Thursday, January 21, 2016

Pete Wilson in Hindsight

At National Review, I indulge my contrarian streak and dispute the claim (much beloved by consultants and pundits) that Pete Wilson lost California for the GOP by running as a staunch opponent of illegal immigration during his 1994 reelection campaign.  According to the conventional narrative, Wilson's hawkish stand on illegal immigration might have helped him in the short term but over the long term sent the California Republican party into a demographic death-spiral.  Pundits always cite Pete Wilson as a warning to the national GOP to not get too strenuous in opposition to illegal immigration.

However, as I suggest in this piece, if you look at the evidence, it seems that broader, architectonic shifts caused California to trend Democratic over the past 20 years. At least those shifts had a bigger influence on GOP voters in California than did Pete Wilson's opposition to illegal immigration.

(One brief note: in this piece, I use the conventional language of ethnic categorization--such as "white"--not because I necessarily endorse conventional narratives of ethnicity and race or the reifications of identity politics.)

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