Immigration Reform Still Loser for Republicans

Scared RepublicansEarlier this month, I asked a rhetorical question, Why Should Republicans Support Immigration Reform? It was rhetorical because I knew there was no answer. As I’ve argued again and again since this silly issue came up on the evening of 6 November 2012: the Latino aversion to the Republican Party is a hell of a lot bigger than immigration reform. Less than a week after the election, I noted that when it comes to Latinos, Ideology is Biggest Republican Problem. And as time has gone by, it has become more and more clear that if the federal government does pass some kind of immigration reform, it will be despite the Republican Party, not because of it.

Still, many political observers who I respect—most notably Greg Sargent—seem to think that Boehner will allow a vote on the immigration bill because a whole bunch of House Republicans who don’t want to vote for it themselves will nonetheless want it passed because it is good for their party. First: really?! I mean, one thing that almost defines the Tea Party caucus is that they don’t give a flying fuck what the party elites think. They believe that the Republican Party has lost its way by being too liberal and too inclusive. According to this line of argument, all the Republican Party needs to do is get more conservative than Hitler and enact a few voter ID laws and they will rule Washington. These are not people who are thinking, “If only we won 45% of the Latino vote, Mitt Romney would be president!”

But there is a bigger issue that Ed Kilgore explained perfectly this evening:

Now if the benefit GOPers are supposed to be getting from the enactment of comprehensive immigration reform is the gratitude of business lobbyists and/or Karl Rove, I suppose this rather Machiavellian argument could make sense. But if the real prize here is a better image among Latino voters, it’s not obvious why Republicans are going to get credit for covertly allowing the enactment of a law mostly supported by Democrats and loudly opposed by a majority of Republicans in both Houses.

What Sargent and company seem to be missing is that the 11 million undocumented immigrants here in the United States is not a huge thorn in the side of the recent immigrant community. True: most of them would like something done about this shadow culture. But they still care most about what everyone cares about: bread and butter issues. And on those issues, the Republican Party has been very clear: they don’t care about helping the poor or giving them a hand up. As I wrote just after last year’s election, It’s the Poor, Stupid. Most immigrants are poor and that is why they vote for the Democratic Party. And no amount of single issue pandering is going to change that.

So I’m with Kilgore. It’s possible that Boehner will bring the immigration bill to a vote. But I don’t see any reason why he would. Politically, it seems like a real loser to me.

Update (24 June 2013 11:11 pm)

Steve Benen is usually an insightful guy, but this morning he offered up the following clip of Lindsey Graham as evidence of reasonableness from a Republican:

The problem is that other than the little words, pretty much everything that Graham says is false. He is pushing this idea that Latinos are really conservative that is simply wrong. Also: if they don’t pass the immigration bill Latinos will not vote for Republicans because of that. In general, Latinos will not vote for Republicans anyway. There are two Republican sides on this. One includes the Republicans who understand where their political fortunes lie. We’ll call them the evil Republicans. And the other includes the Republicans who are deluding themselves about getting Latino votes. We’ll call them the crazy Republicans. It could be that the crazy Republicans will win this fight. But I’m afraid that Benen is letting his desire for an immigration bill cloud his perceptions of what is going on in the Republican Party.

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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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