The issue that’s splitting the GOP

A civil war has broken out among Republicans, said Peter Wallsten in the Los Angeles Times, and its flashpoint is immigration. On the surface, the conflict is over the massive Senate reform bill that would grant amnesty to 12 million illegal aliens and institute a guest-worker program for 400,000 migrant laborers annually. But the underlying issue is how best 'œto restore the GOP to political dominance.' Led by President Bush, the reformers believe that wooing 'œthe fast-growing Latino voting bloc' with this bill is essential to the party's future. Opposing them are conservatives who say the bill—which radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh calls 'œthe Destroy the Republican Party Act'—rewards criminal behavior, and will alienate white males, who make up the party's most loyal voters. If the GOP pushes through this bill, the anti-immigrant wing of the party warns, demoralized conservatives will be so disgusted they'll stay home on Election Day 2008, and for many elections thereafter.

If Bush has any luck left, he'll lose this battle, said John Podhoretz in the New York Post. He 'œneeds a unified Republican Party going into the fall, which may be the most difficult moment of his presidency.' In September, Gen. David Petraeus will probably report only modest improvements in the situation in Iraq, triggering a furious new effort by Democrats to withdraw the troops and end the war. Bush can fend them off only with unified Republican support in Congress. If he squanders his remaining popularity among conservatives on immigration, he will be left standing alone—and Democrats will stampede over him.

Simple mathematics shows the foolishness of that argument, said Michael Gerson in The Washington Post. Bush won in 2004 only because he drew about 40 percent of the Latino vote, which—contrary to conservative assumptions—isn't necessarily Democratic. Latinos are 'œnatural entrepreneurs' with strong religious faith and a belief in social mobility. Even without the illegals, they are already the nation's largest minority group. If Republicans alienate them by becoming the anti-immigrant party, it'll be an act of suicide. Florida and the Southwest states will become Democratic, turning the electoral map heavily blue. 'œA nativist party will cease to be a national party.'

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'œWhat planet is Gerson living on?' said Heather MacDonald in National Review Online. If you look at the facts objectively, it's clear that Hispanics are not in sync with Republican values. At 47 percent, Hispanics have the nation's highest school dropout rate. About one in five illegal immigrants have criminal records. As for family values, almost half of all Hispanic children are born to unmarried parents. The notion that Hispanics are an upwardly mobile demographic that the GOP should be courting is 'œlaughable.'

Julia Preston

Marjorie Connelly

The New York Times

Ronald Brownstein

Los Angeles Times

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