican politicians after any executive amnesty. The rank and file may react in diverse ways – reflecting Hispanic America’s great diversity. But their leaders, at least the ones who dominate the news, are much less diverse.
So the smart tack for Latinos, and especially their leaders, to take politically after an executive amnesty – even a big one – would be to thank Democrats and then, as the next election approaches, ask what the party has done for them lately. Of course, the more effectively Republicans persuade Hispanics that they’re a plausible alternative – a challenge they haven’t met vis-a-vis African Americans – the easier it will be for them to play hard to get.
Of course, it’s also conceivable that Democrats might fear just such an Latino reaction to even a big amnesty – or even simply declining interest in Hispanics’ interest in politics and thus voting once this high priority goal has been achieved. These concerns could lead Democrats to string Latino voters along further – to ensure their support and turnout in 2016 – by either postponing executive action, or going small for now with the implicit or explicit promise of more to come.
It seems like we’ll get at least some answers soon, in the form of the (reportedly) approaching amnesty decision. But the new questions raised by any such move could prove more interesting still.