Majority Party

Saturday, May 20, 2006
Are the Republicans capable of being the majority party? Are their views too narrow and self serving? I did not think so when I voted for George Bush, but some of the rhetoric I have heard during the course of the immigration debate has made me wonder.

Fred Barnes lays out the stakes in the upcoming election:

PRESIDENT BUSH AND REPUBLICANS are staring political disaster in the face on immigration. The problem isn't that they might enact a bill allowing illegal immigrants living in America to earn their way to citizenship, inviting foreign workers to come here, and beefing up security on the 2,000-mile border with Mexico. No, it would be a disaster for Republicans if they didn't pass such a bill.

Rarely has the American public been so involved in a national issue as they are today in immigration reform. Everybody has an opinion. Everybody agrees there's a crisis when, as is the case today, hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants are streaming across our southern border and millions more are already living in this country. The public expects action from the people who run Washington--that's Bush and Republicans. But action is not what they will get if the enforcement-only House refuses to compromise. What they will get in that case is an impasse. And that means the crisis endures.

The
American people are not on the side of the House Republicans who favor toughened enforcement and nothing more. On the contrary, a national consensus has formed around what the president calls "comprehensive" immigration reform--that is, impenetrable border security plus earned citizenship and a temporary worker program. But there's a wrinkle in the Senate. Democrats are certain to filibuster legislation consisting solely of enforcement. So it can't pass. However, their constituency groups, particularly immigrant groups, won't permit Democrats to block a comprehensive bill. So it, and only it, can
pass in the Senate.

Once the Senate approves an all-inclusive bill, House Republicans will have a decision to make. Will they accept a broader bill, even if it contains what they consider to be amnesty for illegals, or will they insist on the enforcement-only approach they took in the measure they passed in the House last December?


But if they persist in holding out, immigration reform may die.There's a wrinkle in the House, too. Immigration reform may be killed altogether unless a majority of Republicans backs a broader bill. Why? Because House Republican leaders don't want to be put in the politically awkward position of relying on Democrats to approve a comprehensive bill--

Governing requires compromise, and it also requires seeing beyond one's narrow perspective. I am beginning to wonder if Republicans are capable of that. In the last few weeks I have heard conservative Republicans come up with conspiracy theories concerning Bush's plans to all but cede the southwest to Mexico which are every bit as insane as are the theories concerning government involvement in 9/11. They both refelct a lunatic fringe which when combined make up a disquieting number of people.

Governance is not about being the opposition, it is about leading and creating a consensus and developing compromise solutions. When Republicans like Peggy Noonan start talking about masterminding their own defeat for some larger victory down the road, are they really saying they don't have what it takes to get the job done? When the comment sections of conservative blogs are full of invective for any Republican, including the president, who would even consider a compromise are the Republicans once again proving to the world that they are the stupid party?

9 comments:

David Thomson said...

Fred Barnes is echoing what I’ve been saying for a long time. The growing consensus is to secure the border---while cutting the long established illegal immigrants a lot of slack. We have no interest in harassing these people. Is the situation hopeless? No, both Barnes and I realize that the Republicans will respond to the polling data. A comprehensive immigration bill will be passed.

Fresh Air said...

I dunno. After reading all this, I'm pretty confused. The public seems to want a goldilocks bill. Some of the Republicans want it too hot. President Bush wants it lukewarm, about where the rest of the country seems to be.

People may be passionate and involved and so on, but in the end, I think there will be a perception that (a) something got done and (b) the Repubicans had something to with it.

How is that supposed to amount to an electoral Maginot Line? I can't see it, and I suspect in the end the immigration issue will be a net wash for the GOP in the fall simply because the bill that gets passed will be the one based upon polling data.

It's hard to get tossed out of office for giving the people what they want. (Though the pols in France are doing a good job trying.)

David Thomson said...

“I can't see it, and I suspect in the end the immigration issue will be a net wash for the GOP in the fall simply because the bill that gets passed will be the one based upon polling data.”

The eventual bill will indeed be based on polling data---but the Republicans should be the clear winners. Most people are like me: we want the borders secured. This goal will be accomplished! The questions concerning “amnesty” and guest worker programs are of secondary importance. We can work out the details later.

Please note the reference in Fred Barne’s piece about employing today’s technology to assist employers in determining a job applicant's right to work in this country. This alone may very well solve much of the problem.

terrye said...

fresh air:

Well the polling is all over the place but by and large people do want a secure border and do not want mass deportation.

My fear is that the House will do what it is threatening to do and kill the whole thing because of what they will see as amnesty. That is where the stupid part comes in.

They have to ask themselves, do they want a lot of nothing or something less than their idea of perfect...but something.

Buddy Larsen said...

Yep--you're on the money. Terrye. I've never seen such a stampede. Gimmee What I want On All Issues *Immediately* Or I'll Commit Suicide You Bad Daddy You! (I'm ready to go Democrat--that'll show 'em!)

chuck said...

Michael Barone wrote on the immigration issue last thursday.

Barry Dauphin said...

Lawrence Lindsey has a basically sober presentation of the dilemmas around immigration. But the sheer scope of the problem and the bureaucracy needed to solve it would be humungous. In some ways, these grand solutions would require not only adding a bazillion government jobs, but really re-organizing the departments themselves (INS, especiallY). To seriously enforce "back of the line" for the 11 million illegals here will end up being a nightmare. Yes, there are great unfairnesses about many deserving people waiting a long time to get to US while Mexicans pour across the border. But we control entry from other countries because we can.

Lindsey says, very reasonably, that having a Green Card should be valuable to people and that the current system undermines the value. But we have a lousy system now, and it's still valuable to have a Green Card. I don't blame many recent immigrants from other areas or those who are waiting for being resentful. But I do not see the US shooting people trying to get into the country becoming a policy, and that's what it could have to come to if enforcement is brought out with a big stick approach. Yes, it is unfair that people in other countries cannot get in as easily as Mexicans. But life is unfair sometimes. US policy is not antiseptically consistent, but there are a trillion circumstances to take into consideration. This isn't a graduate seminar in Political Science. It might be unfair, but it's still better than most countries on earth.

It seems to me, despite all of the yacking, the folks on both sides are afraid of any change to the system and are hoping for nothing to get done. Although all appear to agree that the status quo is the worst solution, the possibility of not getting all we want or of not having a perfect policy is actually worse to some. Status quo is where we are headed at the moment, and then the issue will just drop off the screen for a while, and folks can find the next issue to hate Bush on.

If these Bozos really want to change the system, then let all of them line up to support free trade across the Americas, so that the Mexican economy can eventually support more of its own citizens.

Barry Dauphin said...

Addendum: The US is a superpower, but that does not make us omnipotent. There are workable solutions but no magical solutions

Syl said...

This is the type of problem that requires something be done. But some Republicans are making the perfect the enemy of the good.

(Just like they accuse the left of doing regarding just about everything else.)

And it's self destructive. Not just in the fact that sitting home on election day, or voting third party, to 'teach a lesson' is harmful to the party, but down the road there WILL be payback from Mexican-Americans. Count on it.