John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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How Romney Can Save the GOP

Posted on November 1, 2012


When Mitt Romney wins next Tuesday, he should immediately plan to take steps to save the long-term future of the Republican Party:  He should plan to pass bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform.

My guess is that the new Congress will want to focus on something else.  The Fiscal cliff makes sense.  Tax reform is important.  Getting a handle on entitlements shouldn’t be postponed for too long.  Cutting waste, fraud and abuse is a perennial issue.

And Romney and his transition team should work on all of those things.

But nothing is more important to the long-term future of the Republican Party than dealing with our festering immigration problems.

If this election has taught us anything, it is that demographics in America are changing, and right now, the changing demographics are making it harder for Republicans to get themselves elected.

Mitt Romney is going to beat Barack Obama, but it will be a close election, much closer than it ought to be.  Let’s not kid ourselves.  Obama has been a disaster as President.  He has focused on all the wrong things. His leadership has been spotty as best.  The economy has struggled chiefly because of the President’s antipathy towards the free market and the business sector.

But the President has been masterful in getting minorities to side with him, even though they have suffered the most under his policies.  He has used the politics of resentment, class warfare, and envy to attack rich people while attracting African-Americans and Hispanics.

Hispanics are flocking to Obama, despite the fact that he basically lied to them about his immigration reform policies.  Obama didn’t push reform because he wanted to focus on Obamacare, leaving the Hispanic community high and dry.

But the Republican antipathy to Hispanic voters and to a comprehensive approach to immigration reform has alienated this important and growing voting bloc.  And if demographers are to be believed, that problem is only going to grow more acute in the years to come.

Comprehensive immigration reform is not just about  making an appeal to Hispanic voters.  The fastest growing segment of our population is Asian-Americans, and they are truly up for grabs as an electoral block.  And when it comes to our economy, Asian-Americans are every bit as important to our long-term economic growth as Hispanic-Americans.

And at the end of the day, this is not such a political strategy.  It is an economic growth strategy.

We need the high-tech brain power of smart people from around the world.   House Republicans passed a bill before leaving town that basically would allow recent graduates from American university who are from other countries to staple a green card to their diploma.  That makes sense.  We shouldn’t train the smartest graduates in the world and then kick them out of the country.

We also need the brawn of people who are ready and willing to work.  I am going to say this as clearly as I can.  I love Mexicans.  They work very, very hard.  They are happy to have work, and they do a good job.  We need them as part of our economy.  I can’t tell how many business owners I have talked to who tell me that they can’t find anybody else to do the work they need to get done.  And we are not talking about minimum wage jobs.   We are talking construction, landscaping, building and cleaning.  We can lament the fact that Americans won’t do those jobs, but lamenting won’t get the job done.

We need immigration policies that value people who work hard and give our economy the economic spark it needs to thrive.

Romney’s position on self-deportation actually makes a lot of sense.  If you want to become a legal citizen of the United States, we ought to make it easier for you.  If you are here illegally, but you have proven to be a hard worker, you ought to have a better chance to get legal status.  We should set up a process that expedites the naturalization process for those workers who are here illegally but have recommendations from potential employers.

My great-grandfather was in illegal immigrant from Ireland.  He faced hostility from the no-nothings and the nativists, but over the years, his progeny became solid citizens and some of them even became Republicans.

The Republican party has to overtake the demographics before the demographics overtake them.  They have to seize the high-ground on the immigration debate and seize it quickly.

Republicans are kidding themselves if they think that they will continue to win national elections by appealing solely to white men and white married women.  They have to fight hard to appeal to all ethnic groups, especially Hispanics and Asians.  Comprehensive immigration reform is a good first step.    Mitt Romney should move on it quickly, before the Midterm elections make it impossible for Republicans to maneuver to pass legislation.