Immigration Reform Wouldn’t Have Stopped Trump

Donald TrumpIn an otherwise interesting article, Jonathan Chait wrote, “In the aftermath of the 2012 election, it was obvious to nearly every analyst outside the Republican Party, and to quite a few of those within it, that the GOP needed to get immigration reform off the table to give it a chance with Latino voters. All House leaders had to do in order to accomplish this was to bring up an immigration-reform bill that had passed in the Senate, and it could have passed with just a few dozen Republican votes.” No, no, no! Jesus, how long are people going to believe this hogwash?! Sure, there were and still are analysts who think this. But they couldn’t be more wrong.

Chait continued, “Anger by the base paralyzed them from acting, and they muddled through instead.” I really wonder what people like Chait think political parties are. Do they think that the parties just make up their platforms and then hope that there will be enough voters for them to win elections? Parties are coalitions. For almost 50 years, the Republican Party has managed to wed the “libertarian” part of the party with the racist part. Is that racist part just going to shut up because immigration reform was passed?

The whole time immigration reform was being debated, it was very clear that even its Republican supporters had the attitude that this was the one thing that they were willing to do for the immigrant community.

This brings us back to Chait, “Not long ago, the prospect of Trump heading the ticket in 2016 was utterly unthinkable. Now it is thinkable…” How is it that the House passing immigration reform would have stopped Trump from gaining so much traction? Indeed, if immigration reform had passed, wouldn’t that have made the base even more angry? Wouldn’t that have made a Trump or Cruz candidacy all that much more appealing? I really don’t get the way that mainstream (usually liberal) pundits see this. It’s like they think that an immigration reform bill — one that was ridiculously harsh, requiring almost two decades to get citizenship — was some kind of magic bullet that would make the Republican Party’s racism problem vanish.

And look at what Chait acknowledges: the Republicans just had to allow the bill to get a vote where only a tiny percentage of Republicans would have voted for it. And it only passed the Senate with a handful of Republican votes. So what would this have said to the Latino community specifically? That the Republican Party doesn’t hate them, just everyone in it?! It’s madness. And it gets worse.

At least by doing nothing, things stay the way they are. But the whole time immigration reform was being debated, it was very clear that even its Republican supporters had the attitude that this was the one thing that they were willing to do for the immigrant community. So the Republicans were offering an incredibly harsh, punitive approach to immigration reform and acting like that was the end of it. It’s like a friend giving a junkie twenty bucks after years of charity, “Okay, but this is the last time I’m doing this!” That’s what the Republicans were offering.

Given the Republicans will not embrace immigrants (legal or otherwise), I do not see how immigration reform helps them. Are we to assume that immigrants are just ignorant? That they wouldn’t know that it was the Democratic Party that somehow got immigration reform passed despite Republicans and not because of them? But regardless of that, how does immigration reform make Trump’s candidacy less plausible?

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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.

2 thoughts on “Immigration Reform Wouldn’t Have Stopped Trump

  1. It’s hard to argue counter-factuals, but I can see a scenario, particularly if one of the presidential candidates was directly involved. If Marco Rubio’s reform bill had become law and he hadn’t disowned it, he could have painted himself as the Republican who’s friendlier on immigration. In that case, I could conceive of a large chunk of immigrants saying “I’ll probably vote for the Democrat in the general election, but I’m going to vote for Rubio in the primary just to make sure Trump doesn’t get anywhere near the White House.” Basically, it might work if a major Republican candidate was offering something substantially different, not just different wording. But I don’t know if that would have worked or not. It’s impossible to test at this point.

    • That’s a good point. The question has never been whether Republicans can win the Latino vote. But even shaving a couple of percentage points off the Democrats’ total could be decisive. That’s especially true in Florida with the large Cuban population. That could have worked for Rubio. Of course, that would have made him far less likely to win the Republican primary, and if he had, it would have been Romney all over again: admitting to his apostasy and begging forgiveness.

      But the main thing is that I am sick of hearing people talk about how the Republicans needed to do just one thing. I think they are looking back at Bush in 2000, when he did quite well with Latinos. But he also did awesome with Muslims — getting a large majority. He didn’t get them in 2004. And the Republicans are not going to get either vote in 2016.

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