The GOP’s Gift to Cornwallis

by Quin Hillyer

You all know the history of Yorktown, right? George Washington’s continental army had Lord Cornwallis’s British troops hemmed in on a peninsula with no egress available by land. A French fleet controlled the waters right offshore, so Cornwallis seemed unable to be rescued by sea. And then Washington — getting pressure from war financier Robert Morris, who thought the French were scoundrels – started working with Cornwallis to shoot cannon at the French to drive them away from the Chesapeake . . .

Well, if that’s not how it really happened, it certainly seems to be the model of political warfare that the House Republican leadership is following. The Democrats are the British, penned in by their inability to escape Obamacare. The Washington GOP, despite not winning many individual battles, at least has made it clear that the one thing it stands for is the freedom from Obamacare; and that alone has given it an unexpected opportunity for a triumph. But their temporary advantage is nothing without activists sailing in from outside Washington, providing the energy and enthusiasm, raw numbers and firepower, to secure ultimate victory over the empire. 

And now, with every advantage finally at hand, the Washington insiders, doing the bidding of their financiers at the Chamber of Commerce, are joining forces with the Obamites to lob cannon fire at the activists. How? By choosing to battle right now over the single biggest issue that divides the right — namely, immigration. 

It’s as if John Boehner, Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy and company have decided that they really like the idea, as per Pogo, of meeting the enemy and making it us.

Choosing this year, of all years, to make immigration reform a priority might just be the most disastrous political blunder since Gary Hart dared reporters to “put a tail on me, go ahead.” Or maybe even worse: It might be akin to Ted Kennedy agreeing to an interview with Roger Mudd before even being able to answer the question in his own mind about why he wanted to be president. 

But pace the theme song from M*A*S*H, suicide isn’t painless. It not only hurts the one committing suicide, but also hurts everybody left behind for far longer and in terribly insidious ways. And that’s what the GOP embrace of immigration reform this year would be: political suicide. Not only might it doom Republican politicians’ chances in the fall elections, but it would leave the rest of us, 310 million strong, with a government even more firmly in the control of those who trash the Constitution, centralize power in increasingly worrisome ways, destroy the American health-care system, hobble its economy, and weaken its standing in world affairs. It would do so by handing the 2014 elections to the Democratic left, just when Republicans seem to have an advantage.

Did Boehner and company learn nothing from President G. W. Bush’s disastrous attempt to push immigration reform in 2006? Did they not see how it catalyzed a virtual civil war on the right? And do they not hear, again and again, from conservative grassroots activists that this is not just another issue for them, but one they feel passionate about — and passionately against the positions being pushed by the House leadership?

Poll after poll shows that significant majorities of Republicans oppose added leniency for illegal immigrants, and only 3 percent of Americans think that immigration reform is a top priority. So (back to the Yorktown analogy — and please forgive the roaming metaphors), why pick a fight among your own ranks just when your adversaries are cornered?

And setting raw politics aside and focusing on policy, the Republican drive for reform is incredibly misguided. No matter what moderate aims the House leaders have, and even if, in a vacuum, some of their stated “principles” and desired policy aims are admirable, there really is no way, none at all, that the end result of their efforts will make it into law while remaining within the bounds they desire. It should be obvious that this is one issue where Barack Obama is so far to the left — so far in favor of what amounts to amnesty, so uninterested in enforcing border restrictions, so intent on creating “sanctuaries” and providing government aid to illegals — that there is not a single bill Obama would sign that would be moderate enough for the vast majority of Republican voters to find it acceptable. 

Again, this GOP leadership push for immigration reform is sheer lunacy.

(One hesitates to interject oneself in a post like this, but it might be relevant to note that opposition to the leaders’ plans comes from plenty of people who aren’t, on principle, opposed to moderate reforms: For my own part, I am not a hard-line immigration restrictionist, but instead am, in theory, at least open to compromise approaches such as one pushed eight years ago by Indiana’s then-congressman Mike Pence. But we live in a real world, and in the real world there is no way Republicans leaders can push immigration reform this year without dividing right-leaning voters or without handing Obama a victory on policy.)

There still is time to put this madness aside. If 97 percent of Americans don’t think immigration reform is a top priority, House Republican leaders shouldn’t either.