In the long run, social conservatives will have serious trouble exerting influence unless they are allied with rising ethnic populations, which tend toward conservative social views. But social conservatives are now in a toxic alliance with political forces — the wall-builders and advocates of self-deportation — that are actively alienating rising ethnic populations.
Complicating the GOP's task
Evangelicals and conservative Catholics — some of the most loyal members of the Republican coalition — have a direct political interest in making that coalition more inclusive. Hispanic outreach alone is not sufficient. Romney's largest problem was probably his underperformance among white working-class voters. But given America's demographic direction, the overwhelming loss of Hispanic votes will gradually complicate the Republican political task to the point of impossibility. Unless this problem is solved, the GOP will remain on a long, downward slope toward irrelevance.
Outreach will involve more than endorsing comprehensive immigration legislation, though that is necessary. Hispanic voters have a series of concerns typical of a poorer but economically mobile community: working schools, college access, health care, a working safety net. Republicans will need to offer policy alternatives on these issues — defining an active, market-oriented role for government.
Perhaps the greatest Republican need is to embrace and demonstrate some other sound Catholic teachings: a commitment to the common good and a particular concern for the poor and vulnerable. This might appeal to Hispanics — and others.
WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP