Back in the Dark Ages, before all of the stuff that Obama didn’t know about – Benghazi, the NSA spying on Americans and foreign leaders, the IRS targeting his political opponents, millions losing their health insurance – before the government shutdown, the Syria fiasco, and the Obamacare website fiasco, there was a general realization that Republicans cannot win national elections with 25% of the Hispanic vote. That has not changed.
One thing that has changed is the appetite for comprehensive anything – healthcare reform, tax reform, Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid reform, immigration reform. Comprehensive is out; incremental is in. Some steps on immigration reform are easy to pass (secure the borders); some are more complicated but possible (schools; drivers licenses;work visas; guest worker programs; maybe even health care); and one is impossible (a massive, quick. path to citizenship.) Marco Rubio, the last prominent Republican in the comprehensive camp, has now seen the light and is going small. Fortunately he is still on the case.
But nothing is as simple as it looks. The Senate has passed a comprehensive bill; if the House passes smaller steps that go to a Conference Committee and come back with the “path to citizenship” (meaning millions of Democratic voters) and John Boehner allows a floor vote, it will pass with all of the Democratic votes and a few Republicans. House Republicans forgave (and quietly thanked) Boehner for using Democrat votes to avoid the debt default; many don’t trust him on appointments to a Conference Committee or in dealing with its output. Forget all of the high minded rhetoric on both sides, it is all about millions of new voters.
Two weeks in London have provided a couple of additional perspectives on immigration:
1. Our problem is relatively simple. The Brits have legal immigration from the 27 other European Union countries as well as generations from the former Empire, particularly South Asia. There is a Muslim underclass which harbors resentment; there are CCTV video cameras everywhere; the reaction to NSA monitoring phone calls – “what’s the big deal?” The economic and social issues may be similar, but our Hispanics and Asians do not pose a national security threat.
2. The Brits have a bit of an identity problem: in the EU, but not the common currency; sharing the queen with many of the former colonies where she remains head of state; trying to appease the Scots who want more autonomy and maybe secession. In our case, waves of immigration over our history have come for liberty and opportunity, accepted the constitution, and generally pursued “the American dream”. As real as the Red State/Blue State split is, the framework is broadly accepted- less so since 2008, but the Tea Party provides . a pretty clear statement of our traditional ideals.
So, the advice for Speaker Boehner: break it into pieces; legal residence but no broad “path to citizenship” for now; no vote on a bill which would add millions of Democratic voters; honor the contribution that immigrants make in the military and other public service. Be public and forceful on your position. And hey, if Barack Obama would consider that a legacy, enlist his support.
This week’s video is the most recent adaptation of the Hitler vidoe, adapted to Healthcare.gov.