At the turn of the New Year, electoral prospects looked unusually bright for the Republican party in this fall‚Äôs voting.
Things can change rapidly, of course, but for once all of the GOP planets seemed to be in alignment:¬†¬†the debacle of Obamacare, the President‚Äôs plummeting poll numbers, the scandals of Benghazi and IRS, Democratic Senate candidates fleeing from Obama ‚Äď everything pointed toward Republican victory in November.
With all that going for them, it would apparently have taken an act of stupendous folly by Republican leaders to destroy their chances of holding the House and winning the Senate. Incredibly, however, they managed to come up with just such a scheme ‚Äď one that could not only lose the election this November but could doom their party to extinction.
The new strategy, announced by GOP House speaker John Boehner, House majority leader Eric Cantor, and House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, was a sudden push for ‚Äúcomprehensive immigration reform‚ÄĚ ‚Äďa well-known euphemism meaning amnesty for millions of illegal aliens in the United States, resulting from the last such ‚Äúreform‚ÄĚ of the immigration system.
As ever, the reform being talked of is advertised as a crackdown on illegal immigration, but the reality would be quite different: Instant legalization of millions of illegals, perhaps as many as 20 million– though no one really knows– with ‚Äúborder security‚ÄĚ and other alleged safeguards to follow later, if ever.¬†¬†At the end of this process, rest assured, will be a ‚Äúpath to citizenship‚ÄĚ for illegals, the Holy Grail of the amnesty lobby. (Though the GOPers say they oppose this, it‚Äôs in the bill adopted last year by the Senate, with some key Republicans in favor.)
This scheme would be so negative in its impact on the GOP that it caused a considerable outcry from the rank and file at a recent Republican meeting in Cambridge, Maryland. In response to this, Boehner, Ryan and Co. seemingly reversed course, saying they wouldn‚Äôt go forward with their reform because they couldn‚Äôt trust Obama to enforce it.¬†¬†(Meaning that they did trust him before the GOP retreat in Cambridge?)
The Republican rank and filers had good reasons for their protest, three of which are worth brief mention. First, the Boehner plan would link the Republican party with Obama on the issue, at a time when his popularity is plunging and the GOP is preparing to run against his program. Second, such amnesty schemes are anathema to a huge sector of the Republican faithful. The leadership plan would thus badly split the GOP in the run-up to the election and align Boehner with Obama against the conservative base of Boehner‚Äôs party.¬†¬†This would be an electoral situation with few precedents in our political history.
Most of all, though the Washington pundit class thinks otherwise, there would be zero political benefit for the GOP from the Boehner project. The last time the GOP agreed to amnesty for illegals, back in the ‚Äė80s, there was a precipitous drop, not increase, in the percentage of the Latino vote for the Republican presidential ticket ‚Äď from 37 to 30 per cent, where it in essence remains today. There is no reason to think another amnesty now will do any better.
Add to the above the fact that suddenly raising the dormant immigration issue diverts attention from the meltdown of Obamacare ‚Äď which Republican strategists were supposedly going to focus on with laser-like precision. Emphasis is thus switched from a winning issue for the GOP to an almost certain loser.
Despite all of this, no one should assume that the Boehner-Ryan scheme is done for. On the contrary, it‚Äôs evident that so much time and energy have been devoted to the plan, and so many resources lined up behind it, that it won‚Äôt be readily abandoned. Most notably, there is the massive funding and political clout of the US Chamber of Commerce, and scores of giant corporations, who are apparently eager for as much low-wage labor as they can¬†¬†get ‚Äď and¬†¬†see amnesty as the way to get it.
On the Democratic side, meantime, there is the obvious political motivation to seek the same objective:¬†¬†millions, possibly tens of millions, of new Democratic voters who will turn America at large into what California has already become ‚Äď a political Mad Max landscape in which no Republican can win statewide election. That the Democrats would want this is obvious.¬†¬†But why would Boehner?
Aptly symbolizing this strange alliance of corporatists and leftward politicians is the role of Facebook‚Äôs Mark Zuckerberg, main sponsor of a front group called ‚ÄúAmericans for a Conservative Direction.‚ÄĚ This group has been running spots on conservative talk radio¬†¬†advertising the Boehner-Ryan plan as tough ‚Äúconservative‚ÄĚ legislation.¬†¬†(It did the same last year for the even more egregious amnesty bill in the Senate, with Florida‚Äôs GOP Senator Marco Rubio in the conservative front-man role now played by Ryan.)
Throughout, the amnesty debate, last year and this, has followed the same pattern:¬†Conservative spokesmen out front to persuade na√Įve Republicans to go along, with leftward forces behind the scenes plotting the strategy, pulling the strings, and shaping the legislation.
Given the financial muscle of the big corporations, and their all-too-obvious leverage on the Washington leadership of the Republican Party, it would be foolish to think the Boehner-Ryan plan will vanish quietly from the scene. Reports are that the GOP leadership plans to lie low until the party primaries are mostly over and GOP incumbents no longer have to fear challenges from tea party/conservative opponents.¬†¬†At which point, with no more such intra-party problems, the Chamber of Commerce/GOP leadership scheme can once again go forward.
The existence of this rope-a-dope strategy was reported in early January by The New York Times and confirmed recently by GOP Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden of Oregon. So, unless the opponents can derail it for good, look for the Boehner plan to surface once more in the late spring or early summer. ‚ÄúDeath Wish II‚ÄĚ might be an appropriate title.