This morning, I was back on CNBC’s Squawk Box as a guest host; as always, it was a great opportunity to chat with some thoughtful and insightful leaders in business, politics, and the media.
Around 7:30, Senator Marco Rubio and I discussed the immigration bill that the Senate is debating this week, and the need to make America’s immigration policy not just more economically rational, but more fair as well. Here’s a clip:
It was good to see Senator Rubio making a fairness-based argument. As I argued in the Wall Street Journal last month, conservatives must make an argument for pro-growth, pro-poor, pro-community policies that will appeal to all Americans — including many Hispanic non-voters:
First, it is not true that an increasing Hispanic population means an increasing vote share for Democrats. Second, it is not true that a conservative message will fail to appeal to Hispanics.
According to the National Opinion Research Center’s General Social Survey in 2010, Hispanics vote at far lower frequencies than other racial and ethnic groups. For example, 52% of eligible Hispanics (that is, registered adults who are citizens) voted in the 2008 presidential election, versus 78% of non-Hispanic whites and 79% of blacks. This survey is consistent with many others.
What do we know about the Hispanics who don’t vote? Among other things, they are the ones most likely to call themselves “political conservatives.” Again, according to the 2010 General Social Survey, non-voting Hispanics are 52% more likely than Hispanic voters to label their ideology in this way. In contrast, non-voting whites are 40% less likely than voting whites to call themselves politically conservative. Non-voting Hispanics are also more likely than the voters to express conservative attitudes, such as agreeing that “hard work” is more important than “lucky breaks or help from other people” in getting ahead.
Getting non-voting Hispanics to become voters is more likely to help conservatives than hurt them. But this creates a puzzle: What is suppressing the turnout among all those conservative Hispanics? I believe it is the inability or unwillingness of most conservative politicians to address the issue of primary importance to all groups of Hispanic voters: care for the poor.
Senator Rubio made the case for why immigration reform should be a matter not of economic calculation, but of fairness and compassion. Conservatives need to do much more of this across all policy areas (not just immigration) if they want to offer an alternative to limitless government and social welfare statism.