David Frum

01.28.13

Hispanics as Natural Conservatives: A Reader Response

Josiah Neeley disagrees with the Hispanics aren't "natural conservatives" posts from earlier today. I'll respond tomorrow. In the meantime, consider Neeley's argument. 

Justin is right to critique the notion that Hispanics are a “naturally conservative” demographic that will start voting Republican as soon as the ink is dry on immigration reform is, of course, overblown. Hispanics are more liberal than average on a number of non-immigration related issues, including social issues such as same sex marriage.

But what this overlooks is the complicated way that political ideology is formed in the first place. An issue can be so fundamental to an individual that it serves as a threshold a political movement must pass before he will consider its stances on other matters. In the 1970s many blue collar Catholics were strong liberals. But over time they became alienated with the Democratic Party over the abortion issue, to the point that now many hold conservative positions on economic and defense issues as well.

I’d wager that something similar has happened with Hispanics. Pick any demographic variable that is typically used to predict voting behavior: income, education, age; Republicans do worse among Hispanics of that demographic than they do among non-Hispanics of the demographic. Hispanics may not be “natural conservatives,” but are they natural unconservatives, somehow predestined to adopt liberal views? I think not. The more plausible conclusion is that it’s hard to convince someone of the merits of your position on capital gains taxes when he thinks you want to deport his grandmother. Backing immigration reform won’t turn Hispanics into instant conservatives. But it will create the space necessary for many of them to actually take seriously the conservative point of view.