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Demographic shift hits GOP

Comprehensive immigration reform has Republicans in an unenviable bind: damned if they don’t, and probably damned if they do.

“[I]f we don’t pass immigration reform, if we don’t get it off the table in a reasonable, practical way, it doesn’t matter who you run in 2016,” said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) on Sunday’s “Meet the Press.” “We’re in a demographic death spiral as a party and the only way we can get back in good graces with the Hispanic community in my view is pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

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Succinct and accurate: Republicans are electorally finished at the national level unless they can make inroads into non-white groups. Just this past week, the Census Bureau dropped a bombshell report — in fiscal 2012, more white Americans died than were born. The population of the country grew by almost 2.4 million, yet only 7 percent of that was white, and every single one of those additional 175,000 white Americans is an immigrant.

Meanwhile, 1.1 million of that growth, or about 45 percent, came from Latinos. Of that growth, just 24 percent came from immigration. Recalcitrant Republicans believe that immigration reform will merely legalize a new generation of Democratic voters. But it’s not the immigrants they should fear.

Remember, the median age of native-born Latinos is just 18. Sixty-seven thousand of them turn voting age every month.

The African-American population grew by 559,000, or 23 percent of the nation’s total growth last year, while Asians remain the nation’s fastest growing racial or ethnic group, with a nearly 3 percent boost in their population in 2012 alone. Of the 530,000 new Asians last year, 60 percent came from immigration. And given that Asians vote even more Democratic than Latinos, Republicans should be plenty scared. True, most Asians are clustered on the already-Democratic West Coast — in California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington — but they’re also 4 percent of the population of Texas, part of the demographic wave that will push Texas toward purple status by 2024 (if not sooner).

“The demographic winter of white America is at hand, even as it began years ago for the native-born of old Europe,” wrote Pat Buchanan in response to the Census report, echoing terminology commonly used by white supremacists.

It’s clear, given these trends, that Republicans are in a heap of trouble. Mitt Romney won the white vote decisively 59-39 percent on his way to his electoral drubbing in 2012. Republicans will need to start eating into the growing Democratic base to win. Of course, nothing — not even supporting immigration reform — assures them that they’ll ever win that vote, but either they surrender and guarantee failure, or at least give it a fighting chance.

Senate Republicans, like Graham, want that fighting chance. Safely gerrymandered House Republicans, on the other hand, seem to be opting for surrender.

The issue isn’t whether immigration reform can pass the House — the Democratic minority plus a few dozen Republicans can push something through.

It’s whether Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) allows the measure to come up for a vote without a majority of his caucus aboard, following the so-called “Hastert Rule.” Early indications are that he won’t. His Speakership wouldn’t survive that betrayal of his crazy caucus.

But legislative obstruction won’t arrest the nation’s changing demographics. The only question is whether Republicans want to remain a viable national party.

Moulitsas is the publisher and founder of Daily Kos.