Skip to comments.Why anti-immigration conservatives fell flat in 2006
Posted on 01/27/2007 8:55:29 AM PST by spintreebob
Former congressional candidate Vernon Robinson sounds resigned, and more than a little tired, when you ask him to explain his defeat. "The 2006 election was not a referendum on immigration," he says. "I would have liked it to be, but it didn't happen."
That's an understatement. In the tumultuous political year of 2006, Robinson, a former city councilman from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, became one of the country's most notorious voices for a crackdown on illegal immigration. In March, as the Republican-led House of Representatives wrestled with a harsh reform bill that would build a wall on the border and classify crossers as felons, Robinson's campaign launched a TV ad that opened with the theme from The Twilight Zone and Rod Serling-style narration: "If you're a conservative Republican, watching the news these days can make you feel as though you're in the Twilight Zone....The aliens are here, but they didn't come in a spaceship. They came across our unguarded Mexican border by the millions."
The ad was a sensation. For everyone who saw it in North Carolina's 13th District, where Robinson was challenging Democratic Rep. Brad Miller, dozens more saw it on YouTube and on blogs that trafficked the ad across the Web. "This is tough," Hardball host Chris Matthews swooned, re-running the ad on his MSNBC chat fest. "It's strong, it makes fun of the other side viciously, but I remember it. I'm going to remember this ad."
Robinson, who had already alienated Republican allies like Jack Kemp with his approach to immigration, issued more commercials blasting the Democrat for voting against a border wall or a cutoff on benefits for undocumented workers. One radio ad set Miller-bashing lyrics to the Beverly Hillbillies theme ("Come and hear me tell about a politician named Brad. He gave illegal aliens everything we had!"). The Democrats were spooked, even before the influential political magazine Congressional Quarterly pondered the tone of the campaign and increased its odds for a Robinson upset.
"Both myself and my opponent thought it was going to be a photo finish," Robinson remembers. "He wouldn't have stood in rain for two hours on Election Day if he thought it wouldn't be close."
If so, both men were wrong. The Democrat, who had won 59 percent of the vote in 2004, thumped the well-funded Robinson by 28 points. After a year in which the immigration issue inspired reform bills, citizen border patrols, mass marches of undocumented workers, and untold hours of talk show screaming, a candidate who had seemed to strike a hidden chord with voters lost in a rout.
It's not a new thing for the media to misread the mood of the country on a hot issue. But the crumbling of the immigration backlash was almost without precedent. Poll after poll showed voters angry about the influx of Mexican workers and willing to do almost anything to stop it. A much-cited April survey by Rasmussen Reports showed a whopping 30 percent of voters ready to elect a third-party presidential candidate who "promised to build a barrier along the Mexican border and make enforcement of immigration law his top priority." Politicians, who like to pretend they ignore the polls and lead with their guts, were clearly sweating that datum.
In April, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean declared that Republicans would wield the immigration issue the way "they used gay marriage" in 2004-tossing a banana peel on the floor and waiting for Democrats to walk on by. Lo and behold, the GOP did. Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum papered the state with stickers announcing Democrat Bob Casey's support for immigrant amnesty: "13 Million Illegal Aliens Are Counting on Him." He also campaigned with the mayor of Hazelton, who was pushing a town law that would fine landlords or employers who dealt with illegal immigrants.
Casey drubbed Santorum by 18 points. In Luzerne County, where Hazelton is located, he beat him by 21 points. But that result didn't shock like the fate of Arizona's J.D. Hayworth and Randy Graf. Hayworth, who'd opposed a harsh immigration state ballot measure in 2004, entered the campaign with the publication of an anti-immigration book called Whatever It Takes. Readers who flipped past the cover photo of Hayworth hanging tough in front of the border fence got to read the congressman's thoughts on dispatching troops to the country's southern flank and quashing Mexico's secret desire to reconquer the Southwest.
Graf, who was running for the seat of immigration moderate (and fellow Republican) Jim Kolbe, got financial support from the border-patrolling Minuteman project. Both men lost congressional seats in districts that had twice voted for George W. Bush.
Those losses, lined up next to each other like evidence at a trial, look like they debunk the immigration hype. But it's no use getting a Republican to admit that the issue didn't go the hard-liners' way. It wasn't that voters didn't want to close the border, the hard-liners assert, it was that voters who wanted to do that were distracted by anger over the war in Iraq and other issues, and voted for Democrats anyway.
"Immigration was a winning issue," says National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ed Petru. "You wouldn't have seen so many ads on it if our candidates weren't on the winning side of the immigration issue. It helped stress the contrast between our candidates and the Democrats who favored amnesty. But having a winning issue is not the same as having an issue that can compensate for all the disadvantages our candidates had this cycle."
You'll hear the same tune from the candidates themselves. "The Democrats did a good job of nationalizing the war in Iraq and national sentiment against Congress," says Graf. "The sixth year of a presidency is historically not a good year for the party in the majority. We had a late primary and an eight-week general election. Between that and the party unity I didn't have on my side, it was just not going to go our way."
In other words, the hard-liners have a bucket of red herrings. Epochal issues can change an electorate's mood or historical patterns; eight years ago, anger over the drawn-out impeachment of Bill Clinton inspired voters to add more Democrats to Congress, despite the "rule" of the sixth-year slump. If a serious border crackdown and a Mexican Wall were really burning up American passions, they would have moved voters to action.
Some hard-liners argue they were moved. "The same voters who opposed Graf and Hayworth overwhelmingly approved four get-tough ballot measures," says Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies and a border hawk.
But those referenda didn't comport with the hard-line approach. One made English the official language of Arizona, a measure beloved not just by the anti-immigration crowd but by many pro-immigration pundits who think it will encourage assimilation. The other three initiatives cut off free social services for noncitizens, more in line with the harshness hard-liners expected from voters but a far cry from the "kick 'em out, build a wall" attitude they claimed to be riding to victory.
The idea that Americans might be more compassionate about immigrants than they let on is a tough one for hard-liners to comprehend. Most Americans, though eager to exercise some control over the border, don't see their would-be fellow citizens as a menace. Immigration hawks who look at those huddled masses and choose to see an ugly threat will keep getting the same results they got this year. They'll lose.
One more time.
The exit polls showed the #1 issue of voters was not immigration, not taxes, not abortion, not guns and NOT IRAQ.
It was corruption scandals, of which the GOP had a ton.
Get rid of them, find explicitly indictable dirt on Dems, and the majority will return.
The exist polls always show the dems winning, too, in every election.
The real reason the Dems won was the faux Conservatives like Webb they put up and the fact that the Republicans went to their country club leanings and didn't really fight back.
The GOP (borrow & spend) was tossed out because they alienated their base. The Dems (tax & spend) are true to their base.
the GOP by acting like Democrats in almost everyway, kept the faithful home on election day.
Why come back year after year and vote for these people who stab their constituents in the back constantly.
I voted Repub....I held my nose and pulled the lever...but I am not proud of it.
A Bloomington co-worker follows Tom Roeser religiously and is very vocal at work. He still remembers Jim Leahy the Sunday before the primary. Jim supported honesty over corruption. But Jim became passionate, as only Jim can, about immigration.
I have previously said that the anti-illegal voices came accross as mean-spirited.
My co-worker's opinion was that Jim and the anti-immigrant voices came accross as dis-honest. My co-worker said "Real people aren't concerned about immigration. To say that we are is dis-honest. So if the Oberweiss people are dishonest and the Topinka people are dishonest, what is the difference?
I had not previously thought of it that way.
Corruption was certainly #1 in IL
That ignores that fact that the real conservatives, such as Oberweis, in my IL, couldn't even win the primary. If the real conservatives could win the primaries by being smart, and honest and in touch with reality, then we would not have to worry about faux conservatives in November.
We threw out a RINO (Joe Schwarz) in my district and elected anti amnesty Tim Walberg in his place. Walberg was one of very few candidates endorsed by the minuteman PAC.
Ouch, that has got to hurt the Bush hating true conservatives on FR, right in the family jewels.
Approximately 11.5% of all Republican seats in Congress were lost in November 2007. Only approximately 6.7% of the members of Rep. Tom Tancredo's Immigration Reform Caucus lost their seats.
J.D. Hayworth had serious problems because of significant ties to the Jack Abramoff scandal.
In a year dominated by Democrats, it is not surprise that Vernon Robinson was soundly defeated in a district in which Democrats outnumber Republicans. There was not a single incumbent Democrat member of the House of Representatives that was defeated.
Many Democrats that won ran campaigns that made them appear to be as tough or tougher on border security than their Republican opponents.
By the way, the leading anti-illegal immigration conservative, Rep. Tancredo, won his district with 58.8% of the vote against a strong Demcoratic opponent and a Libertarian opponent.
The first sentence of paragraph three of post number eleven should have read "In a year dominated by Democrats, it is no surprise that Vernon Robinson was soundly defeated in a district in which Democrats outnumber Republicans."
Uh the GOP House resisted the Senate's and President's proposals on immigration.
What did that get the former GOP House, a 31 seat loss.
GOP leadership still can't figure out why the lost in 06. How the hell do they expect to win in 08, then?
The GOP better buy a clue or they are going to remain in minority status for a few decades --- again.
And your answer would be for Tom Tancredo to be the baton leader, I surmise as I roll my eyes.
Is this the "co-worker" you see in the mirror each morning?
just keep spinning ... just keep spinning ...
illegal is still illegal
I suspect that many of those who demanded that we vote for any given RINO didn't follow their own advice and sat out the race rather than vote for Hayworth, Allen, etc. With the hate they expressed for the anti amnesty candidates, it's a little hard to believe that they voted for them anyway.
Most Americans, though eager to exercise some control over the border, don't see their would-be fellow citizens as a menace. Immigration hawks who look at those huddled masses and choose to see an ugly threat will keep getting the same results they got this year. They'll lose.
Utter and complete .. Bullshiite.
The Great Illegal Immigration Myth of '06
And just for fun -- how these 'hard working good people', aka "immigrants" are contributing to American Society.
The Illegal-Alien Crime Wave
By Heather MacDonald, City Journal, January 14, 2004 (FrontPageMag.com)
Round em up and deport them all --- including those so-called anchor babies. Trains, Planes, Semitrailers, I don't give a rat's a$$.
And Federal Prison for enablers and abettors.
The origin of my screen name. In the 90s I came home from a fantastic presentation I did at the Software Process Improvement Network - SPIN. My daughter was setting up our first computer connected to the internet. She asked what I wanted for a screen name. Bob, Robert, etc were all taken.
So my daughter asked me where I had just come from, what my life was about. I replied SPIN. that was taken. She also knew that I was constantly harping on balancing the B-tree index in DB2 database, which was my specialty.
So my daughter gave me the name spintreebob.
That it means anything else is pure coincidence, but sometimes a convenient coincidence.
So far, the response seems to be that the hard-liners would prefer to live in their pretend world than in the world of reality. How is that dis-honesty any different from other forms of dis-honesty.
Note, I am not saying that everybody loves illegals (like I do). But the reality is that most people, including many conservative Republicans, just don't see the reason for the hysteria and irrational passion.
Another way to put it is that the antis are not adept at PR. They are not effective in communicating their message. Their method of communicating their message is generally counterproductive (with 1 exception apparently).
"Graf, who was running for the seat of immigration moderate (and fellow Republican) Jim Kolbe, got financial support from the border-patrolling Minuteman project. Both men lost congressional seats in districts that had twice voted for George W. Bush."
>>Ouch, that has got to hurt the Bush hating true conservatives on FR, right in the family jewels.
Well, at least in Graf's situation, it doesn't help when the President's men kneecap you. Bush is pro ILLEGAL immigration. If you are proud of that then I'm sure you can delude yourself into believing anything.
Not finding Bush on the ballot, voters instead smote Congressional Republicans. Such was the voters wroth,and the illegal issue could not protect them.
The GOP is twice screwed by Bush, first by authoring the GOP defeat, second by then using the Dems he helped elect to concoct amnesty plans to cement the Dem majority in perpetuity.
Sorry to say this, but President Bush is the reason.
He's good about security when it deals with oil. Or terrorism.
He's not so good about perspective, when things involve Mexico. In fact, just about everything George Bush believes about with regard to Mexico, seems to be exactly the opposite of the positions he should be adhering to, in order to support his base.
(frustrated beyond words)
You insist on getting everything backwards...
...one last time for the 54th time:
If you are really his base,
then you should support him.
It is that simple.
In that exit polling, the importance of corruption was not asked. They did ask about Iraq, terrorism, economy, and immigration.
These results are listed by state and I have never compiled the results for a national number. For one state, AZ, if we total up extremely important and very important the results are as follows:
WHAT? Real people...? To say (anything I disagree with) is dishonest...?
Poor as it is, this sounds like just enough to cow 'moderates' into silence;
as it is intended to do.
Republicans lost this election because from top to bottom they let the dems frame issues, create scandals, beat on otherwise dead horses, and define Iraq to fit their 'sixties fixation. Then the Pubby party withheld support to conservative members, mimiced a bunch of PC platitudes, and still asked me for money to sustain their nonactivity.
Sadly, the result has been framed as a mandate to start their 2008 programs today and the majority of Republicans in congress, and the White House, will likely tuck tails and follow along.
Sounds like an awful commercial. If you show it during the general election, you have to face the fact that most of your audience probably isn't "conservative Republicans," and will tune you out from the beginning.
But beyond that, a candidate represents a package of different positions. Single out one and you lose most of your audience. Play that one issue up too much and you turn people off, even if they're originally sympathetic to your stand.
The general message is "So-and-so cares. Cares about the things you care about. Cares about you and about how hard you work. Cares about this. Cares about that. And even about the other thing." Putting all your eggs in one basket is usually a mistake.
You fail to honestly face reality.
The conservative Republican base is split right down the middle on immigration. My side does not have a majority of conservatives. Nor does your side have a majority of conservatives. What is Bush to do?
The following Republicans are more pro than anti
- Free market capitalits like me
- Abolitionists who see a parallel between "illegal" and Dred-Scott
- Compassionate conservatives like Dubya and my GOP township committteeman St Rep Froehlich, IL.
- Mercantilists who oppose capitalism, but find it convenient that capitalism is good for business in this case (as if it weren't always good for business).
- Businesses, employeess, customers who benefit from immigration. If illegals didn't work beside me in IT, they would be in India and my project would be shipped to India, leaving me unemployed. If illegals didn't clean my office at night, I might have to stay late and do it myself.
- Those with personal entanglements. They have family, friends at church, neighbors, who are illegal. This is a surprisingly large group in the religious right.
- Suburban moms (PTA moms) who want to be "nice" and are afraid of being called "racist".
- Karl Rove wannabes who see a large demographic group who are conservative on 10 of 12 issues, but who vote primarily on who appears freindly or unfriendly.
thanks for that link with stats by hawkins. the pro amnesty people here cannot be convinced though, and i even heard my senator martinez right after the election say the GOP lost being too tough on illegals. sigh.
I don't know these candidates, but if you plug in "slavery" or "abortion" or "what's happening overseas" for "immigration" someone could have made the same statement at various points in our history. And they'd have been wrong.
I'm not saying that immigration is on par with those other issues. But it's not dishonest for a candidate to be more interested in an issue than the average person in the street is and to present it as a matter that the country should care about.
You insist on getting everything backwards...
...one last time for the 54th time:
If you are really his base,
then you should support him.
It is that simple.
I said base. Not servants.
I support who I BELIEVE IN. When my leader acts in ways I do not believe are good for America, I speak up.
I am not a "good German". Don't ask me to be one.
Even for George Bush.
BUILD THE FENCE. Stop the flood of illegals. Free the Border Patrol agents. Then let's all get together by the campfire and sing Kumbaya.
Until then, feh to your requests for unconditional loyalty.
Disingenuous. The conservative vote was split in the primaries and the RINO won by default. All we heard from the FRINOs is that we need someone who is electable except that she didn't get elected. That's what happens when the GOP ignores the conservatives and does business as usual.
The American people are 70+% on our side about securing the borders, but even Reason insists on conflating all immigration together -- olegal and illegal. They refuse to see teh difference between the guy who filled out the papers, waited, got a card, and came eagerly to America and the guy who sneaked in.
When posting Reason articles, you might want to also post a link to their blog where you can leave comments letting them know what you think. In this case:
You know, if Pee-Wee Herman ran for president on an anti-illegal immigration platform, I'd vote for him.
"If you are really his base,
then you should support him.
It is that simple."
You have the positions and roles reversed.
They can't see because they have their heads buried in the sand. Another good swift kick in the butt might do the trick though.
"If you can delude yourself into believing that then I'm sure you can delude yourself into believing anything."
Sounds like he's not the one deluded.
I don't know if he's right or wrong. There is great anti-illegal sentiment among the active political conservatives.
But I can't find it amongst any normal people I talk to. They don't like illegal immigrants, they don't like houses with 12 adults and 7 cars clogging the streets, they don't like schools where their children are minorities and they have to hire spanish-speaking teachers.
But they aren't looking to vote for someone simply because they are against illegals. Meanwhile, the pro-immigrant forces seem much more motivated to vote against what they call "hate".
Except in places where the pro-illegal people have actually won major concessions, like where day labor centers are built -- then the anti-illegal crowd, seeing contrete evidence of how much they are losing, will vote the issue.
I think President Bush did his best to frame the issue in a way that doesn't come across as "anti-hispanic". I think Tancredo and company ARE anti-hispanic; I could be wrong, but if nothing else my belief in that is echoed by millions of voters, and perception drives votes. Bush was going for the middle ground, not supporting amnesty, supporting a really tough guest worker program.
But the anti-illegal crowd mistook his soothing rhetoric for weakness, thought they had a winning issue, destroyed any chance of winning ANYTHING, and lost the election. So now we are stuck with the DEMOCRATS idea of fixing the problem, and none of us are going to like it.
The key to winning is often misleading your opponents. A fake run doesn't work if everybody rejects the play because, thinking it is a real run, argue that you need to pass.
"Note, I am not saying that everybody loves illegals (like I do). But the reality is that most people, including many conservative Republicans, just don't see the reason for the hysteria and irrational passion."
Well you see Bob, the reason is this: Many of us like living under a Capitalistic system. To maintain such a system you must have the rule of law. When government officials pick and chose which laws they will enforce in order to achieve a certain end you ultimately wind up with chaos and anarchy.
Once the average citizen perceives that the laws are meaningless and won't be enforced why should he follow the ones he does not like? Why not cheat on taxes? Why be honest in business dealings, etc.?
Once a certain threshold is reached guess what: you'll have the sort of Capitalist system that they have in Russia. Is it worth it to save a few bucks on cheap labor? Is no one capable of extrapolation or foresight anymore?
The MSM would not let it become an election issue. They went along with all the politico's that didn't want it to be an issue (mainly dems) The sad thing is Tancredo will try to make it an issue, as he has over the last 8 years, but will get little or no backing from the RINO's...no backing no news, if a reporter doesn't shove a mic in your face for a comment, or doesn't ask an immigration question...guess what...there's no story
"The RNC Memo warned the GOP candidates."
That memo lied. There was no great call for "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" from Republican voters. There is no reason to tie our security to an earned-citizenship amnesty.
Conservatives need to do a little warning to the RNC.
Anybody talking about Foley lately? I've never seen a more precisely timed, carefully orchestrated October surprise attack....ever. Masterful. Meaningless in the grand scope of things but masterful.
AZ is a good example. Hayworth campaigned/lost on enforcement only. His opponent campaigned/won on enforcement, guest workers, and amnesty
"The 2006 exit polling confirmed the RNC memo."
Which exit poll? Conducted by whom? The RNC?