More and more, I find myself feeling like Louise on Bob’s Burgers, “Am I going crazy?!” You may remember back in the lead up to the Iraq War, the McClatchy newspapers were providing excellent coverage of the case for war. And they were finding that most of what the Bush administration was saying was rubbish. But all the big papers—The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post—were publishing what would eventually be shown to be nothing more than White House propaganda. At the time, this made the editors for McClatchy very nervous and eventually, they too fell in line and reported what everyone else was.
I felt that way today after reading Jonathan Chait’s article, Boehner Decides Helping Hillary Win Is Better Than Passing Immigration Reform. We got a whole bunch of this kind of stuff after Obama won re-election in 2012. And even Chait started the article, “At the start of 2013, I really thought immigration reform was going to happen.” Yes he did! Like so many liberal writers, he though and still thinks that Republicans must pass some kind of immigration reform or Latinos will never vote for them.
There is a fundamental problem with this idea that people have about how the Republicans must pass immigration reform to mend their relationship with the Latino community. First, Latinos care about a lot more than immigration. As a group, they are poorer and so they would vote for the Democrats regardless. Second, it is clear that if the Republicans did pass immigration reform, they would do it kicking and screaming. I don’t feel like looking it up, but the failed House bill contained a path to citizenship that was almost two decades long! Now Republicans are even against a bill that would normalize the status of undocumented people with no path to citizenship at all.
The biggest problem, however, is that the Republican Party clearly hates immigrants. They clearly hate Latinos most of all. Even if they did do immigration reform, it would be the only thing they were willing to do. It would be like a husband who beats up his wife. The next day, he brings her flowers and says, “Now that’s over. I never want to hear about it again!” In fact, that’s kind of how the Republicans are to the African American community, “We ended slavery: what more do you want?!”
Chait does note that a bad economy could still get a Republican elected, “Some Republicans have taken seriously the need to reposition the Party so that it can win a presidential election without the benefit of a recession or some other extraordinary circumstance.” The problem is that this is pretty much the case no matter what. If there is an economic downturn in 2016, the Republicans will win the White House. And if there isn’t, they won’t. It really is as simple as that.
The only valid point that Chait makes is that by leaving immigration reform on the table, it remains an issue that freaks like Ted Cruz can use to cudgel more reasonable candidates during the Republican primary. That’s true. But I’m not at all convinced that Ted Cruz is unelectable. People said that Ronald Reagan was unelectable. A lot of liberals were happy when the Republicans nominated him. They thought it would be Barry Goldwater all over again. It wasn’t.
Going forward, the Republican Party will have to do something to appeal to a more diverse country. But that time has not yet come. Mitt “Self Deportation” Romney still got almost half the votes in 2012. The Republican Party will court Latinos exactly when you would think they would: when there is absolutely no choice but to do so. And at that point, they are going to have to do a hell of a lot more than dangle a pathway to citizenship that would make Rube Goldberg proud and requires more years than most working class people have left.
So yes: the Republican Party is vile and stupid. But doing one thing is not going to change that fact. I really don’t see why people like Jonathan Chait keep claiming that it will.