The “Immigration Sellout”

It’s really kind of hilarious to watch Republicans working themselves up into the determination to throw the party’s nativists (and nativist sentiments) under the bus as the quickest way to show some interest in expanding the party’s base without raising uncomfortable questions about the rest of conservative ideology. You can almost hear them thinking: “If I cave in and accept comprehensive immigration reform, does that mean I get to keep the Ryan Budget and a ban on abortions and maybe a little war with Iran?”

Trouble is, of course, the elements of the party that made the GOP repudiate Karl Rove’s Latino strategy in the first place haven’t quite been heard from yet in the elite discussion of how quickly their wishes can be discarded. And even before the first bellow of rage is heard from Steve King, here’s ex-Democratic blogger Mickey Kaus:

The entire GOP elite seems to be trying to sell out en masse on immigration. Not only Boehner, but Cantor. And Hannity (who works for pro-amnesty world citizen Rupert Murdoch). Even Krauthammer.

Maybe these people are convinced the larger GOP project can be saved simply by caving on just this one issue. That seems cracked. The bulk of the Hispanic electorate appears to instinctively vote Democratic, and not just because of immigration. Maybe they can be wooed over to the Republican side over the course of decades. But by then there will be another wave of new, instinctively Democratic illegal immigrants (lured by the Boehner Amnesty) for Dems to appeal to. And the idea that the GOPs don’t have to change any of their other ideas if only they appease this one ethnic group (making up 10% of the electorate) is highly questionable, as David Frum has argued. … There were plenty of other reasons why Romney lost. (If he’d gotten McCain’s share of the Latino vote … he still would have lost.)

The larger point is that “Comprehensive Immigration Reform”-which is supposed to be a simultaneous combination of an amnesty plus enforcement measures-is a terrible idea. It’s a terrible idea if it helps the Republican Party win national elections or if it hurts them.

Whatever. The important point here is that conservatives didn’t go down the road they most recently took on immigration policy because they thought it was a guaranteed vote-winner (they had the experience of the California Republican Party to show them otherwise), and they aren’t going to be able to toss it in the nearest trash can in order to boost their Latino vote 10% or so (at best; Mickey’s right that immigration policy is by no means the only problem GOPers have in this demographic). Just wait. There will be a backlash against this “sellout” that will be ugly enough that those proposing it may wish they just hadn’t brought it up publicly.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.