“Texas Strikes Again”: Whatever Happens In Texas Has A Way Of Coming Back And Biting The Rest Of The Nation In The Butt
Election season in Texas! They’re voting right now in the primaries. And I know you are interested because whatever happens in Texas has a way of coming back and biting the rest of the nation.
For instance, Gov. Rick Perry is retiring and threatening to run for president. (He’s been to Israel!) So is Senator Ted Cruz. And now, in answer to the great national outcry for more candidates named George Bush, Texas Republicans appear ready to nominate George Prescott Bush for land commissioner.
“My friends and family call me George P, so feel free to call me P,” the 37-year-old energy consultant and son of Jeb told CNN. This was one of his more expansive interviews during a campaign that has mainly involved driving around the state in a bus while keeping as far away from reporters as humanly possible. P’s genius for avoiding the media is so profound that, in a primal moan of despair, The Austin American-Statesman endorsed his primary opponent, a businessman who advocates barring children of illegal immigrants from public schools.
Texans really love elections. Well, not the voting part — turnout is generally abysmal. But they have a ton of elective offices — land commissioner, agriculture commissioner, state school board. (There are a couple of conservative-versus-crazy Republican school board primaries, and the results may influence a pending war over requiring social studies students to learn how Moses impacted the founding fathers.)
Also, it’s really easy to get on the ballot. There are 12 Republicans running to replace Representative Steve Stockman, who is in a field of seven Republicans running against Senator John Cornyn. You may remember that Stockman is the one whose campaign office was condemned by the fire marshal. We suspect Cornyn will survive. In an editorial endorsing the incumbent, The Dallas Morning News wearily listed the other alternatives, including a businessman who “told this editorial board that ranchers should be allowed to shoot on sight anyone illegally crossing the border on to their land, referred to such people as ‘wetbacks,’ and called the president a ‘socialist son of a bitch.’ ”
Well, it’s not boring. And on the positive front, experts in Texas say there’s absolutely no chance that the guy who legally changed his name to SECEDE is going to win a nomination for governor.
The primary voting culminates on March 4, after which there will be run-offs in May for the races in which no candidate got more than 50 percent of the vote. Conventional wisdom holds that by March 5 the world will know that the race to succeed Rick Perry will pit Democrat Wendy Davis against Republican Greg Abbott.
Abbott, the current attorney general, recently made national headlines when he appeared at a rally with Ted Nugent, the right-wing rocker who once referred to President Obama as a “subhuman mongrel.” Nugent, whose last hit record is older than Beyoncé, has recreated himself as a celebrity ranter. Mostly, he rants about gun rights, which is as difficult in Texas as taking a strong stand in favor of oxygen. But his vow to be either “dead or in jail” if Obama was re-elected earned him a visit from the Secret Service. One of his more printable references to Hillary Clinton was “two-bit whore for Fidel Castro.”
Abbott told The Houston Chronicle that he was unaware of what Nugent “may have said or done in his background.” Since Nugent is as impossible to ignore in Texas politics as the heat, this may have been a fib. Otherwise, Abbott is an attorney general with an astonishing lack of interest in the world around him.
What we are seeing here is a microcosm of the national political scene. Texas Republicans are terrified of two things — the angry white, mostly male Republican far right and the state’s huge population of young Hispanics. Nugent is a sop to the first. George P. Bush, whose mother is Mexican-American, is a Hail Mary pass thrown in the general direction of the second.
Although Texans as a group are not particularly crazy when it comes to the immigration issue, the Tea Party folk have been pushing it hard. Dan Patrick, a state senator who’s currently one of the leading candidates for lieutenant governor, has been campaigning against the “illegal invasion,” which he once claimed was threatening Texas with “Third World diseases” like “tuberculosis, malaria, polio and leprosy.” (Patrick, an equal opportunity offender, also once boycotted the opening prayer in the Senate because it was being delivered by a Texas cleric who happened to be a Muslim.)
Immigrant-bashing is a shortcut to a runoff in a Republican primary. Meanwhile, it’s a continuing offense to the voter base of the 2020s. What do you do?
P! We have seen the future, and it’s running for land commissioner.
By: Gail Collins, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, February 21, 2014
House Republicans’ latest revolt against immigration reform spells potential trouble for the party’s 2016 presidential candidates. The last thing the GOP needs in 2016 is another primary season marked by debate and dissension over the fraught issue.
The party’s handling of immigration-reform legislation since President Obama won reelection with 71 percent of the Hispanic vote reprises a decades-long pattern that has weakened the GOP in the competition for Hispanic votes. On the one hand, there is a recognition that the party needs to do more to attract Hispanic votes. On the other, there are repeated actions, both individual and collective, that send the opposite signal.
That is what has happened over the past few weeks. At one point, House leaders, led by Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), issued a list of principles for reform legislation that included a path to legal status but not to citizenship. That suggested a collective determination to pass something this year. Then, after a backlash from the outside groups that have long been Boehner’s nemeses, the speaker did an abrupt about-face, saying that a lack of trust that Obama would enforce the law made passage this year a heavy lift.
Perhaps the speaker is playing an exceedingly clever game to keep everyone guessing, a perils-of-Pauline soap opera in which he has already sketched out the scenario that ends with the passage of some notable piece of legislation this year. After all, he’s given every indication that immigration reform is something he wants to do, something he believes is good for the country and good for his party.
More likely, he is reflecting the views of the party’s most conservative members and those outside groups, who in turn reflect the views of many rank-and-file Republicans. Comprehensive reform, including a path to citizenship, enjoys majority support nationally. But conservative Republicans continue to oppose a bill that includes any path to citizenship.
Some Republicans are suggesting that they should not clutter up the midterm elections with an issue that divides their party and instead try to energize their voters by focusing on the issue that most unites Republicans, Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Many House Republicans hate the bipartisan bill that was passed by the Senate last year. If the GOP could win control of that chamber, it might be able to write legislation more to its liking and force the president to accept it.
There is no question that the politics of this are difficult for Boehner. Could he wait to push forward this year until it would be too late for conservative challengers to mount primary campaigns against incumbent House Republicans? Will there be a better opportunity next year? Will Republicans trust Obama more next year? What is the maximum Boehner can get now as opposed to then? Would support for legal status, rather than a path to citizenship, be enough to position Republicans better to start courting Hispanics on other issues?
But another question that Republicans should be asking is: What are the consequences of inaction? Can they afford another presidential nomination contest in which immigration reform plays a central role, as it did in 2012? There is debate inside the party over how much immigration hurt Mitt Romney in the general election. But no one is arguing that it helped him, and few would say a fresh debate in 2016 would be a net plus for their nominee, unless that nominee had run forcefully in favor of comprehensive reform.
A year ago, it looked as if most of the likely GOP presidential candidates in 2016 would be advocates of comprehensive reform. The task force created by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus — a group that was weighted toward the establishment wing of the party — recommended support for such a measure. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) took a lead role in helping produce a bipartisan Senate bill. Others who are considering running in 2016 made statements indicating at least some level of support for comprehensive legislation.
Today, that support is far more muted, if it exists at all. The conservative intelligentsia is split on what to do. The base is clearly opposed to comprehensive reform. Given the prospective field of candidates for 2016, it’s likely that those running will include outright opponents of a path to citizenship. Whoever becomes the nominee will risk having been pushed further to the right than is politically safe for a general election.
Romney said after the 2012 election that he had recognized the potentially debilitating impact an intraparty debate on immigration could have on the nominating process. He had hoped there was a way for the party to come together on some set of principles to at least prevent the issue from being front-and-center during the primaries, he said, but that didn’t happen. Romney then mishandled immigration during the GOP primaries, as his advisers later admitted (though he had a different, somewhat contrarian view of that).
Romney’s advisers discovered that, whatever problems were caused by the former governor’s talk of self-deportation and the hard line he took on immigration reform, their biggest obstacle to reaching Hispanic voters in the general election was health care. Hispanics strongly supported Obama’s health-care initiative.
That points to another problem. Republicans have long argued that they can appeal to Hispanics on issues other than immigration. So far, they have yet to prove it. Appeals to the patriotism of the Hispanic community have not worked consistently. Appeals to Hispanic small-business owners haven’t done it. Efforts to reach socially conservative Hispanics on issues such as abortion have produced few dividends. The party is still looking for an effective message for Hispanics.
Immigration remains a gateway issue. Passage of immigration reform won’t necessarily win the next presidential nominee significantly more Hispanic votes. But its absence as a divisive issue in the nomination contest would give Republican candidates an opportunity to talk to Hispanic voters about new ideas or issues.
Republicans already face significant problems winning the Rocky Mountain states in a presidential election. Growing Hispanic populations in Nevada and New Mexico have made those two states major challenges for the party. Colorado is still competitive but could become more difficult for the GOP in future elections. Arizona, which has remained in the Republican column, could become a competitive state because of Hispanic population growth.
Perhaps an immigration reform bill will be enacted before the presidential primaries begin in 2016. What Boehner did this week in bowing to pressures from the right was to underscore that Republicans continue to think more like a congressional party than a presidential party. It will be interesting to see whether any of the prospective presidential candidates is ready to challenge that orthodoxy.
By: Dan Baltz, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, February 8, 2014
Yesterday, congressional Republicans released a set of principles on immigration reform which are supposed to guide the writing of an actual plan. This has led some optimistic people to say that perhaps some kind of compromise between the two parties might be worked out, and reform could actually pass. I’m sorry to say that they’re going to be disappointed.
I might be proved wrong in the end. But I doubt it, because the fundamental incentives and the dynamics of the issue haven’t changed. You still have a national party that would like very much to pass reform, and individual members of that party in the House of Representatives who have nothing to gain, and much to lose, by signing on to any reform that would be acceptable to Democrats and thus have a chance of passing the Senate and being signed by the President. So it isn’t going to happen.
Now it’s true that in the wake of the government shutdown and the various debt ceiling crises, House conservatives have slightly less power to force the rest of the GOP to bend to their will. But only slightly. One thing hasn’t changed: the average House Republican still comes from a safe district where the only real threat to his job is a primary challenge from the right. He knows that his primary voters are people who watch Fox News and listen to conservative talk radio, where they hear things like Laura Ingraham telling them that jingoistic Mexicans are trying to take over America, which is why “your language [that'd be English] is gone,” while Rush Limbaugh rails at the Republican immigration principles as the wolf of “amnesty” in sheep’s clothing. Today’s Drudge Report featured a graphic of John Boehner in a sombrero, and it wasn’t a compliment. As one Southern Republican member of Congress told Buzzfeed, “If you go to town halls people say things like, ‘These people have different cultural customs than we do.’ And that’s code for race.”
Even in the slightly less bombastic reaches of the conservative media, forces are pushing against doing anything on immigration. “Bringing immigration to the floor insures [sic] a circular GOP firing squad, instead of a nicely lined-up one shooting together and in unison at Obamacare and other horrors of big government liberalism,” advises the Weekly Standard. “Since there really is no need to act this year on immigration, don’t. Don’t even try.” The National Review offers the same counsel, for the same reason. “The correct course is easy and eminently achievable: Do nothing…the last thing the party needs is a brutal intramural fight when it has been dealt a winning hand on Obamacare.”
And here’s the thing: they’re right. The best outcome for the Republican party as a whole is the passage of reform with their cooperation, which might at least begin the process of healing all the damage they’ve done to their image with Hispanic voters. But the worst outcome is a lengthy, angry debate about immigration in which there are lots of ugly comments made by their more conservative members, and which ends in reform failing, which would of course be blamed on the GOP’s antipathy toward Hispanics. And that is by far the most likely outcome.
In theory, John Boehner could bring to the floor a bill like the one the Senate passed last June, with increases in border enforcement and a long and difficult process for undocumented immigrants to eventually find their way to citizenship. But he’s already promised never to do so. Too many House Republicans—and not just the most ardent Tea Partiers—won’t accept a bill that includes any path to citizenship.Somebody obviously told Republicans that they are no longer allowed to use the phrase “path to citizenship,” but must now use the phrase “special path to citizenship” when saying they oppose it. It’s ridiculous, because of course any path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants is going to be special—it will be particular to them, and different from the path that a documented immigrant will take, in that it will be much more difficult and take a lot longer. But saying they oppose a “special” path to citizenship is a handy excuse for opposing any path to citizenship. (This may remind you of how conservatives used to say they opposed “special rights” for gay people, which meant things like the right not to get fired or kicked out of your home for being gay.) The statement Republicans put out yesterday is a bit vague, but it seems to imply some kind of second-class citizenship for undocumented immigrants, wherein after jumping through a whole bunch of hoops, they’d be given some kind of legal status, but they couldn’t become citizens.
And for lots of House Republicans, even that’s too much. So I’m pretty sure that before too long, Boehner and the rest of the House leadership are going to realize that there’s just no point in moving forward. If anyone asks, they’ll say they put out a proposal, but it couldn’t go anywhere because of dastardly Democrats who wanted to give every undocumented immigrant amnesty. But mostly they’ll just try to find something else to talk about.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, January 31, 2014
If you’ll recall the recent legislative history of “comprehensive immigration reform,” this has been the cycle: Democrats and senior Republicans all agree that we should do it, some proposals are proposed, and then it dies, usually in the House, because conservatives are very opposed to comprehensive immigration reform. Some time passes, and then we all try again. There will be another doomed-to-fail attempt this year, according to Democrats and senior Republicans. As usual, Republicans have preemptively assigned blame for its failure to President Obama.
Before his 2012 reelection, Republicans frequently argued that Barack Obama wanted immigration reform to fail, so that he could make Republicans look bad to Hispanics and use that to win reelection. After his reelection, when Obama decided to make another push for reform, under the assumption that a chastened GOP would play along, it eventually became clear that no immigration bill that provided an opportunity for citizenship for currently undocumented residents could pass the House. The end, for Immigration Reform 2013. On to Immigration Reform 2014.
Here’s the latest: Speaker of the House John Boehner will “unveil a set of Republican principles for immigration reform before Obama’s Jan. 28 State of the Union address.” He and Majority Leader Eric Cantor told fellow Republicans that reform would be a priority this year. Barack Obama has been described by Senator Chuck Schumer as “cautiously optimistic” that the House would pass something this year. It’s all finally happening!
Or what is happening, at least, is that John Boehner has decided that Republicans once again need to appear open to the idea of creating a more humane immigration process.
This Politico piece basically explains Boehner’s strategy. His list of principles will include “beefed-up border security and interior enforcement,” and “earned legal status,” presumably instead of “citizenship,” for undocumented immigrants. Plus, it won’t be one big bill, because Republicans have spent the entire Obama administration decrying long bills, for their length.
The draft principles will also include a promise that immigration reform will be done on a step-by-step basis and will foreclose the possibility of entering into conference negotiations using the Senate’s comprehensive package — pledges that could soothe some Republicans.
Mm-hmm. Soothe some Republicans, and also allow those Republicans to vote for more border security without voting to legalize anyone. That’s always been the point of passing reform “step-by-step.” Not that anyone even actually expects this limited, piecemeal proposal to pass!
The secret talks are taking place even as leaders doubt that such efforts will be fruitful, in part because of opposition from conservatives who sank the prospects for reform last year. That dynamic hasn’t changed. But Republicans think stating their position is important and could help chart a path forward for reform in 2015 after the midterm elections.
And that’s the paragraph that should end all 2014 “could this be the year comprehensive immigration reform passes” pieces. (We finished early this year, everyone!) Republicans think “stating their position” — a position they will state by claiming it is their position, not by voting to make their ostensible position law — is important, for branding reasons, but the House is still full of conservatives, so there’s still no hope for reform.
That’s why this year, just like last year and the year before, immigration reform won’t happen: There aren’t enough votes for it in the House, because conservatives oppose it and Boehner won’t try to pass it with mostly Democratic votes.
There is an alternative explanation, though. One that, conveniently, makes the failure of immigration reform the fault of people other than the ones who explicitly don’t support it. This is the explanation Andrew Stiles takes for a test drive at the National Review. Maybe immigration won’t happen because … Obamacare!
A number of House Republicans, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.), have argued that the Obamacare fiasco is to blame for their reluctance to tackle immigration reform.
I see. Please, Marco Rubio, regretful former member of the Senate immigration “gang of eight,” explain:
Other Republicans, including Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), one of the architects of the Senate bill, have suggested that President Obama cannot be trusted to properly implement a large-scale immigration reform, given the countless waivers and exemptions he has handed out with respect to Obamacare. Conservative skeptics have long argued that there would be little stopping the administration from fully implementing aspects of the new law it likes, such as legalization and citizenship for illegal immigrants, while completely ignoring the provisions it doesn’t like, such as increased border security and interior enforcement. As Rubio told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham yesterday, “even people that would like to do something on [immigration reform] are finding it hard to argue against that.”
This is not a terribly surprising message from Rubio, who began trashing comprehensive immigration reform about 10 minutes after the bill he helped craft passed the Senate with his support, but it is a fun new variation on the classic Senate “I can’t support this thing I support because of this unrelated thing” argument. It certainly is strange that conservatives opposed immigration reform before the botched Healthcare.gov website rollout, if that botched rollout is why they can’t pass reform, isn’t it?
“Obamacare” is a great excuse to avoid ever doing anything. How can we trust this administration to go to war against Iran if it can’t build a website? We should probably destroy our nuclear arsenal, before the Obungler bungles his way into armageddon. And don’t get me started on the NSA! I didn’t do my homework because I cannot trust this administration to grade it correctly.
“We can’t pass reform because we don’t trust the president” isn’t really a better or more convincing argument than the last one (“the president doesn’t want us to pass reform because he wants us to look bad”), and I don’t expect it to make the Republican Party look more compassionate or appealing to people who currently (correctly) think conservatives are excessively hostile to immigrants in general and Latinos specifically. But the point isn’t really to make an immediate play for the Latino vote in 2014. It’s sort of light legislative extortion: If you want reform to pass, you’d better elect a Republican president. It would almost be convincing — a pro-reform Republican president would be more likely to convince or force congressional Republicans to vote for reform than a hated Democratic president has been — if it weren’t for the fact that Congress already tried this under President George W. Bush, and it failed. Because conservatives control the GOP and most conservatives oppose granting undocumented immigrants legal status. It’s that simple.
As the ACLU notes, there is still one thing that could upend the entire immigration debate: the potential deportation of pop superstar Justin Bieber. We can only hope that mere possibility will finally spur Congress to act.
By: Alex Pareene, Salon, January 20, 2014
“A Demographic Death Spiral”: Immigration Reform Is Just One Of Many Reasons Why Hispanics Hate The GOP
In June, as the U.S. Senate debated comprehensive immigration reform, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) voiced a commonly held theme among mainstream Republicans: After getting blown out among Hispanic and Latino voters in the 2012 elections, the GOP needed to get onboard with immigration reform, or face certain doom as America’s fastest growing minority continues to add more and more Democratic votes to the electorate.
“[I]f we don’t pass immigration reform, if we don’t get it off the table in a reasonable, practical way, it doesn’t matter who you run in 2016,” Graham told NBC’s David Gregory at the time. “We’re in a demographic death spiral as a party and the only way we can get back in good graces with the Hispanic community in my view is pass comprehensive immigration reform. If you don’t do that, it really doesn’t matter who we run in my view.”
At the time, I disputed Senator Graham’s claim that immigration reform could get the GOP “back in good graces with the Hispanic community,” arguing that it was just one of many issues on which Hispanic voters fundamentally disagree with the Republican Party:
According to a wide-ranging Pew Research study from April 2012, Hispanics are politically predisposed to the Democratic Party. The study found that 30 percent of Hispanics describe themselves as “liberal,” compared to just 21 percent of the general population. Only 32 percent describe themselves as “conservative,” compared to 34 percent of the population at large.
Furthermore, Hispanics clearly favor a Democratic vision of government. When asked whether they would prefer a bigger government providing more services or a smaller government providing fewer services, they chose big government by a staggering 75 to 19 percent margin. By contrast, the general population favors a smaller government by a 48 to 41 percent.
In short: Partnering with Democrats on comprehensive immigration reform certainly wouldn’t hurt the Republican Party among Hispanic voters, but it would fall far short of being the political game changer that Republicans like Graham hope. At the end of the day, there is just too much distance between the GOP’s priorities and those of the Hispanic community to imagine a major political shift.
Four months later, this divide is more clear than ever. Not only has the Republican Party failed to move the ball forward on immigration reform — allowing it to languish in the House as the latest victim of the fictional “Hastert Rule” — but it has continued to take positions on other issues that are certain to keep pushing Hispanic voters away from the GOP.
The Republican-driven government shutdown, for example, had a disproportionately negative impact on Hispanic and Latino families. According to Leticia Miranda, senior policy advisor for the National Council of La Raza, 37 percent of children in Head Start programs and 42 percent of Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program participants are Latino. Additionally, about 24 percent of the federal employees who faced furloughs during the crisis were Hispanic. A few positive gestures on immigration won’t erase the damage the Republican Party did to these families.
Additionally, the Affordable Care Act — which Republicans vainly hoped to kill by shutting down the government — is actually quite popular within the Hispanic community. In September, a Pew Research survey found that 61 percent of Hispanic-Americans support the health care law — well above the 42 percent approval rating that the law held in the poll among the general population. This makes sense, considering that Hispanics are the most underinsured demographic in the nation, and some 10 million Hispanics could gain coverage under the law. Don’t expect them to forget that the Republican Party shut down the government in an effort to stop that from happening.
These are just two of several issues — including education and gun reform – on which polls find Hispanics siding strongly with Democratic governing priorities over the GOP’s. Ultimately, even if Republicans do shift their position and sign on to a comprehensive immigration reform deal, they cannot expect to rapidly gain support among the Hispanic community. At least not unless they fundamentally change a platform that has been specifically tailored to attract voters with a completely different set of values.
By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, October 31, 2013