“Latinos are Republicans, they just don’t know it yet.” Ronald Reagan said that, proving that Republicans are right about one thing that their party desperately needs; more Reagan. Reagan came up in politics in California in the turbulent 1960’s a decade that saw Republicans lose black voters that had supported the party of Lincoln for a hundred years. He understood that for the Republican Party to survive for the next hundred years, they needed to expand their base. Latinos are a largely religious, family-oriented, socially conservative constituency that could be a natural fit with the modern Republican Party, unless GOP lawmakers alienate them with draconian immigration policies.
Most estimates say that there are roughly 325,000 undocumented immigrants in North Carolina, and if Washington’s efforts at immigration reform come to fruition, that could mean 200-300,000 new eligible voters in the state. If Republicans continue to work to make our state a less hospitable for Hispanic emigrants with a series of ‘show me your papers’ laws, then these voters could easily fall to the Democratic party. When Republican legislators re-drew district lines in 2011, they didn’t take the possibility of all of these new voters into account. An influx of thousands of new Democratic voters could push many of the carefully drawn ‘safe’ Republican districts into play. What should frighten Republican lawmakers even more is the fact that many of the counties with the highest Latino populations are in rural or strongly republican counties. Sampson, Duplin, Union, Greene, Johnston and Mongomery counties all have Hispanic populations of 10% or above. If these voters go to the Democrats, it would make some dramatic changes in North Carolina voting patterns.
Whether or not immigration reform passes this year, it has become enough of an issue that Washington will end up dealing with it sooner rather than later. The base of the Republican Party is getting older and narrower, because of a refusal to change with the times. At this rate, if the GOP doesn’t attempt to reach out to Hispanic voters, we could truly find out how many Republicans can dance on the head of a pin.