A Political Train Wreck
Long before the first amnesty recipient casts a vote, the Senate bill will be a political disaster for the GOP.

Immigration-reform rally in Washington, April 10, 2013.


Mark Krikorian

Most of the Republican House members who gathered this week to discuss immigration understand that passing anything like the Obama amnesty bill would be politically harmful to them. Even Jay Leno has gotten knowing laughs with a crack about “undocumented Democrats.” Ann Coulter has written that “if illegals were Republicans, Chuck Schumer would be a ‘Minuteman,’ patrolling the Mexican border 24-7.”

The Left knows this too. Eliseo Medina, a top official with both the SEIU and Democratic Socialists of America, noted years before this particular bill was written that “immigration reform” is an important part of the statist project: “If we are to expand this [Hispanic] electorate to win, the progressive community needs to solidly be on the side of immigrants; that will solidify and expand the progressive coalition for the future.”

Even ostensibly neutral observers make the same point. As Politico noted earlier this year:

The immigration proposal pending in Congress would transform the nation’s political landscape for a generation or more — pumping as many as 11 million new Hispanic voters into the electorate a decade from now in ways that, if current trends hold, would produce an electoral bonanza for Democrats and cripple Republican prospects in many states they now win easily.

But the prospect of millions of new big-government, socially liberal voters is a cloud as small as a man’s hand. It’s serious, but it’ll be a while before it gets here. By contrast, passage of amnesty and expanded immigration will immediately create a political sky grown dark with clouds and wind for conservatism — among Americans who are already voters. It would be an electoral catastrophe for Republicans, who would look back with envy at Romney’s 27 percent share of Hispanic votes and last year’s 64.1 percent turnout among whites.

Before proceeding with the political discussion, it’s important to note that the malignant pastiche passed by the Senate is bad legislation regardless of its political effects. I don’t often agree with George W. Bush on the subject of immigration, but he noted recently that immigration proposals should be judged on their merits, not simply on whether they would garner votes.

But since politics matters more to many in Washington than policy, especially regarding immigration, it’s necessary to engage the discussion. And this bill would be a disaster for Republicans long before the first amnestied illegal alien enters a voting booth.

First of all, passage of any bill would immediately reverse Barack Obama’s sinking political fortunes. The administration is reeling from a succession of scandals and setbacks: Benghazi, IRS abuses, AP phone records, DoJ spying on James Rosen, Verizon/NSA, defeat of gun control. His approval ratings have dropped and George W. Bush now has a higher favorability rating. The Hill quoted an unnamed “top Democratic strategist” on the president’s political situation: “He needs wins and he needs them soon. There’s no way around that.” A recent Washington Examiner headline summed it up nicely: “Zogby: Obama is on the verge of failure.”

Passing a major amnesty/immigration bill is the only way the president can salvage his second term and continue his project of “fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”

And so, as if on cue, the Chuck Schumer Republicans (now including Paul Ryan) rush in to save Barack Obama’s presidency. If anything resembling the Senate bill were to pass, the legacy media would trumpet him as the Comeback Kid. You can imagine the headlines: “Obama’s Back!” “2nd-Term Rebound,” “Slam Dunk in the Second Half.” Political capital flows to winners; this would allow Obama to deliver greater assistance to Democratic candidates in 2014. Strengthening Obama’s hand would make it harder for Republicans to prevail in the upcoming budget/debt fights and any other battles that arise during the remainder of Obama’s term.

How about the Hispanic vote? The GOP-establishment brain trust says passage of the bill would put the immigration issue behind the party, removing an irritant in its outreach efforts to Hispanic and Asian Americans. Regrettably, it will do nothing of the kind. After the initial euphoria among the open-borders groups over legalization for all illegals, the next phase of the Left’s strategy will kick in: blaming Republicans for the various restrictions on the now-legal “provisional” immigrants. This will negate, and then some, any imagined goodwill that voting for an amnesty/immigration bill might generate.