Why Democrats Must Stand Firm on Immigration

John CornynThis afternoon, Greg Sargent wrote, Dems Vow Hard Line in Immigration Reform’s Next Phase. It is about John Cornyn’s amendment to make the bill “stronger” by increasing border security. People in Washington are claiming that by appealing to conservatives with the amendment like Cornyn’s, they might be able to get 70 Senators to vote for the new bill. What’s more, that might push the House to vote on it. There are so many things wrong here!

To begin with, we are back to the conventional wisdom from after last year’s election that Obama’s win would somehow make Republicans in Congress more compliant. I said it then and I’ll say it now: what the “country” thinks doesn’t mean a thing to a particular member of congress; they don’t get elected by a national vote; all they care about is how things look in their districts and states. So what do House Republicans care if 100 Senators vote for a bill? What’s more, Boehner needs to please House members. It might be a little uncomfortable for him to refuse to vote on a popular Senate bill, but I don’t see how it actually matters to his seat or his speakership.

But what I find most offensive is the idea that if the Democrats just make the bill conservative enough, then the Republicans will vote for it. Haven’t we already gone through this time and again? Didn’t we start with a conservative healthcare bill for the purpose of getting overwhelming support for it? And that turned out like this: not a single Republican voted for it. Not one. This is the modern Republican approach to legislation: push bills as far to the right as possible and then don’t vote for them anyway. Anyone thinking that 16 Senate Republicans are going to vote for the immigration bill is delusional.

There is another side to this: are the Democrats supposed to stand for nothing? I know in CentristLand, passing any law at all is good. Because: bipartisanship! So this bill could just fly through Congress if Democrats were willing to vote for a law that had nothing in it they liked. Why not take out the path to citizenship? After all, that’s the real stumbling block here. All this extra border security is just a way for conservatives to signal to their base that they hate those dirty Mexicans as much as ever. But the point of legislation is to improve policy, or at least to try to do so. I understand that to House Republicans, who have now voted to repeal Obamacare 37 times, it is really about “sending a message.” But that’s just a pathology of the modern Republican Party—not something the rest of us should take seriously.

So I’m pleased that the Democrats are pushing back against this nonsense. As I’ve long argued: the Republicans are so unreasonable because the Democrats have been a damned sight too reasonable. What’s more, Republicans seem to respond well when Democrats play tough. In fact, there is a lot of bully in the modern Republican Party: fight back and see them fold. But the way it is, the only thing the Republicans have to worry about is their crazy base. They need to fear that the Democratic Party will push every advantage and make them look like the unpatriotic idiots they are. Trying to pacify them hasn’t work because it can’t.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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