Hoping to win the affections of Hispanic voters who scorned their presidential nominee in record numbers on November 6, some Republicans have embraced comprehensive immigration reform. But will the passing of one piece of legislation, however comprehensive, be enough to persuade significant numbers of Hispanics to begin voting Republican in 2014 and 2016?
History and recent opinion polls suggest not.
To understand why, look back to the 1950s and early 1960s, when both major parties were locked in intense struggles for black votes. That saga might offer some insight into the enormous challenges confronting Republicans.
For generations after the Civil War, most blacks considered themselves Republicans and were, until the 1930s, loyal to the party of Lincoln. But Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s upset that equation.
In his 1936 re-election campaign, FDR won huge majorities in black neighborhoods of northern cities, a result of direct appeals by Democratic Party leaders who cited New Deal programs and the ways they helped improve the lives of poor blacks. One DNC campaign pamphlet circulated among black voters in 1936 said: “He clothed us when we were naked, gave us drink when we thirsted, fed us when we were hungry and gave us shelter when we were out in the cold.”
The appeal worked. Although Democrats had not tried to pass civil rights laws, author Nancy J. Weiss wrote in her 1983 book, “Farewell to the Party of Lincoln,” that FDR “had managed to convey to [black voters] that they counted and belonged.”