Shoulda Listened, GOPers

I don’t know if Greg Sargent has been saving his told-you-so for a particularly propitious moment. Probably not, since he sincerely wanted Republicans to do the right thing, and held out hope for it happening far longer than most of us left-of-center folk. But he finally lashed them today:

[H]ere’s a friendly reminder: this whole Trump mess probably could have been avoided. If Republicans had simply held votes on immigration reform in 2013 or in early 2014, it probably would have passed. That likely would have made it harder for Trump-ism to take hold to the degree it has so far.

Before you ridicule me for suggesting that Republicans would be better off today if they had simply done what I wanted them to do — pass immigration reform — please recall that GOP leaders themselves said at the time that they wanted to pass immigration reform. Even reform that included a path to legalization for the 11 million.

And plenty of Republicans warned what might happen if nothing happened before the presidential cycle.

[S]ome Republicans explicitly warned at the time that if the party failed to pass reform in 2014, it would only get harder to do so in 2015, because the GOP primaries would start up. GOP pollster Whit Ayres warned:

“If Republicans wait until 2015 to tackle this issue, that puts a very emotional and controversial issue right in the middle of the Republican presidential selection process. The opportunity for demagoguery will be exceedingly prevalent if we wait that long. It could drag the entire field to the right on immigration.”

Veteran GOP operative Rob Jesmer similarly warned that if Republicans didn’t embrace reform, “presidential politics will consume our party, which will make it more difficult to get it passed. ” Jesmer added: “We will severely diminish our chances of winning the presidential election in 2016 if this isn’t solved.” And as Jonathan Chait details, some conservative pundits, operating from the same rationale, also called for Republicans to pass “immigration reform as quickly as possible” and take the short term hit from the right, “allowing the base to vent its spleen and make up in time for the presidential campaign.”

In other words, some Republicans warned at the time that the party needed to embrace reform precisely to avoid the epic slow-motion disaster that might unfold if immigration got tied up in primary politics, creating fertile conditions for a talented demagogue to pull the party further to the right. Which is exactly what is happening now.

Even if Trump ultimately fades, the effect of his candidacy could well propel most of the rest of the field into the engines of trains metaphorically pulling cattle cars to the border. Nice work, Republicans.

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.