What Stephen Harper Learned From George W Bush

Reihan Salam has a piece about what Republicans could learn from Stephen Harper’s political success in Canada, but the most provocative part of it could easily be reframed as what Harper learned from George W Bush:

Led by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, the Conservatives mounted an unprecedented effort to win the votes of Asian voters, many of whom had long been loyal to the Liberals. The gestures ranged from large to small, from reforming Canada’s immigration policies to welcome more high-skilled immigrants to creating official committees celebrating the virtues of traditional Chinese medicine. The Conservatives realized that the key to winning immigrant voters is to demonstrate that you understand and value their concerns. One result of this outreach effort has been the election of a large number of Asian Canadians as Conservative MPs, a number of whom have made it into Harper’s cabinet. Given that the American electorate is growing steadily less white, it is widely understood that Republicans need to make inroads in large and growing Latino and Asian communities. Harper’s Conservatives offer a road map as to how they might do that.

This is sort of lost to the sands of time, but once upon a time the administration of George W Bush paired a hard-right agenda on taxes, business regulation, environmental policy, and foreign policy with a centrist approach to K-12 education reform and a sincere effort to break with xenophobic elements in his party’s base and achieve a bipartisan agreement on immigration reform. It was, in its way, a Harper-esque agenda. And it was driven in large part by precisely these same demographic concerns. A political party can’t just be friendly to tax-averse businessmen, and under Bush the GOP wanted to try to broaden its appeal to minorities. Ultimately, the failure of Bush’s foreign policy and his inability to regulate the banking system brought down his political coalition. Then the lingering recession and the fact that twentysomethings don’t like to vote in midterms allowed it to come roaring back. But the basic demographic issue hasn’t gone away.