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That's a problem. Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana and something of a Republican star, warns that the GOP cannot just be the "party of no". Maybe, but to attempt to define what it is for is, for the Republican politician who dares to try, dangerous ground indeed. 

To start with, it will involve recognising that there is rather less remaining of the America that elected Ronald Reagan than many Republicans seem prepared to accept. The US population has ballooned by more than 90 million since 1980. It has changed in ways that reflect more than the passing of the years. Usefully didactic memories of the 1970s have faded. Recollections of the Lehman collapse are all too fresh. New generations have reached voting age after a lifetime immersed in the soft-left certainties of the American education system. Meanwhile, stagnating household incomes and what look like permanently higher levels of unemployment or underemployment threaten to chip away at support for America's free market(ish) model. Democrat Bill de Blasio's success in winning the mayoralty of New York City was (mostly) a Gotham thing, but obvious public concern over rising inequality — the Occupy movement was an early harbinger — signals a coming shift in the ideological landscape that will not help the Republicans one bit. 

Above all, decades of mass immigration have transformed the country's ethnic, cultural and political make-up in ways that pose an enormous challenge to the GOP. It says something that if the America of 2012 had had the demographics of 1980, Mitt Romney would have won by a wider margin than did Ronald Reagan back then. 

What to do? To begin with the conventional wisdom is that Republicans need to scale back their opposition (much of it driven by the Right) to current efforts to "regularise" the position of the nearly 12 million illegal immigrants now thought to be present in the country. The argument — made with varying degrees of enthusiasm and cynicism both by the party establishment and erstwhile Tea Party darlings such as freshman Florida senator (and possible presidential candidate) Marco Rubio — is that an anti-immigration stance makes it easy for the GOP's opponents to caricature the Republicans as a "white" party hostile to minorities. With Democrats and the media trumpeting just that tune, it's an argument that has some weight. 

Throw in some of the more inflammatory talk sometimes heard from the Tea Party and other sections of the "nativist" Right, as well as the clumsy language of Republicans often tone-deaf to ethnic sensitivities (Mitt Romney's 2012 reference to "self-deportation" for one) and it's easy to understand why the Republican share of the growing Latino vote fell from some 40 per cent in 2004 to 27 per cent in 2012 (Asian-Americans were even less enthusiastic: only 26 per cent voted for Romney). That minorities are more sceptical about immigration than often assumed only reinforces the point that what matters is not the policy itself, but the message that it is believed to deliver. 

Yet the electoral mathematics will deteriorate still further if anti-immigration Republican congressmen who, for now, are holding the line, agree to an amnesty for illegals. For all the talk about Latinos' attachment to enterprise and family values (more nuanced than the stereotype would suggest), their votes will tilt heavily Democratic for decades, just as did those of the Italian-Americans with whom they are so often compared. The same is true of the other immigrant groups now reshaping America, a disturbing prospect for the GOP given that the country is accepting something like one million new legal immigrants a year. That's an inflow that the Democrats have every reason to welcome, but there is little sign that many Republicans will be prepared to stand in the way of those arriving legally, quite possibly even if that total is — as is also being proposed — significantly bumped up. The idea of the nation of immigrants has an emotional appeal that stretches across America's ideological divide. More prosaically, there is also a bipartisan understanding that business donors appreciate the cheaper workers and increased demand that immigration brings in its wake. 

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December 28th, 2013
12:12 AM
The Republican Party is a big tent and the party that ended slavery and Democrat sponsored segregation in the south. To suggest that the Republicans can not appeal to minorities is absurd and Christie will show us how.

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