— TheJournal.ie (@thejournal_ie) June 21, 2017
This is a strange one. Conventional wisdom and hearsay suggest that Irish-America generally tends towards voting Democrat. Actual figures are hard to come by and much of the evidence from this is historical, anecdotal or circumstantial. However, there’s no doubt that the major cities which have a significant Irish-American presence have tended towards Democrats.
On top of that… between Kennedy, Clinton and Obama it has generally been Democratic presidents who have actively courted the Irish-American vote and made a great deal of political hay (both at home and abroad) with high-profile visits to Ireland. Reagan tried the same thing, but his search for his roots down in Ballyporeen alienated as many as it charmed.
Having said all that; there is no indication that Irish-America is overwhelmingly Democrat. It’s hardly news to anyone that there’s a powerfully conservative streak within Irish Catholicism, and the Republicans get a great deal of support from Catholic America. Indeed, there are indications that a slim majority of Irish Americans may have voted for Trump in the last election. The actual figures are for “white Catholic” (51% of whom voted for Trump) rather than “Irish-American”, but I have to assume that means around half of Irish America supported Trump.
A Constituency of a lot more than one
The most recent US census informs us almost 35 million Americans identify as “Irish American”. That’s a pretty big constituency. It’s not the most important demographic for an American politician; but it’s big enough — with a near 50/50 split between the parties — to swing a national election against any party that actively alienates it.
Which is why Trump’s decision to target undocumented Irish for deportation is strange. While those deported wouldn’t have been able to vote; the wider Irish-American community will feel threatened and betrayed by this move. I predict — if this continues — the Republicans could easily lose a few million votes across the country. Easily.
And for what? From a purely practical / optics standpoint — an undocumented Irish resident in America is effectively invisible. They look exactly like any other Trump supporter. I’m not saying this should matter from a policy perspective. It clearly shouldn’t. But at the same time… for Trump it clearly does. He’s all about optics, and I can’t see how this is going to look good for him.