Steven Cohen, at The New Republic, concisely slices and dices the Republican dilemma surrounding Hispanics:
Republican elites believe that they can stave off this racialized fissure with bilingual campaign ads and half-hearted appeals to pragmatism. What they ignore is not simply the extent to which they themselves have deliberately encouraged the accommodation of white supremacy within their ranks, but the likelihood that those elements actually have a more coherent vision for the future than they do. Latinos are not a one-issue monolith. Polling shows their views on key issues such as climate change, social welfare, and the minimum wage are out of line with GOP policy. Whites, meanwhile, still make up over 70 percent of voters. It’s entirely possible, likely even, that scaring enough white voters away from the Democrats to win a general election represents a more manageable task than moderating the Republican Party on almost every major issue. So while Santorum stands no better chance of becoming the next president than Graham does, his strategy of pitting working class whites against immigrants at least has the prospect of electoral success. Consciously or not, the Republican Party has decided to put it to the test.
Got that? The Republican Party has a choice between “scaring whites” or “moderating the Republican Party” (that is, moderating GOP policy positions in such a way that the most conservative whites still vote in large numbers; they don’t sit on their hands on election day).
At first glance, the “scaring whites” path looks far more likely to be a winning strategy for Republicans in 2016, but look again: the more you ramp-up white conservative energy, you also ramp-up white liberal energy (like mine). It may be that the Republican Party has reached its high water mark in getting the white vote with Mitt Romney in 2012 (70% and he still lost), and now it’s just a matter of gravity. Go further to the right, and more whites peel off than peel on.
There’s probably no escaping the fact that Republicans have to win more non-white votes than they did in 2012 to capture the presidency (or hope non-whites stay home on election day).
So this is also an interesting paragraph in Cohen’s essay:
What we are seeing now is more than just the usual dash to the right in the Republican primary. It is the end stages of a long fight for the soul of the party itself, the “tug of war,” as New Republic’s Brian Beutler has written, “between its own ego and its conservative id.” It may be tempting to dismiss Trump’s fearmongering (“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”) or Bobby Jindal’s fascism (“immigration without assimilation is invasion”) as outlandish and politically untenable, but Santorum’s appeal to the anxieties of “workers” is in keeping with a demonstrated decades-long migration of white lower and lower-middle class voters to the Republican Party. Taken together, they are articulating a coherent strategy to win back political power, one predicated on the supposed threat that immigration poses to the security, cultural purity, and economic stability of white America.
Here’s Lindsey Graham in debate with Rick Santorum doing an especially good job summing up the Republican dilemma (worth watching to the end for his comment on Strom Thurmond):