This is where I differ with everybody on the Republican side. Make no mistake, not a single Republican candidate, announced or potential, is clearly and consistently supporting a path to citizenship. When they talk about legal status, that is code for second class status. --Hillary Clinton, May 5, 2015, Las Vegas, NVHillary Clinton made these remarks last Tuesday during a campaign event in Las Vegas and in doing so demonstrated formidable political acumen. Her Republican counterparts, those that haven't thrown in with quixotic xenophobes, have got to be tugging at their collars while they're thinking about how to respond.
Besides having the virtue of being true (bring up immigration reform in a Republican forum and watch how quickly the conversation devolves into racism and xenophobia), Hillary's remarks are a dagger thrust right at the Republican field where they are most vulnerable. Specifically, the dismal demography of the shrinking GOP base.
Consider: In the 2012 election, Mitt Romney won a whopping 59% of the white vote, nationally. Twenty years ago, that might have been an electoral landslide in his favor. But with demographic trends being what they are, Mitt still lost the general election by 4%. And a big part of his defeat was due to the drubbing he received from hispanics, who went for President Obama by a 71-27 margin. Simply stated, if Republicans cannot find a way to appeal to hispanics and other minorities, they are, as a party, doomed.
For some GOP candidates (Ted Cruz is the most obvious example), none of this makes any difference. They've already determined that their own electoral success lies in stoking up the anger and self-pity of the Republican base. You know? The people that are convinced that President Obama is a Muslim and a Kenyan and is planning to invade Texas and force everyone to attend gay weddings. For these candidates, Hillary's remarks are helpful.
But the numbers aren't lost on thoughtful Republicans. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, for example, know the delicate path they must walk if they hope to succeed. On the one hand, to survive the Republican primary system, they've got to reassure the vociferous base that they sufficiently despise President Obama, that they are sympathetic to the fears of the diminishing white majority, and so on. But, on the other hand, if they want to avoid Romney's fate in the general election, they can't completely alienate hispanics. It's a difficult position and it is one the Republicans made for themselves when they put all their eggs in the Far Right basket.
So, Hillary, with her remarks, has highlighted this dilemma and brought it to the fore. Soon enough, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and any other serious Republican candidates are going to have to state their positions regarding a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. And no matter what they say, they're going to alienate some portion of potential supporters.
Further, Hillary's tack puts her on the offensive. Rather than responding to white noise pseudo-scandals about emails or Clinton Foundation funds, she is staking out a position that is aimed right at that demographic that Republicans are so desperate to reach.
As far as the merits of her position, for my part, it only makes sense to find a way to bring the 10 million plus undocumented immigrants in this country into the fold, as full United States citizens. They are here. They're here to stay. And, being human beings, they deserve the same rights and privileges as anyone else.
Impressive, Mrs. Clinton.
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