In 2006, instead of heavy lifting on substantial reforms, House and Senate leaders attempted to rally their political base on wedge issues like illegal immigration and gay marriage. Instead of dealing with spending bills or retirement security, the Senate dedicated two full legislative days to a constitutional ban on gay marriage that no one expected to pass. No substantive legislation was passed dealing seriously with border security and legitimate guest workers (funding for a 700 mile fence was finally authorized, but no funds were appropriated). In both instances, it was pure politics, designed to appeal to angry factions of the GOP base. While Republicans managed to hold conservative Christians, they alienated independents, who represent 26% of the voting population. For the first time in 10 years, independents sided with Democrats by a wide margin. Candidates that bet on the high demagogy coefficient associated with illegal immigration, notably in Arizona, lost.
Social Security reform, serious immigration enforcement, and protecting the institution of marriage should not be either or. They should all be done. And the GOP shouldn’t demonize those who support the last two and blane them for electoral loss.That would be both wrong and wrong.