Remember the GOP autopsy report, the document the Republican National Committee commissioned following the party’s pummeling in the 2012 elections? It may be hard to remember since the report, which called for the party to remake its image but supported no substantive changes in public policy, has been pretty much ignored by Republican politicians since its much-heralded release.
The Republican “autopsy” came in part in response to Mitt Romney’s abysmal performance among Latino voters after he promoted a draconian “self-deportation” strategy for immigrants. At the time, even Donald Trump denounced Romney’s “crazy policy of self-deportation,” calling it “maniacal”: “It sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all of the Latino vote. He lost the Asian vote. He lost everybody who is inspired to come into this country.” GOP leaders claimed that they were ready to get on board with immigration reform.
Although the autopsy urged the GOP to “embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform,” the House GOP leadership refused to even bring a bipartisan reform bill, approved by the U.S. Senate, up for a vote. However, House Republicans did approve an extreme measure from one of the party’s most toxic voices on immigration: Rep. Steve King of Iowa.
Seeing that the party has pretty much abandoned any pretense of working towards immigration reform, it is no surprise that Trump’s immigration platform, which calls for mass deportation and even “self-deportation,” also includes a measure to abandon the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of birthright citizenship. This measure to curb what Republicans derisively dub “anchor babies” has proved so popular among Republicans that it has also won backing from Trump’s 2016 rivals Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, Rick Santorum and Ted Cruz.
While Trump hopes to win the GOP nomination and, in the process, move the field even farther to the far right, the GOP has effectively given up on its own recommendations to build bridges to a community which increasingly sees it as xenophobic.
Just read what the autopsy report had to say in response to Romney’s collapse among Hispanic voters:
If Hispanic Americans perceive that a GOP nominee or candidate does not want them in the United States (i.e. self-deportation), they will not pay attention to our next sentence. It does not matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies. In the last election, Governor Romney received just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote. Other minority communities, including Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, also view the Party as unwelcoming. President Bush got 44 percent of the Asian vote in 2004; our presidential nominee received only 26 percent in 2012.
If Hispanic Americans hear that the GOP doesn’t want them in the United States, they won’t pay attention to our next sentence. It doesn’t matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think that we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies. In essence, Hispanic voters tell us our Party’s position on immigration has become a litmus test, measuring whether we are meeting them with a welcome mat or a closed door.
On issues like immigration, the RNC needs to carefully craft a tone that takes into consideration the unique perspective of the Hispanic community. Message development is critical to Hispanic voters.