For quite some time, I’ve deemed the Senate a lost cause. In recent years, Democrats have shown a remarkable sense of discipline, getting every member – even those from red states – to vote for the most radical pieces of legislation. Moreover, roughly half the GOP conference is worthless and couldn’t care less about their constituents, and there is certainly no leadership from Mitch McConnell. The fix was in a long time ago on the bill. That’s why we must work on forming a backstop in the House.
In order to strengthen the resolve of conservatives in the House, we need to begin focusing on the source of this capricious pursuit of amnesty-first at all costs. These people don’t care about good policy, so all we can do is blow up the irrational political argument that is fueling this political suicide.
In addition to lacking any core principles, the GOP consultant class is completely tone deaf to the electoral tea leaves of their own politically-motivated positions. In their alternative universe, if the Senate passes an amnesty bill, Republicans in the House are in deep trouble with 8.5% of the electorate. In the real universe, it’s the Democrats who should be in trouble with 91.5% of the electorate – if Republicans would only take the initiative to campaign against them on this issue.
The grave error of the indolent consultant class is rooted in their misreading of the 2012 election. As Sean Trende noted last week, the real story of last November was the number of white voters, particularly working class, who failed to turn out and vote for Romney, even though they have been completely disenchanted with the Democrat Party. Although Romney offered some parsimonious tough talk on immigration when pressed about it during the primary debate season, he refused to campaign on the issue during the general election.
In fact, when Obama issued the illegal administrative amnesty in middle of the presidential race, Romney showed weakness by ostensibly agreeing to the premise of amnesty. Romney failed to run a single TV ad on this issue during the campaign. He should have been in Youngstown, Ohio inveighing against this out-of-touch end-run around Congress, while promising to stand with the American worker. But, alas, Romney said nothing about the issue, and in fact, evinced an image much closer to that of a Zuckerberg corporatist than a conservative populist.
Hence, in pursuit of voters who are largely out of reach, Republicans are leaving millions of white working class voters on the table – voters who are eminently within reach. Additionally, all the recent polling has shown that Blacks are against this amnesty bill. [Remember, a majority of Blacks voted for Prop 187 in California.] Were Republicans to go on offense and actually embrace a conversation on illegal immigration and enforcement-first during the 2014 midterms, they can drive a wedge between some black voters and the Dems, while crushing them with white working class voters. Poll after poll shows that Independent voters favor enforcement-first by a wide margin.
And what about the Hispanic vote? To the extent that there is a large portion of them who are within reach, it certainly won’t occur with the brand of stuffed-shirt Republicanism that is peddled by the consultant class, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner. It will be through Tea Party populism.
Arizona provides a great example of a favorable outcome for Republicans when they actually choose to engage on a wedge issue and return fire. In Arizona, there is no ambiguity about the Republican position on immigration. After all of the GOP-backed enforcement laws, every voter knows where they stand on the issue. Even John McCain and Jeff Flake are forced to lie to the voters during election years.
So what happened in 2012?
Despite the fact that Hispanics comprised 18% of the electorate (more than Florida and Colorado), Romney outperformed McCain’s 2008 showing in the state. He received 25% of the Hispanic vote, only slightly below his national average. Incidentally, Jan Brewer received 28% in 2010. But here’s the kicker: Romney blew out the white vote by a whopping 34 points! There wasn’t even much of a gender gap; he won the white women vote by 30. He won 12% of Democrats and 51% of Independents. Indys comprise a larger share of the electorate than either party in the state.
In 2008, McCain carried the white vote by 19 points, 15 points less than Romney. It’s clear what’s going on in Arizona. This is one state where Republicans fought back against the one-sided push for amnesty. They articulated the problems with our porous border and the burden on our safety net and public funds. So while Obama’s race-baiting has netted him some extra votes with Hispanics, he got crushed with white voters. That’s why Axelrod’s early bragging about going after Arizona died down so quickly, despite the increase in Hispanic turnout.
As this debate heads to the House, Republicans have two options. They can quiver in their proverbial boots and shirk from the fight while offering pale-pastel alternatives to the same false premise. They can bail Obama out of the scandals by granting him his biggest legislative victory of the second term. They can help change the face of the country and create a permanent Democrat majority. Or they can galvanize the American people and the American worker against this travesty and hit the Democrats every day until the 2014 Midterms.
House Republicans must remember that when it comes to wedge issues, there is no lukewarm hell. You either drive the narrative or become a victim of the narrative. Just ask Mitt Romney.
Cross-posted from The Madison Project