The Rachel Maddow Show | January 29, 2013
>>> the question now is simple. do we have the resolve as a people, as a country, as a government to finally put this issue behind us? i believe that we do. i believe that we do. i believe we are finally at a moment where comprehensive immigration reform is within our grasp. but i promise you this. the closer we get, the more emotional this debate is going to become. immigration's always been an issue that inflames passions. that's not surprising, you know. there are few things that are more important to us as a society than who gets to come here and call our country home . who gets the privilege of becoming a citizen of the united states of america. that's a big deal . when we talk about that in the abstract, it's easy sometimes for the discussion to take on a feeling of us versus them. and when that happens, a lot of folks forget that most of us used to be them. we forget that. it's really important for us to remember our history. unless you're one of the first americans, a native american , you came from some place else. somebody brought you. the issue, who left behind a land of famine, the germans who fled persecution, the scandinavians who arrived eager to pioneer out west, the polish, the russians, the italians, the chinese, the japanese, the west indians , the huddled masses who came through ellis island on one coast and angel island on the other. all those folks before they were us, they were them.
>> president obama talking about immigration reform today in las vegas . today in washington, republicans were gently reminded that when they talk about immigration, they should try to avoid favorite republican phrases like, for example, send them all back or "electric fence" or " anchor baby ." it is also suggested gently, so gently, that republicans should avoid using the word "illegals" or "aliens" and should not, quote, characterize all hispanics as undocumented. this memo was first published today by the hill newspaper . it is suggested messaging do's and don'ts for republicans . it was put out by the republican latino outreach group co-chaired by jeb bush , a group that is taking on the hard task of taking the panic out of hispanic in republicanville. joining us now is steve schmidt, senior strategist for mccain/palin in '08 and msnbc contributor. steve , it's great to see you. thanks for being here.
>> thank you, rachel.
>> if the advice has to start with stop saying "send them all back" and " anchor babies ", does that mean that we are beyond this level of advice?
>> well, the first rule of hole digging is when you're in one, stop digging. so there are some encouraging signs on the republican side . and i think people are waking up to the political reality that the republican party will never again win a presidential election if we stay on the trend line that we have been on since 2004 with hispanic voters in the country. the electorate will be 2% less white in 2016 than it was in 2012 , which was 2% less white than it was in 2008 . so the republican party is going to have to figure out how to talk to this community through a prism of respect before we can even begin to make the case on issues and empowerment.
>> you know, that same demographic truth about the latino electorate and republicans ' difficulty with communicating with the latino electorate, that was true after your race with john mccain in '08. it was as true then as it was after this race with mitt romney . why is that sort of recognition of that demographic truth driving a change now in the party when after your race, after the 2008 race, republicans actually went further right on the issue?
>> there is no question. but after the second presidential loss, after the fact tha lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections , i don't think this takes a rocket scientist to figure out the math. and people are looking at it, see the writing on the wall . you look over the long-term demographically. the hispanic growth in texas, for example, will inexorably change that state from a solid red to a purple and eventually blue as this trend line continues going forward. so the problem is highlighted in the memo that you just talked about is this. when you hear the word " hispanic ", for too many republican policymakers, the first thing they associate with that is illegal immigrant, as opposed to silver star winner or sergeant major or sergeant or doctor or teacher. this is a vital part of the american community, and republicans are going to have to talk to this community with respect. this immigration issue, which is an enormous debacle for the country and has been for a long time has to get fixed. we have to come to a resolution with the 11 million people that are here in this permanently gray status. we have to fix the problem. and then once that problem is fixed, republicans might be able to start climbing back to the place we were not too long ago, which was getting 44% of the latino vote after the 2004 presidential election .
>> because of that, because george w. bush was so successful at pursuing the latino vote and doing so in a way that seemed linebacker it was going to keep going until the party really dropped his stance on the issue, on a lot of issues that affect latino voters, i'm so used to hearing sort of beltway common wisdom that latino voters other than the immigration issue are so socially conservative , they're a natural constituency for republicans . i'm so used to hearing that, that i think i started to believe it and was therefore shocked when i went back and looked at the actual polling that shows not only are latinos more in line with democratic voters in terms of their views on social issues, but they're considerably more liberal than the rest of the country on that. how do republicans approach both that truth and that strategy?
>> well, you're exactly right. this notion that there is an inherent social conservatism in this community, and therefore once this issue is cleared out, that they be default into the republican party , i think that's wrong. but if you look at, for example, the state that the president was in today, nevada, there is a republican hispanic governor in the state, very popular, brian sandoval . you look at new mexico. republican hispanic governor, susannah martinez. part of the problem republicans have communicating to hispanics is the total utter toxicity of the republican brand, the washington, d.c. brand. but once you're able to break out of that d.c. brand, republicans are able to put an imprint that is appropriate for nevada or new mexico on the party. and you're finding success there. now, i don't think that the numbers that you talked about on those issues are permanent. republicans when we just finish the presidential election where we were doomed by comments like the 47%, we need to have a message that reaches out to every american, is about empowerment, is about climbing the socio-economic ladder, about revitalizing the american middle class that has been in decline. we have to talk about those things. we have to have plans that are grounded in reality to deal with the problems that american families are facing. conservatism is a governing policy that has served this country well over time . but it has been taken over by the loony fringe to a certain degree. to the extent americans are look agent it, they're not seeing a party that is offering very many solutions to problems over the last couple of years. hopefully after a second presidential election defeat, we'll begin to see the reformers in the party begin to put a new face on conservatism and make it an appealing brand, which it was for so long.
>> watching the internal debate, i think particularly among house republicans when they decide what 20 do about this is going to be so fascinating, and so important for the country. steve schmidt, former mccain/palin strategist and somebody who has just welcomed a new member to his family. congratulations on your new baby, steve .
>> thank you, rachel.
>> thanks a lot. you look like you're getting way more sleep than i thought you would have been.
>>> all right. we've got lots more to come, including a critical vote on a key obama cabinet nominee. and hillary clinton speaks to andrea mitchell , of course she does, and antonio vargas , all coming up.