Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has given us a preview of what his alibi will be if he can’t lead his caucus through the complicated dance it will take to pass substantive immigration reform:
There’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws. And it’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.
The Speaker’s problem is that he knows this excuse will work perfectly in 2014, when Republicans in districts built for them face voters whiter, older and more conservative than those who elect the president of the United States. But what works in off-year elections — cutting off unemployment insurance, trimming food stamps, smothering immigration reform — is what kills the GOP in the elections that matter most.
MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin predicted how this excuse will fly:
GOP pitch to Latinos in 2016? “We agree with you, we just dislike the president 70% of you voted for too much to help. Vote for us now?”
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) February 6, 2014
On a more basic level, a group made up predominantly of white males is letting its distrust of the first black president stop them from any outreach to minority voters — if you take what Boehner is saying at face value. That should be reassuring to non-white voters.
Our Henry Decker points out that immigration reform is just one of the myriad reasons Latinos hate the GOP. However, it is the key issue for many in the Hispanic media and activist community.
Just ask the Walter Cronkite of the genre:
Yes, Obama didn’t keep his promise in 2009. But now immigration reform is in the hands of Republicans.No + talking points @SpeakerBoehner
— JORGE RAMOS (@jorgeramosnews) February 7, 2014
President Obama has pushed for reform, a bill passed the Senate and the president is willing to work with the House on a watered-down version of that bill.
Boehner refused to substantiate why he can’t trust the president. But he’s clearly referencing the executive action Obama took to prevent the deportation of law-abiding immigrants brought to this country as children, which is wildly popular in the activist community. In fact, the community is demanding the president stop all deportations as his administration surpasses in six years the total number the Bush administration exacted in eight.
If reform dies, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where the president doesn’t at least tamp down deportations, as his effort to “secure the border” as an argument for reform fails to persuade the GOP.
And when that order comes, likely in the middle of the 2016 GOP presidential primary, it will tear the party apart.
Don’t believe me? Ask GOP some strategists.
“It’s hard to predict the future with great exactitude, but I will tell you this: If we don’t pass immigration reform this year, we will not win the White House back in 2016, 2020 or 2024,” wrote John Feehery, who spent more than a decade working with GOP leaders on Capitol Hill.
Republicans have been dreaming of a new Ronald Reagan for decades, and they would need New Ronnie desperately in 2016.
If minorities reach 30 percent of the vote next time, and the 2016 Democratic nominee again attracts support from roughly 80 percent of them, he or she would need to capture only 37 percent of whites to win a majority of the popular vote. In that scenario, to win a national majority, the GOP would need almost 63 percent of whites. Since 1976, the only Republican who has reached even 60 percent among whites was Reagan (with his 64 percent in 1984). Since Reagan’s peak, the Democratic share of the white vote has varied only between 39 percent (Obama in 2012 and Clinton in the three-way election of 1992), and 43 percent (Obama in 2008 and Clinton in 1996).
Mitt Romney did extraordinarily well with the white vote, winning it by 59 percent, the fourth highest for a Republican ever recorded. But he still lost by 5 million votes.
A new CNN/ORC poll shows 54 percent of all Americans say citizenship should be the priority in reform — a reverse of public opinion in 2011. Romney never even entertained citizenship in his campaign, vowing to veto the DREAM Act for immigrants brought here as kids.
The GOP has moved to the left of its last nominee, as it currently considers some sort of legalization. And though the next Republican nominee will not choose to run on self-deportation, as Romney did, he or she could end up running a campaign vowing to resume actual deportations.
Demography is not destiny, Jamelle Bouie argues in a great essay for Democracy: A Journal of Ideas. But demography combined with policy and politics does hint at fate.
Tea Partiers like Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) have recently joined progressives seeking sentencing reform for drug crimes, which is a new angle of reaching out to minorities, who disproportionately serve punitive amounts of prison time for non-violent crimes. But will this effort be heard over the din of immigration reform and Republicans pushing for new voting restrictions that have been proven to target minorities?
“We can’t have a conversation with Hispanics and Asians and Africans and Australians until we fix our broken immigration system,” Feehery said.
And if you’re delaying conversation with a terrible excuse, you’d better rethink what you’re saying.
AFP Photo/Jim Watson