Hispanic Re-alignment

Kevin Drum analyzes the exit polls from 2004 and 2006 and finds that “It turns out that the big lesson is that there’s no big lesson.”

Basically, Democrats did about 5 percentage points better than last go-round overall and between 2-7 percent better with all regional and social cohorts except a few:



No high school


Those rating the economy “good”






No religion


Income $200K+




Drum concludes, correctly I think, that the main lesson here is that this election was not a clarion call for a major ideological re-alignment but “just a broad-based wave of disgust against Republican rule.”

I think he undersells things more than a bit, though, when he says, “I suppose the higher totals among Latinos and independents are the big news.” Given that Hispanics are easily the fastest growing cohort nationwide and in several key states, a 14% shift should definitely spark interest among Republicans. Given the party’s inability to corral more than 10% of the black vote, they certainly can’t afford to permanently alienate another ethnic cohort.

Many conservative activists, including several leading bloggers, have argued that a major reason the base is disgusted with the current Republican leadership is their failure to pass a radical plan for dealing with illegal immigration from Mexico. There is opposition to the candidacy of Mike Pence for Majority Leader based on his being too soft on this issue. President Bush has also been vilified for being unenthusiastic sterner measures and supporting an “amnesty” program.

Aside getting back to its small government roots and cleaning up the culture of corruption that they allowed themselves to get mired into when in power, this may be the biggest challenge for Republicans in the coming years. The party will need to figure out a way ahead on immigration that simultaneously addresses the legitimate concerns of conservatives on border security, fairness, and enforcement of our laws while not coming across as “anti-immigration” and hostile to Hispanics. To say the least, that’s not going to be an easy task.

UPDATE: Bill Safire thinks President Bush should quickly save the initiative on the issue.

[B]oth parties should make a concerted effort to deal with the most doable urgent domestic need: to resolve the fears of 12 million Hispanic “illegals” living in the United States.

Bush has already proposed a comprehensive compromise: a guest worker program with earnable citizenship for those here now, as well as a border fence to stop the influx of Mexicans. But Republicans — fearful of nativist voters shouting “no amnesty” — passed only the harsh half, and that unfunded fence is a joke. Now Bush, with many Democrats already supporting his approach, should get recalcitrant Republicans to pass his fair-minded immigration package. It would be a test of both new Republican discipline and Democrats’ sincerity on bipartisanship.

This won’t satisfy parts of the base, to be sure, but it would quickly heal some wounds and more-or-less get the issue off the table. It would also be a major public policy accomplishment, something both the administration and the incoming Democratic leadership need badly.

FILED UNDER: 2006 Election, Borders and Immigration, Religion, , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. IllegalImmigrationIntroduction says:

    Enforcing our laws – and even HR4437 – aren’t “radical” plans. What’s “radical” is what the amnesty Bush favors would do.

    Various groups try to claim that opposition to illegal immigration is “anti-immigration”: those who profit from it (banks, growers, etc.), far-left non-profits, etc. However, one group is avoidable: some Republicans. A certain part of the GOP assists in their own vilification. If they stopped that, it would be easier to expose the errors of the other side.

    Passing Bush’s scheme wouldn’t get the issue off the table, but it would get the GOP off the table. The great part of those new citizens would not vote GOP. And, racial demagogues would make sure they’d vote to enable other Hispanics to join them so as to increase the power of those racial demagogues. That would recursively reduce any chance of the GOP winning any future election. There is no way that the GOP is going to be able to “out-Dem the Dems”.

    EDITOR’S NOTE: Please quit using my comments section to Googlebomb your site. Use your name and site URL, not Google keywords and a URL to a specific post.

  2. Pug says:

    Ask California Republicans how well alienating Hispanic voters has worked out for them.

    This situation endangers the entire Southwest for Republicans. Election results in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and even Texas could be significantly impacted over the long run by a mass desertion of Hispanics to the Democrats.

  3. TLB says:

    This site uses nofollow tags, so “googlebombing” won’t work. The linked page offers an intro, something that many who comment on these matters direly need.

    As for Pug’s comments, the current situation of massive illegal_immigration – or the proposed “solutions” – endangers the entire Southwest for everyone by increasing the risk of terrorist_attacks, giving more political power inside the U.S. to the Mexican_government, increasing political_corruption, and on and on. I’d provide a link to a more accurate description of prop_187, but the reader will have to search for that themselves. There’s a way to be immigration_friendly while also opposing massive_illegal_immigration or immigration mostly from one country, so perhaps the GOP should consider that instead of the current tack.

  4. floyd says:

    this election implies almost nothing in terms of a shift in “vox-populi”