Conventional wisdom is that the GOP is split into two camps, with respect to the issue of immigration. On one side, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Chris Christie are all said to prefer amnesty, or at least to be suspect with respect to the extent to which they would fight amnesty. On the other side, you have people like Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter et al, all of whom have thrown their weight behind Donald Trump for more or less the exclusive reason that he purports to be the most anti-amnesty candidate in the field.
The truth is that no group of people is surer to bring amnesty down the pike than those who protest the loudest against it: which is to say, Ingraham, Coulter, et al. And moreover, it doesn't take an especially insightful person to discern that that's exactly what they want. And of course, you can now add Sarah Palin to that list.
It goes without saying, based on the undisputed evidence, that Trump is by far the weakest general election candidate in the GOP field. He is, by a large margin, doing worse than either Rubio or Cruz in head-to-head polling matchups, and we still haven't reached the point where general election voters are by and large paying attention. Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight recently analyzed the polls over the past two and a half months and found that Trump was viewed unfavorably by 58% of the voters, compared to 39% for Cruz and 35% for Rubio; only Jeb Bush at 51% is anywhere near Trump in terms of the number of voters who are already against him heading into a general election.
If Trump is nominated, when he gets into September or October, his charming rhetorical ability will sink him even further. If you don't think Hillary will play the video of Trump mocking that disabled reporter from now until infinity, you are deluding yourself. And while it hasn't made a dent in Trump's support in this primary, it will horrify general election voters to death. And we all know there is much, much more where that came from.
Maybe - and I am just spitballing here - it would not be a good idea when running against the first female Presidential candidate in American history to nominate a guy who recently accused a female reporter who asked him a tough question of being on her period. Seems like that might potentially be a recipe for total and complete disaster.
When that happens - and it will happen if Trump is the nominee - and when Trump's landslide loss is accompanied by massive losses in both the House and the Senate, the already-skittish members of the House and Senate GOP Caucus are going to decide that they have to put this issue to rest. They are going to conclude that demagoguing this issue is what brought Trump upon them, and to avoid it, they must finish it once and for all.
And the only way they know how to end this argument for good is by losing it. Hell, they already came to this conclusion once before during the infamous GOP autopsy (which Trump of course endorsed). If they lose three Presidential elections in a row, they will decide that it's time to bite the bullet once and for all and give the Democrats everything they want so that immigration isn't a live issue anymore.
And don't deceive yourself, that's exactly what Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Sarah Palin et al want. They do not want to stop amnesty, they want to sell books to angry people about how terrible amnesty has been for everyone, and how they were in no way responsible for what "the establishment" (which somehow does not include people who have spent their whole lives writing columns and books safely ensconced in their DC/NY offices) did to the country.
The era of President Rubio or President Cruz would not be fertile territory for the sale of angry books to conservatives who feel despair at being left out of the political process. On the other hand, the tenure of President Hillary, following on the tenure of President Obama, would be an absolute gold mine. Whenever people of a given political persuasion lose a bunch of elections in a row, they seek solace in inciendary rhetoric that allows them to feel secure in their intellectual and/or moral superiority over their tormenters, and the current batch of Trump supporters have turned capitalizing on that into an art form.
The transparency of their effort can be seen in the way they have lined up like mindless automatons behind a guy who, five years ago, was basically preaching amnesty on the O'Reilly factor:
O'Reilly: Now, the 15 million illegal immigrants who are already in the United States: what do you do with them?
Trump: I think right now you're going to have to do something - and, you know, it's hard to generalize, but you're going to have to look at the individual people, see how they've done, see how productive they've been, see what their references are, and then make a decision.
O'Reilly: Alright. On a case by case basis? That's going to take a long time, there's a lot of people.
Trump: Yes, but you know, you have some great, productive people who came over, and then you have some total disasters that probably should be in prison.
Meanwhile, there are people in the race who have actually been opposed to amnesty consistently for their entire public career - not to mention that they have been consistently pro-life, opposed to government spending and tax increases, and opposed to crony capitalism. None of them are hearing virtually a peep in their defense from the so-called opponents of amnesty right now.
If the House and Senate could not get an amnesty bill passed when Obama stood ready to sign literally anything they would have put on his desk, it beggars the imagination to suggest that it would get past any Republican currently in the field. The key to that equation, though, is that a Republican has to win. If Republicans lose in grand fashion, and if there's a plausible case that immigration was in any way responsible (as will definitely be the case if Trump is nominated), then it's Katy-bar-the-door on "comprehensive immigration reform," and the sooner, the better. And you can also likely forget any such provisions as making them pay a penalty, or learn English, or anything of the sort. It'll just be free candy and unicorns for illegal immigrants from now until eternity.
But the truth is that the conservative movement has people who want solutions, and people who want to make money off of complaining about how terrible things are in this country these days. And all of the latter camp is rooting for Trump right now.
You might not think it is realistic to say they are in it for the profit of destruction, and that's fine. But I would ask you this, if they were, would their actions be discernibly different? I'd say no. And neither would the eventual inevitable outcome of an election lost to a democrat with only immigration hardliners to blame.