Rubio’s Nightmare Act Folly

Thursday, June 14th, 2012 and is filed under Blog, Immigration

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Why is a group of Republicans, led by Senator Marco Rubio, hell-bent on fumbling the football at the goalpost while Democrats are losing on the issue of illegal immigration?

Nowhere do we find such a bifurcation between the views of those in the political class and the commonsense of the average citizen as with the issue of illegal immigration.  Among the political class, even some prominent conservatives support some sort of amnesty for illegal aliens.  Among the citizenry, even many Democrats support the rule of law and the value of American citizenship.

As I search out candidates for Congress across the nation, it is striking to find how even the most moderate Republican candidates are unswerving in their opposition to amnesty, or worse – a pathway to citizenship (yes, it’s worse than amnesty).  It is a clear reflection of the bipartisan groundswell against illegal immigration and its devastating effects on the welfare state and public safety.  That’s why many Democrats would not be caught dead endorsing amnesty in public unless they hail from a completely safe Democrat district.

Yet, the wizards of smart in the consultant universe will swear up and down that if we don’t support amnesty we will lose every election.  These people fail to understand that every political position is somewhat of a wash in a 50/50 country.  Every major position taken on a given policy issue will make some groups happy and alienate others.  In policy terms, it should all be about doing the right thing.  In political terms, it’s all about being a net positive in an effort to win a majority coalition.  Standing for the rule of law on illegal immigration is one of this biggest net positive issues on the political scene.  Poll after poll of the Arizona immigration law has shown this issue to be a 70/30 split in our favor.

The supposition of those GOP consultants rests on two faulty premises.   First, they are assuming that there are a plethora of Hispanics who are clamoring to support us on issues such as welfare cuts and entitlement reform, but are immediately driven to the Democrat Party at the first sign of resistance to amnesty.  It’s hard to imagine how many people are included in that focus group.  Second, they are assuming that the number of potential Hispanic voters that are lost due to opposition to amnesty will outweigh the millions of Reagan Democrats and white working class voters who would desert the GOP for supporting amnesty.

It is clear from the timidity on the part of Democrats to pursue this issue that they are not looking at the same numbers as the GOP consultants.  The reality is that for every one Hispanic vote Republicans would win in a failed attempt to “out-left” the Democrats on this issue, they will lose dozens of white working class votes.  They are eschewing their values to win voters that are out of reach at the expense of those who are well within reach.

Illegal immigration is such a liability for the Democrats that even in Maryland, the most Democrat state in the country, they are suffering defeat.  Last year, with just a few thousand dollars in cash, the beleaguered Maryland conservatives launched the most successful petition drive in Maryland history to place the state dream act as a referendum on the ballot this November.  More than a third of those who signed were Democrats.  I bumped into many hard-core liberals who support every big government program imaginable, yet categorically rebuffed the whole concept of offering benefits to illegals.  “What part of ‘illegal’ do the politicians not understand?” was a common refrain from numerous Democrat supporters.

It is quite possible that Obama and the Democrats will suffer a stinging rebuke when the Supreme Court is expected to throw out the DOJ lawsuit against Arizona.  Yet, it is also possible that Senator Rubio will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and introduce some version of the Dream Act.  Why taint that victory?

Another point lost in this debate is political.  Does anybody really think that a DREAM Act written up by Senator Rubio magically gives Republicans a political win with Hispanics?  We know how this is going to play out.  The Republican Conference in the House and Senate will be split, yet all Democrats will support some version of the DREAM Act.  Senator Rubio’s legislation will be loaded up with objectionable amendments and it will be expanded.  Senator Jeff Sessions will lead the charge against the bill.  Half the Republican caucus will be tagged as being anti-Hispanic for opposing.  If it passes, Rubio will join President Obama for a big signing ceremony where the President will declare victory over the anti-illegal immigration wing of the Republican Caucus.  In partisan politics, there are winners and losers. President Obama will win politically and Mitt Romney will lose.

This bill is expected to grant something just short of a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegals, engendering a massive strain on our welfare system, thereby repeating the same mistakes of Simpson-Mazzoli in 1986.  Also, one would have to expect that Democrats will have the votes to change the bill to create the pathway to citizenship.

According to my sources on the Hill and a story in the Tampa Bay Times, Senator Rubio has been joined by Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas in secretly negotiating with Democrats on a “Republican DREAM Act.”  Note that both are retiring and have nothing politically to lose by embracing an unpopular issue with the Republican base.

Democrats are already salivating at the opportunity that these Republicans are affording them to divide the conservative coalition.  The DREAM Act was one of the few legislative initiatives that Democrats failed to pass in 2009 even with unparalleled power over all branches of government.   Despite their rhetorical bravado, they read the polling data and understand that it would have been a political loser.  Now, a group of Republicans will give them an election-year gift – one that will divide conservatives and alienate millions of blue collar voters in swing states that are 90% on their way to the Republican tent.

If Republicans want to win over the Hispanic vote, they need to run away from the pandering of the DREAM Act and push for issues that are attractive to most religious leaning voters and voters who mistrust a big government.  Push for traditional marriage, more freedom to create small businesses, freedom to work without compulsory union membership and the right to send children to the school of their choice.  Common sense stuff; not pandering.

This is a quintessential example of Republicans living up to their reputation as the stupid party.