The politics of immigration are mostly clear at this point. Republicans have become abjectly terrified of their own base, particularly after Eric Cantor’s defeat. Democrats are furious at the lack of action on the border in pure policy terms, but from a nakedly electoral standpoint every cycle that Republicans continue to make themselves the party of “get the hell out” is another cycle in which the vast majority of Hispanics may not be thrilled with Democrats, but certainly refuse to even consider voting for the Republicans.
Meanwhile, as long as Democrats hold the White House, they can up the ante by threatening to take executive action to address at least a few of the most glaring issues. In theory, the President could even go as far as issuing a blanket conditional pardon. So the GOP doesn’t have a lot of leverage on this issue beyond refusing to act legislatively, and every moment they stonewall action is another nail in the coffin of their viability as a national party.
But the conservative base isn’t thinking strategically. All they know is that they don’t like Hispanics much, that their preferred policy is mass deportation, and they can’t be bothered with empathy for the families torn apart by our broken immigration policies. Conservatives don’t care, and they go to great pains every day to communicate their disdain for the pain and suffering of immigrants.
All of which makes John Boehner’s strategy really odd:
“The president’s making this harder and harder every day for us to try to deal with this in a responsible way,” Boehner told reporters in the Capitol. “We’ve got a humanitarian disaster on the border. Most of it, at the president’s own making, in my opinion, and so it makes our jobs much more difficult because of the actions he’s taken or not taken with regard to the border.”
Boehner has been using the line that Republicans can’t act on immigration because they don’t trust the President for quite some time. But crying crocodile tears over the humanitarian problems at the border seems like standing in the middle of a busy road: he’s going crushed from both sides here.
Democrats aren’t going to give him any cover for false compassion. Conservative base voters will consider him a bleeding heart squish. And Hispanic voters themselves aren’t going to give either Boehner or the Republican party any credit for pretending to sympathize with their suffering, or believe him that the President is somehow at fault. It’s an odd strategy.
As in so much else, Boehner seems to be a traveler without a compass, just hoping to survive the journey.