On Tuesday, I wrote about how parties promote a coordinated message to get their talking points across. In response, leading Republicans offered four responses, and then there was this reminder of the importance of staying on message.

But at least the two official responses by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen* were coordinated, right? So they said. News sources from CNN to MSNBC to The Hill to Newsmax** echoed assurances from Ros-Lehtinen’s office that the two speeches would “parallel” each other. Move along…nothing to see here.

“Really?” I thought…”Is Ros-Lehtinen going to talk about working as an apple-picker in Kettle Falls? That would be odd.” More seriously, “I wonder if they really say the same thing about immigration policy to two different audiences?”

As it turns out, they didn’t. Here’s McMorris Rodgers on immigration:

And yes, it’s time to honor our history of legal immigration. We’re working on a step-by-step solution to immigration reform by first securing our borders and making sure America will always attract the best, brightest, and hardest working from around the world.

In immigration-policy code, I think that’s

  • “we are going to pass piecemeal bills instead of comprehensive legislation”,
  • “we are going to increase efforts to keep undocumented immigrants out” and 
  • “we want to bring in foreign laborers so businesses that rely on them are happy”

No mention of a path to citizenship or DREAM act.

Did Ros-Lehtinen say the same thing? Apparently not. According to Google’s translation, she said:

Also, it is time to honor our history of legal immigration. To do this, we need to fix our broken immigration system with a permanent solution, to ensure that our country will always attract the best, brightest and most workers from all over the world.

Where’s the “border security first” line? Gone. And now “step-by-step” is replaced by a “permanent solution,” which to me implies a more comprehensive omnibus bill.

These differences in verbiage point to a tension that will only become more obvious in the coming weeks as the House GOP moves forward on immigration policy. The rhetoric and policies that appeal to the Republican base, particularly Tea Party supporters, is at odds with the language and proposals the GOP would use if it is going to gain more support among the Latino community. Even the official GOP addresses, phrased in bland sentences, could not fully harmonize these goals.

* representing the House district of my birth and my current district, respectively. I’m not saying that correlation = causation, but I’m not saying it’s not. Clearly the GOP wants my vote.

** (Fox News’ english-language story does not mention Ros-Lehtinen but Fox News Latino does)

[Cross-posted at The Mischiefs of Faction]

Gregory Koger

Gregory Koger is a professor of political science at the University of Miami. All views expressed are his own.