The GOP's immigration tussle
The reform proposal wending its way through the Senate is tearing the Republican Party to pieces.

Reuters

Members of the U.S. Senate's "Gang on Eight" (L-R) Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) chat during a news briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 18, 2013.

Article Highlights

  • Conservatives are eager to leave immigration behind. The hitch is that the right is just not in a trusting mood.

    Tweet This

  • Contrary to popular perception, the GOP is the far more populist and grass-roots party on immigration these days.

    Tweet This

  • The immigration reform proposal wending its way through the Senate is tearing the Republican Party to pieces.

    Tweet This

I don't know how Democrats do it.

The immigration reform proposal wending its way through the Senate is tearing the Republican Party to pieces. Poor Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), once the golden boy of the tea parties and the conservative movement, is being treated like a guy who wants to leave a gang but must submit to a group beating first.

But Rubio is simply the latest javelin catcher in the right's immigration Olympiad. Attention will soon shift to House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). House conservatives are poised to block out the sun with arrows aimed at him if he moves the bill without a majority of GOP support.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce just released a TV ad campaign to promote immigration reform that features Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), even though Paul has come out against the legislation because it doesn't include his border security requirements. The Wall Street Journal's editorial board - always a passionate supporter of maximizing immigration - seems on the verge of a collective aneurysm as it deals with what it sees as a Republican Party giving in to nativist madness.

By comparison, while the GOP increasingly looks like the fight scene in the movie "Anchorman," the Democrats under New York Sen. Charles Schumer's leadership look like Snow White's dwarfs, whistling while they work.

It helps that President Obama is staying out of it, but even so, Democrats have managed to keep nearly everyone in line. The most vocal critic on the left has been Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who plausibly argues that the bill will disproportionately hurt the unskilled and undereducated poor.

But his support was bought with a $1.5-billion youth jobs program buried in the new 1,190-page revised bill, which senators had a whopping 72 hours to read before Monday's vote.

Still, Sanders' complaint - and his abdication - raises interesting issues. One reason the Democrats are having an easier time is that their stakeholders can cut deals and the constituencies will go along. Organized labor will get its carve-outs from the Democrats, as will business groups eager to work on a bipartisan basis.

Contrary to popular perception, the GOP is the far more populist and grass-roots party these days, and the troops are not in a mood to follow orders.

Democrats are usually the ones decrying the pernicious global trends hampering prosperity for the working poor and middle class. And yet, their biggest priority is a bill that will accelerate those trends.

Last week, when the Congressional Budget Office issued a report that the immigration bill would increase GNP per capita by 0.2% and slightly reduce the deficit in 20 years, Democrats hailed it as a vindication.

It fell to Republicans to note that the same CBO report assumed the legislation would reduce immigration by a mere 25% and would very modestly reduce average wages in the first decade. Schumer has been selling the bill as a way to make illegal immigration "a thing of the past." A 25% reduction doesn't sound like the dustbin of history to me.

Liberal wonks raced to defend the bill on the wage issue by noting that average wages wouldn't necessarily go down for existing workers (if 10 people make $100 a day, and you add an 11th who makes $50 a day, the average goes down even if everyone's wages don't). But arguing about how much wages will or won't go down is a far cry from claiming wages will go up.

Polling shows that there's a huge amount of consensus about what to do on immigration. If people here illegally meet strict requirements - pay back taxes, a fine, etc. - support for a path to citizenship is high, even among Republicans. Without those requirements, it plummets.

The same goes for border security. Convince people that this is a one-time thing and not a replay of the amnesty under Ronald Reagan, and most conservatives are eager to put this issue behind us.

The hitch is that the right is just not in a trusting mood. They feel, with ample justification, that Washington, including the GOP, have been betraying them - by accident or on purpose - for too long. I can understand that completely. What baffles me is why rank-and-file Democrats don't feel the same way.

 

 

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Jonah
Goldberg

  •  


    A bestselling author and columnist, Jonah Goldberg's nationally syndicated column appears regularly in scores of newspapers across the United States. He is also a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, a member of the board of contributors to USA Today, a contributor to Fox News, a contributing editor to National Review, and the founding editor of National Review Online. He was named by the Atlantic magazine as one of the top 50 political commentators in America. In 2011 he was named the Robert J. Novak Journalist of the Year at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). He has written on politics, media, and culture for a wide variety of publications and has appeared on numerous television and radio programs. Prior to joining National Review, he was a founding producer for Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg on PBS and wrote and produced several other PBS documentaries. He is the recipient of the prestigious Lowell Thomas Award. He is the author of two New York Times bestsellers, The Tyranny of Clichés (Sentinel HC, 2012) and Liberal Fascism (Doubleday, 2008).  At AEI, Mr. Goldberg writes about political and cultural issues for American.com and the Enterprise Blog.

    Follow Jonah Goldberg on Twitter.


  • Phone: 202-862-7165
    Email: jonah.goldberg@aei.org

What's new on AEI

image The Census Bureau and Obamacare: Dumb decision? Yes. Conspiracy? No.
image A 'three-state solution' for Middle East peace
image Give the CBO long-range tools
image The coming collapse of India's communists
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Graduation day: How dads’ involvement impacts higher education success

Join a diverse group of panelists — including sociologists, education experts, and students — for a discussion of how public policy and culture can help families lay a firmer foundation for their children’s educational success, and of how the effects of paternal involvement vary by socioeconomic background.

Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Getting it right: A better strategy to defeat al Qaeda

This event will coincide with the release of a new report by AEI’s Mary Habeck, which analyzes why current national security policy is failing to stop the advancement of al Qaeda and its affiliates and what the US can do to develop a successful strategy to defeat this enemy.

Friday, April 25, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Obamacare’s rocky start and uncertain future

During this event, experts with many different views on the ACA will offer their predictions for the future.   

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.