The Democrat's Best Friend

Who is the Democrat's best friend? I'll get to that in a moment, but first an historical interlude.

For the decade after the Civil War, Republicans won consistent electoral victories by waving the bloody shirt. Pointing out that they were the party of Lincoln and victory, their candidates would hold aloft an old army shirt, with blatant holes and large splotches of red. The verbiage went something like, "This is the shirt of a dead Union soldier, killed in battle. The man who pulled the trigger was a Democrat. Every gun the Confederacy fired was made by a Democrat. Every politician that stood up for his killers was a Democrat." And so it went, for quite a while. It didn't matter in the slightest if the shirt was real or the red was paint. For a long time this just worked.

Back to the title question. Is it Hillary Clinton, probably the standard bearer in 2016? Or the Soros family or any other major donor? Try, instead, David Brat, Chris McDaniel, and the Tea Party.

It is no great revelation that one of the biggest factors in future elections will be the rise of Hispanic voters. No crystal ball needed; the demographics are clear. Older, white voters are declining in numbers, recent immigrants' figures are rising. Everyone who reads a paper knows this, including many top Republicans.

So what is their electorate doing? They're nominating individuals who are outspoken opponents of immigration reform (see David Brat), and even at times derogatory (Chris McDaniel has referred to Hispanic women as "mamacitas). Even better, the Republican Congress has vowed that no legislation will pass to help immigrants.

What this will do, more than anything, is turn Hispanics (and Asians) into a dedicated anti-Republican block for many years to come. That is not the same as saying they are Democratic supporters, not at all. There are a number of reasons why Hispanics are mad at Barack Obama, including the dramatic rise in deportations. But everyone knows what these Republicans are saying to newcomers, in code if not directly: "We don't want you here." That is personal, it cuts to the bone. And it trumps policy issues. These new voters are not becoming Democrats. They're becoming anti-Republicans.

This kind of trend is both powerful and long-lasting. California today is a solidly blue state. A lot of that stemmed from 1994, when Pete Wilson rode to reelection by loudly backing Proposition 187, a pathbreaking measure to deprive immigrants of basic services. Wilson won his race, but he branded Republicans with the label of being anti-Hispanic. Even now, decades later, candidates can still make headway by accusing an opponent of being like "Pete Wilson." The former governor, in other words, is now the "bloody shirt" of 21st Century politics in this state.

As California goes, so goes the nation. All eyes are now on Virginia 7 and the Mississippi primary. And every media source says the Tea Party is in the ascendant. Whether Republicans like it or not, Brat, McDaniels, and those rallying under the Gadsden flag are the face and voice of the party this season. To immigrants, their message is clear: we don't like you. Nobody takes something like that lightly. Would you? Would you vote for a party that consistently told you that?

The Republicans are making a lot of bloody shirts for their opponents this year.