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Jewish World Review Jan. 20, 2004 / 26 Teves, 5764

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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Bush's historic move | President Bush's dramatic proposals to legitimize millions of formerly illegal residents of the United States not only reflects an elemental sense of social justice but a brilliant political move. His suggestion will affect the Hispanic community with drama and force and likely will create a political shift akin to that engendered by the 1964-65 civil rights bills that brought massive black support to the Democratic Party.

Bush has grasped the fundamental reality of American politics — that a demographic time bomb was ticking beneath the Republican Party, gradually converting "red" states to "blue," sapping the vitality from the GOP political base. After decades of pushing English-only, anti-bilingual and anti-immigrant-aid initiatives, the Republican Party was perceived by Hispanic voters as racist and Anglo-centered.

But by his proposal, Bush has reversed the field and shown a sensitivity to the needs of the Hispanic community that may well reverse the heretofore inevitable demographic trend and save the future of his party.

The illegal immigrants Bush seeks to legitimize are not here to go on welfare. They have come to the United States to better themselves and to provide for their families through hard work and diligent effort. They get jobs, pay FICA taxes (with no expectation of ever getting a Social Security check) and do jobs other Americans don' t want.

The United States has 25 percent of the world's wealth but only 4 percent of the global population. Our obligation is to receive the poor of neighboring nations and help them lift themselves and their families out of poverty, as long as doing so does not degrade the lot of American workers. But immigrant workers do not take jobs from Americans. The logical alternative to a low-cost labor pool is automation, not more expensive American workers. The immigrants take jobs from American robots.

Politically, there is every reason for Hispanic voters to give equal time, or even preference, to Republican candidates. Deeply religious Catholics, they share the same values as the religious right of the GOP and, given half a chance, would vote to support them. The victory of Vicente Fox in Mexico, running on an explicitly religious platform saluting the Virgin of Guadeloupe, is an object lesson in the importance of traditional values to the Mexican voter base.

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The Democratic Party appeals to Hispanics as an offshoot of its outreach to blacks. Its commitment to classwide benefits to each group is the core of its political strategy.

But Republicans offer a more traditional model of immigrant individual upward mobility. The GOP alternative is bound to be more attractive to immigrant voters both in this generation and, especially, in the next.

With an unemployment rate below 6 percent, it is very hard to make the case that immigrant workers are taking jobs from Americans. Rather, we need to all recognize that these are the people who wash our dishes, do our laundry, mow our lawns and do endless chores for us in each aspect of our lives.

Politically, Bush's proposals would go down easier with the conservative base if they included some merit-based path to citizenship. The president should consider setting milestones as key steps in moving from illegal to citizenship status, such as functional literacy in English, several quarters of employment, no arrests for a time.

To embrace such a combination of generosity and responsibility would offer a combination that would be politically attractive both to Hispanics and to Anglo voters.

The Republican Party is running out of white people. The demographic time bomb threatens to implode its electoral future. The simple fact is that the party cannot continue to concede 90 percent of a growing black vote and two-thirds of a Hispanic vote that totals 1 percent more of the national vote each year. Reversing this demographic trend is vital to the maintenance of the Republican Party's electoral viability.

Purists in the GOP have to decide whether they want to be America's second party or only its third. Unless the Republicans adjust to the demographic realities that are engulfing California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and many other states in between, they risk fading from the center stage of our national politics. Pat Buchanan's formula of ethnic purity represents nothing more than a pathway to extinction.

In the United States, with our polyglot society, it is not economic but demographic changes that threaten political parties. Bush deserves credit and support for understanding the nature of the political threat and the substantive, moral imperatives and acting accordingly. Bravo.

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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, Off with Their Heads: Traitors, Crooks & Obstructionists in American Politics, Media & Business" Comment by clicking here.



© 2003, Dick Morris