The Corner

Shouldn’t GOP Leaders Fight for Republican Voters, Not Against Them?

Imagine waking up one day and reading this in your favorite conservative news source:

The incoming Republican Speaker of the House has signed off on a letter promising not to bring up any legislation limiting individual gun rights while Obama remains in office, because the president can’t be trusted to implement it honestly.

What’s more, the Speaker-to-be pledges that, as much as he supports subsidizing partial birth abortion with taxpayer funds, he will adhere to the so-called “Hastert Rule” and not bring such a bill to the floor unless a majority of GOP members support it.

Few Republicans would be satisfied with such a leader. And yet Paul Ryan seems to have the Speakership sewn up; the vote hasn’t even happened yet and he’s already sent out invitations for his victory party.

Immigration is different, you say? Only among the leadership/consultant/donor element, the string-pullers as opposed to the string-pullees. Among actual Republican voters, support for less immigration is at least as overwhelming as opposition to abortion or gun control. Pew’s research shows that Republicans are nearly 10 times more likely to want immigration reduced as increased, 67 percent to 7 percent. And even the 25 percent who answered “kept at the present level” are supporting cuts because under current law the annual flow of immigration, as well as the overall number and percentage, will grow without respite. That means fully 92 percent of Republicans disagree with Paul Ryan’s lifelong pursuit of increased immigration.

Yes, I’m pleased that Paul Ryan has formalized his pledge to refrain from bringing an amnesty bill to the floor until Obama leaves and to adhere to the Hastert Rule thereafter. That’s as good as we’re likely to get from a committed immigration-expansionist like Ryan.

But his concession represents merely a defensive victory. Satisfaction with such a negative accomplishment just highlights the fact that so many immigration skeptics have become frozen in a defensive crouch. Shouldn’t conservatives demand a leader who fights for their causes, rather than simply promises not to fight against them? This isn’t a question of what’s achievable as a practical matter; it takes work to persuade enough of our non-conservative compatriots to make progress, and we’re never going to get everything we want. But shouldn’t we have leaders who at least agree with us, so we can trust that they’re working to get the best deal that’s achievable?

And how firm will Ryan’s pledge be if Hillary wins next November? The media narrative will be the same as last time, only more so – Hispanic votes elected the Democrat. (It wasn’t true last time, and won’t be next year.) Even if he doesn’t abandon the Hastert Rule in the next Congress, he will be working feverishly as soon as the presidential results are in – whoever wins – to put together an amnesty/immigration-surge bill that can get 50-percent-plus-one of the Republican conference. He may fail yet again, but that would just mean slower retreat rather than steps toward advance.

As one of my Twitter followers wrote, “So why would I accept a delay in increased immigration when I have my torch and pitchfork out for less immigration?”

Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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