Thus, as I predicted a couple of weeks ago, much of the MSM—with the Wall Street Journal editorial page in the lead, of course—is blaming the GOP's losses on the mighty Hispanic vote being provoked into wreaking righteous revenge on those nativist House Republicans.
Furthermore, as countless polls have shown, American citizens of Hispanic descent who can vote aren't at all as favorable towards illegal immigration as their self-proclaimed ethnic leaders claim.
Case in point: four immigration restrictionist ballot measures in Arizona each passed with about 70 percent of the overall vote—and close to half of the Hispanic vote. For example, Proposition 103, making English the state's official language, earned the support of 48 percent of Arizona Latinos.
(Similarly, Arizona's anti-illegal immigration Proposition 200 enjoyed 47% approval among Hispanics in 2004.)
My conclusion: A close inspection of the data shows that there was no Latino tidal wave at the polls last week, and only a quite minor decline in Hispanic support for the GOP due to the House's immigration restriction votes. The overall impact of Latinos on the election results was minimal.
This is what actually happened:
According to a nifty graphic display on the New York Times website, there are 56 House districts that are more than 30 percent Hispanic by population (not voters). Their average House election margin grew 7 percent more Democratic from 2004 to 2006. Among those heavily Hispanic districts, 41 became more Democratic versus only 15 that became more Republican.
But is that proof positive of the election-winning powers of the Latino Supervote?
No—because heavily Hispanic districts actually had barely any impact on the balance in the House.
The Democrats won 40 of those 56 seats in 2004. So far in 2006, they have still won only 40, with two undecided. (In Albuquerque, Republican incumbent Heather Wilson has a 1,481 vote margin over Patricia Madrid at last word. And in San Antonio, Republican incumbent Henry Bonilla is headed to a runoff with Ciro Rodriguez.)
In contrast, the same handy NYT Web featurette shows that there are 68 districts that are over 90 percent non-Hispanic white. And these highly white districts became 13 percent more Democratic.
Over the last two years, 60 became more Democratic and only 8 became more Republican. They shifted from a 51-17 advantage in seats for the GOP in 2004 to only a 37-30 advantage (with one still undecided).
So these 68 overwhelmingly white districts by themselves were almost enough to account for the 15 seats the Democrats needed to win the House.
Furthermore, evidence that angry Latinos turned out in vast numbers is strikingly lacking on the ground in California and Texas.
A November 10th Los Angeles Times article by Teresa Watanabe and Nicole Gaouette was entitled Latinos throw more support to Democrats: Analysts say GOP candidates' stance against immigration helped defeat them.
Yet, if you read to the latter half of the story, you find:
"It was not clear, however, that immigration was the top priority for Latino voters. Several polls showed that education and the economy were more important. In California, a Times exit poll did not find any significant surge of Latino voters. They made up about 12% of the electorate—about the same proportion since 1998.
"Antonio Gonzalez, president of Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, said 1.2 million California Latinos voted this week, an increase of 100,000 over the 2002 election. However, he said that fell short of the 1.5 million voters that his group had hoped for."
Case in point: California's Congressional District 47 in heavily Hispanic northern Orange County.
You probably read about it during the contrived controversy over the "emigrado" letter. In a district where Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez has a documented history of support from noncitizens voting illegally, Republican challenger Tan Nguyen sent a letter in Spanish asking citizens to vote and warning noncitizens not to vote. Fueled by out-of-context quotes that distorted the plain meaning of the letter to make it appear that it was telling naturalized citizens not to vote, this caused a vast furor,
"And if the letter was intended to chill the vote among immigrants, it appeared to have the opposite effect in the ethnically diverse district."
Oh yeah? As usual, the LA Times, the fastest-shrinking major newspaper in America, missed the real story of what was going on in its own backyard.
Rep. Sanchez won re-election with only 31,656 votes (to 19,525 for Nguyen), down from her 41,282 in the last midterm in 2002. The other districts in California with Hispanic incumbents show the same lack of a tidal wave trend—some are up in total votes, some are down. Nothing much is going on.
No, the real story is that Rep. Sanchez won with the lowest total on any winning candidate in America.
A total of only 51,181 votes were cast for all parties in Sanchez's CD47—versus 148,459 in nearby CD 46, where Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher was easily re-elected. This means that each vote in Rohrabacher's district was weighted only 35% as heavily as each vote in Sanchez's district.
If districts were drawn not on total residents but based on the number of citizens living within their boundaries, as the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled they should be in a 1998 case, Sanchez probably wouldn't even have a district and she'd be out of a job.
In California's gubernatorial race, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger roared to re-election by winning 63% of the white vote. In California's last 15 statewide elections going back through 1992, Republican candidates have won the three times they carried a majority of the white vote. They have lost all twelve times they didn't.
As I wrote earlier this year:
"After getting off to a strong start, including repealing illegals' licenses as promised, Schwarzenegger stumbled badly in 2005 by not realizing that his slate of initiatives to undermine the power of the public employees unions were perceived by his natural base, the white lower-middle class , as an assault on their survival in California's outlandishly expensive housing market . Firemen, cops, nurses , and teachers … rallied support from their neighbors, who saw their union perks not as sinecures but as life preservers." [New Republican Majority? The American Conservative, May 8, 2006].
Schwarzenegger, who is nothing if not a quick learner, promptly switched in 2006 from traditional small government conservatism to something resembling the tax-and-spend semi-conservatism that the Daley dynasty has honed in winning eleven out of twelve elections in Chicago.
In the Windy City, an economically inegalitarian city with both wealthy corporations and vast numbers of poor people , the white lower middle class has survived in large part by getting government jobs providing services to the poor. Barry Goldwater wouldn't have approved. But the Daley strategy has kept Chicago a far more livable city than, say, Detroit.
And something like that is probably the best California can hope for at this point.
How about Texas?—the state with the second largest Latino population?
In the Houston Chronicle, R.G. Ratcliffe reported (Dems Hoping Gains Weren't a Fluke, November 12 2006):
"But there is scant evidence that Latino voters in Harris and Dallas counties played much of a role in the Democratic surge last week. The three most heavily Hispanic state House districts in Houston had voter turnouts ranging from 17 percent to 21 percent of registered voters. Only about half of the Spanish-surname adults in those districts are registered to vote, and a quarter of the residents are not U.S. citizens. Statistics from Dallas show the Hispanic population also was not a major factor in that county, either. In the most Hispanic state House district in Dallas, just 10 percent of the voting-age adults cast a ballot in this election."
You might think the Latino Landslide would have some effect on Congress. But an article in the Washington Post (Hill Demographic Goes Slightly More Female—No Racial Shift, But Minorities' Influence May Rise) by Lois Romano, November 9, 2006) noted:
"The number of Hispanic legislators remains unchanged, with 23 in the House… 'Of course, we're disappointed," said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.
So how big was the Latin Supervote?
My guess: around six percent of all voters—up from 5.3 percent in the last midterm in 2002.
Sure, the national exit poll claimed eight percent, but the exit poll turnout figure has long been exaggerated compared to the gold standard, the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey phone survey of 50,000 households immediately after each election. An exit poll is not a reliable way to measure subtle differences in the size of an ethnic voting bloc because the pollster must decide ahead of time how many Hispanic neighborhoods will be surveyed based on how an a priori assumption about how big the group is. A phone survey like the Census Bureau's avoids this problem.
(I won't bore you by rehashing why all careful observers now agree with me that the Republicans didn't win 44 percent in 2004, as initially but incorrectly reported in the exit poll. Let me just say that if anybody tells you the Republicans received 44 percent in 2004, they've shown they are amateurs.)
I haven't checked the 2006 figure carefully, but 30 percent sounds plausible.
Now, a drop of 8 to 10 percentage points among Latinos seems pretty bad at first glance. But much worse for the GOP was only carrying 51 percent of the white vote versus 58 percent in 2002 and 57 percent in 2004. Whites account for about four out of every five votes. That's what killed the Republicans.
Historically, the Hispanic vote moves up and down along with the white vote, just skewed about 20 points or so towards the Democrats. Latinos are not the "swing voters" of media legend. They are more accurately "flow" voters who go with the general flow.
So, relative to the bellwether white vote, the GOP did merely one percentage point worse among Hispanics versus the last midterm and four percentage points worse than in the last Presidential election.
Let's assume (generously) that four percentage points represents the drop in the GOP's Latino vote caused by House Republicans taking a (fairly) tough line on illegal immigration. What was the total cost to the GOP?
Well, a four percent decline times six percent of the electorate is 0.24 percent, or, say, a quarter of a percentage point.
If the GOP lost roughly five percentage points from 2002 and 2004 to 2006, then the Latino decline accounted for roughly one-twentieth of it.
If the GOP picked up merely one percentage point among whites due to immigration, that would have three times the size of this loss among Hispanics.
And here's the kicker: Americans who want patriotic immigration reform aren't convinced the GOP would deliver it.
The exit poll shows clearly that while five-eighths of voters consider "illegal immigration" to be very to extremely important, the GOP did an absolutely terrible job of converting those views into votes:
IMPORTANCE OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION
Extremely Important (30%)
Very Important (32%)
Somewhat Important (29%)
Not At All Important (8%)
This is disgraceful—but hardly surprising, considering the chief booster of opening the borders furthers has been the Republican President, George W. Bush.
And the Republican frontrunner in 2008, John McCain, put his name on an amnesty bill in tandem with Ted Kennedy.
The GOP's problem is, not that it talked too much about immigration, but that it did not talk about immigration enough.
Patriotic immigration reform remains a cause without a party.