No, Pete Wilson wasn’t right, and other takeaways from Carl DeMaio’s absurd ad

Former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio is invoking former California Gov. Pete Wilson in his bid for California state Assembly.

Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG

DeMaio’s campaign has released an ad highlighting the former governor’s stand against illegal immigration. Wilson championed Proposition 187 in 1994 which sought to prohibit undocumented immigrants from receiving public services, including healthcare and education.

“Gov. Pete Wilson was right,” declares DeMaio on Twitter. “CA Democrats and liberal media blame Gov. Wilson and his strong position against illegal immigration for Republicans losing seats since 1994. I disagree – it’s time we make SECURING THE BORDER & ending illegal immigration a core message in CA politics!”

There are a few things to unpack here.

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For one, it has to be said that, yes, Pete Wilson’s fixation on undocumented immigrants blew up in the GOP’s face. As broken down by the Cato Institute’s Alex Nowrasteh, while Hispanics in California split fairly evenly between voting GOP and Democratic in gubernatorial races in 1986 and 1990, ever since 1994, that has changed. Hispanics overwhelmingly opposed Proposition 187 and even decades later have associated the GOP with Pete Wilson, in a negative way, for the record.

This was anticipated by then-former Rep. Jack Kemp, who went on to be the Republican vice presidential candidate under Bob Dole in 1996, who warned at the time, “Where the battleground will be fought is if they want to carry this nationally and turn the party away from its historic belief in opportunity and jobs and growth, and turn the party inward to a protectionist and isolationist and more xenophobic party.”

If only he knew how prophetic his warnings were.

The idea that what the California Republican Party really needs is a return of Pete Wilson-esque rhetoric about people who come here to work and find a better life is nonsensical on its face. Republicans are in the superminority in the California Assembly and California Senate and a Republican won a statewide office since Arnold Schwarzenegger. If Republicans listen to DeMaio, their party’s irrelevance in California will only continue to deepen.

It’s also just practically hard to take DeMaio seriously. DeMaio claims he “will secure the border” as a Republican state Assemblyman in the superminority party. Sure.

His ad also claims he will fight sanctuary cities and work to enact a voter ID law.  Invoking voter ID in the context of an immigration ad is an obvious dog-whistle to those who really want to believe undocumented immigrant-voters are swaying elections. And while complaining about sanctuary cities is popular among those who don’t understand federalism or the separation of powers, here DeMaio is just complaining about policies which leave immigration matters to federal authorities so that local police can focus on enforcing state and local laws.

DeMaio’s whole “Pete Wilson was right” schtick may or may not boost his prospects at being among the superminority in the Assembly, but it will just make it that much easier for Democrats to point to the still-present xenophobic strain of the modern Republican Party.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register