Immigration Reform Is Dangerous for GOP

Scared RepublicansJohn Stanton wrote a very interesting article over at Buzz Feed, No, Congressman, You Probably Won’t Lose Your Job for Voting for Immigration Reform. But I think he has missed the larger issue. He argued that that there isn’t going to be big money in the Republican primaries against House members who vote in favor of immigration reform. That is certainly true. Most of the big money in the Republican Party is in favor of immigration reform. The problem is with the base that largely votes against their own economic interest in the name of other things—one of which is a generalized dislike of brown skinned people.

It is true that in a general sense, Republicans are supportive of some kind of path to citizenship. According to a recent Basswood Research poll, there is 65% support among people who at one time or another have voted in Republican primaries. But when you look a little deeper, you see that older white people, the bedrock of Republican primaries, are clearly against any path to citizenship. Despite their claims to being fiscally conservative, they have no problem throwing hundreds of billions of dollars at border security. But normalizing undocumented residents, which would save the country money, is right out. These people really think that the dark hoards are coming for their stuff and they want to stop that from happening.

Even still, immigration reform shouldn’t be that big a deal. But it has come to represent far more than just another policy. All the talk in the Republican Party about the “real America” is wrapped up in this issue. That’s what the new southern strategy is about. That’s what the de rigueur support for foreign wars is about. (We’re number one!) And that is what immigration is about. As I’ve noted before, despite what they sometimes say, Republicans are not just against illegal immigration; they are against legal immigration too. The immigration issue is a big part of the Republican war to protect the real America.

But think about this on the micro scale. There are always lots of well connected people who would like to become members of Congress. (I hear they have a great dental plan!) An incumbent only has to leave a small wound. In a campaign, that wound can be torn open. It can be used to paint even a radically conservative person as slightly to the left of Nancy Pelosi. It’s like I often mention: I don’t have a problem finding common ground with most conservatives. It is only if Fox News or campaign advertising is pushing a particular line that conservatives lose all perspective.[1] And House Republicans should open themselves up to this for what reason? Because people outside their districts really care about the issue? That just doesn’t make sense.

As good as Stanton’s reporting and analysis is, I’m afraid it is still part of the Happy Horseshit Caucus (HHC). It’s too focused on national trends and the mistaken idea that the Republicans really care about national elections. The facts are that Representatives have much to lose and little to gain by supporting immigration reform. We’re seeing some movement in the Senate, because red states are slowly turning purple. But in the House, there are purple states that are overwhelming represented by Republicans. They currently have little to fear from a general election and much to fear from a primary.

I don’t like this any more than any other liberal—including all of the HHC. But it doesn’t help to keep pretending that Republicans don’t have completely rational reasons for how they behave. We can’t control Republicans and we shouldn’t try. We can, however, destroy them. And the first step in doing that is to fix our own party. The constant pandering to ever more conservative demands from the Republicans only makes matters worse. We will eventually get immigration reform when the make-up of Congress is better. We will not get it by insisting that Republicans really should be for it.


[1] Democrats act the same way. But for some reason, the conservative movement is far better at whipping up its base into a frenzy.

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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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