I am sure that, not coincidentally, the NYT ran a story yesterday about demographic shift in the United States. It is worth pondering the picture for a moment:
Republicans are already losing the under-30 vote. The shift from 80% and 72% of the main parts of the voting population being white to 61% and 58% will kill the GOP if we do not do outreach to minorities. George Bush has demonstrated that we can make significant inroads, but following the path of Pete Wilson will deliver long-term damage to the GOP among the fastest growing demographic in the country.
Furthermore, the GOP is not as up-in-arms as the chattering classes. Poll after poll has demonstrated that, among registered Republicans, there is a 70-80% majority in favor of some sort of "earned legalization". For example:
A poll of likely voters designed to probe their attitudes toward immigration reform. Key findings: 78 percent of voters, 78 percent of Republicans and 77 percent of conservatives support reform that increases border security, enacts tougher penalties on employers, creates a temporary worker program and allows illegal immigrants already here to earn citizenship by working, paying taxes, learning English and waiting their turn behind people waiting for visas in their home countries
Now, "amnesty" polls poorly, but let’s look at some of the details. From Pew’s review of the debate:
While 85% of Republicans completely or mostly agree that we should restrict and control people coming into our country more than we do now, half (50%) of Republicans favor allowing undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. for several years to gain legal working status and a path to citizenship. Conservative Republicans differ only slightly in these views, with 45% favoring a path to citizenship and 50% opposing it.
Note the difference: 50% of Republicans support a "path to citizenship", not a "mixture of policies including a path to citizenship." Once you include the combination, that number shoots up to 78%.
Finally, as I have pointed out, we are talking about an issue that much of the national coalition agrees on, in principle. For example, Richard Land stood next to Ted Kennedy and Lindsay Graham and praised comprehensive immigration reform. The business community supports and needs this. One of Mitt Romney’s major donors, Mr. Marriott was in town yesterday to lobby for this.
When 50-70% of the base supports something, the major coalition groups (Christians and business) support something, and it is an imperative for the survival of the party, then it will happen. Full stop.