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“Have Only Themselves To Blame”: If The GOP Had Settled The Immigration Issue, It Wouldn’t Have A Donald Trump Problem

You cannot overstate how embarrassing Donald Trump has become for the GOP. The party of Lincoln and Eisenhower is getting pantsed by a tacky reality TV star and Clinton Foundation donor who tweeted that Jeb Bush likes “Mexican illegals because of his wife.” A man who has repeatedly made can’t-lose enterprises like casinos and New York real estate go bankrupt has the gall to get off the phone with his party’s chairman and tell the media, “We’re not dealing with a five-star Army general.” The Republican leadership even confesses that it is paralyzed by this crazy right-wing challenger whose last presidential run began by quitting the GOP for the Reform Party, with the explanation: “I really believe the Republicans are just too crazy right.”

But the truth is that Republicans have only themselves to blame. Trump’s success in the polls is not just a matter of spectacle. Republicans have let the issue of illegal immigration simmer for two decades. And rather than pick a course and stick to it, the party has done a series of head fakes. That has allowed Trump to ride this issue, more than any other, into the top tier of early polling.

During election season, Republicans typically campaign as get-tough, border-patrolling Minutemen. “Complete the danged fence,” John McCain growled in a 2010 campaign ad, while invoking the specters of drug smugglers and home invasions. After the election, however, Republicans draw close to The Wall Street Journal editorial board and try to come up with less damning euphemisms for amnesty. And ensconced in office, they lecture other Republicans, as John McCain did in Time magazine last year, saying that without comprehensive reform and a path to citizenship (read: amnesty) the party is doomed.

This is the party’s style on other issues as well. The drawl disappears on Election Day. George W. Bush won re-election in 2004 on a tide of Evangelical votes, then spent all of his political capital failing to pass a privatization of Social Security and a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Neither featured heavily in his campaign, and they both died.

No wonder, then, that a certain breed of Republican primary voter is taking a shine to Trump. Whatever can be said about the substance of Trump’s utterances, the tone of sneering populist contempt never varies. His political strategy is to go on permanent offense by being perpetually offensive. To voters accustomed to the Republican head-fake, the man with the fake-looking head has a certain kind of integrity. Yes, he’s an ass. But at least he’s always that way.

The GOP knows that immigration is a powerful issue. But the party has avoided the chance to do something about it for two decades. A restrictionist position single-handedly saved the career of California’s Republican Gov. Pete Wilson in the 1990s. The issue fueled the Buchanan insurgency that nearly derailed Bob Dole’s nomination in 1996. At that time the issue even threatened to split off some Democrats. Former Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan’s commission on the issue called for reducing even legal immigration levels. “Credibility in immigration policy can be summed up in one sentence: those who should get in, get in; those who should be kept out, are kept out; and those who should not be here will be required to leave,” she said.

Alternating between fear of current restrictionist voters and cowardice before future Latino voters, the GOP has never said anything so clear as Barbara Jordan. Instead the issue has been ceded to populist media figures like cable television’s Lou Dobbs, talk radio’s Michael Savage, and the one-woman anvil chorus, Ann Coulter. It has been transformed from a normal policy question that every nation faces to a hotheaded insult directed south of the border.

Donald Trump is just the latest of these media figures, but unlike the rest he has the money and the lack of self-awareness to run for office and unburden himself about it. But the GOP could have avoided this by settling the issue one way or the other.

Had the GOP taken the hint after Gov. Wilson’s re-election, and worked with Democrats like Barbara Jordan, they could have taken the issue off the field for a generation. A decade later, they had the chance to do the same again when George W. Bush pushed for comprehensive reform. The public’s fury over the war in Iraq and a stalling economy were coming to hit the party anyway, and anger from the conservative base over Bush’s reform would have made little difference in 2006 and 2008.

Instead the party did nothing. And now it reaps the whirlwind of Trump’s hot air.


By: Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Week, July 13, 2015

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, Immigration Reform | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Why Are The GOP Presidential Candidates Afraid Of Donald Trump?”: Living In Abject Fear Of The Biting Family Dog

Donald Trump now seems to be leading the GOP presidential field, and even if no one expects that situation to be permanent, most sentient Republicans agree that it’s terrible for the party. Apart from making the party look bad with his enthusiastic buffoonery, Trump finds new ways to alienate Latinos almost every day, and there is simply no way for Republicans to win the White House if they don’t improve their performance among Latino voters.

Yet the other GOP candidates can’t seem to bring themselves to utter a word of criticism toward Trump. Not only that, they’re barely criticizing each other. What’s going on here?

Let’s deal with Trump first. You might think a candidate spewing bile at the minority group the party needs most would produce some strong push-back from his opponents, but no. “I salute Donald Trump for focusing on the need to address illegal immigration,” said Ted Cruz after Trump went on his diatribe about Mexican rapists and drug dealers. While Trump has attacked Marco Rubio directly, saying he’s weak on immigration, Rubio’s response has been mostly that the media is focusing on Trump to distract from the real issues. When Scott Walker got asked this week what he thinks about Trump’s inflammatory comments, he replied, “While he might have some appeal because he’s speaking out boldly on issues, I think what they really want is people who can get things done.” Settle down there, governor.

The one candidate who has criticized Trump with any sincerity is Jeb Bush. “On our side, there are people that prey on people’s fears and their angst,” he said Tuesday in Iowa. “And whether it’s Donald Trump or Barack Obama, their rhetoric of divisiveness is wrong. A Republican will never win by striking fear in people’s hearts.” OK, so lumping someone in with Barack Obama is as mean as a Republican can get, but what’s most notable about Bush’s criticism is that in a field of 17 candidates, he’s the only one making it.

So what are they all afraid of? It’s true that Trump’s popularity has spiked among Republicans since he started making his beliefs about immigrants clear: in the Post’s latest poll, 57 percent of Republicans say they have a favorable view of him, a dramatic change from a poll in late may when 65 percent of Republicans had a negative view. But would a Republican candidate who engaged in some standard campaign criticism really forever forfeit any chance of winning over a voter who likes Trump today? It’s hard to imagine he would.

I think there’s something going on here that goes beyond Trump, and beyond the issue of immigration (on which all the Republican candidates have essentially the same position). It’s been said before that Democrats hate their base while Republicans fear their base, and the second part seems to be more true now than ever. The Tea Party experience of the last six years, which helped them win off-year elections and also produced rebellions against incumbent Republicans, has left them living in abject terror of their own voters.

It’s as though the GOP got itself a vicious dog because it was having an argument with its neighbor, only to find that the dog kept biting members of its own family. And now it finds itself tiptoeing around the house, paralyzed by the fear that it might startle the dog and get a set of jaws clamped around its ankle.

While I haven’t yet seen any detailed analysis of who’s supporting Trump, it’s probably safe to assume that the typical Trump supporter is a tea partier — not just extremely conservative, but extremely angry as well, not to mention contemptuous of elected Republicans who are too timid to really tell it like it is. Kevin Williamson of the National Review recently described these voters as “captive of the populist Right’s master narrative, which is the tragic tale of the holy, holy base, the victory of which would be entirely assured if not for the machinations of the perfidious Establishment.” Like the People’s Front of Judea, they know that the real enemy is the one on their own side. It’s somewhat ironic that the response of Republican politicians to these voters’ disgust with timidity is to be inordinately timid about offending them.

It’s possible that also has something to do with why the race has been so generally well-mannered. The candidates aren’t just worried about offending Trump’s supporters, they’re worried about offending anybody on their side of the aisle. Far be it from me to demand that the race get more negative, but by now you’d think there would be barbs flying back and forth in all directions. Most of those 17 candidates (once John Kasich and Jim Gilmore formally enter) are separated by just a few points in the polls. The debates will be starting in a couple of weeks, and if only 10 candidates are allowed in each one, all but the top few candidates are in serious danger of being shut out, which could be disastrous for them. That should give them a strong incentive to do something dramatic. And yet, the race could hardly be more civil.

It’s still early, and one has to assume that once the actual voting begins (or even before), the knives will come out. But for now, things are unusually quiet. When that does change, it will only be because the candidates have found something else that scares them more than their own voters. Like losing.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, July 15, 2015

July 16, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Dumb And Dumber”: House Republicans Vote To Deport As Many Kids As Possible

Dumb and dumber. That’s the best way to describe two bills passed by House Republicans on Friday night. They passed a supplemental funding bill allocating about $700 million for the crisis on the border. It includes changes to current law that will make it easier to send child migrants back to Central America. They also voted to wind down the Obama administration’s Deferred Action program for young immigrants. So forget about comprehensive reform: House Republicans have settled on the “Let’s deport as many kids as possible” approach.

These two bills do not represent a coherent response to our border crisis. They reflect House Speaker John Boehner’s failed leadership as well as the triumph of immigration extremists. While these bills will have zero policy impact, the GOP will likely feel their political impact for years to come — and not in a good way.

To understand why these bills passed, let’s back up for a moment. Recall that Speaker Boehner originally wanted to vote on a border crisis bill on Thursday. But he couldn’t round up enough votes, and the bill was pulled. This was a major embarrassment for the Speaker. Amazingly, Boehner then suggested that President Obama should take executive action on immigration. “There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action,” he said in a statement, “to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries.”

Huh? Right now the House is suing the president for taking executive action. For the Speaker to suggest that President Obama act on his own on immigration is inconsistent and hypocritical (Does that mean he will support the president’s expected executive action on immigration?).

As it turned out, in order to get the votes for a border bill Boehner allowed a vote on a bill that would end the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program. Introduced by the Obama administration in 2012, DACA grants relief from deportation to undocumented immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children. About half a million of these young people, also known as Dreamers, have so far qualified for its protection.

In case you’re wondering, DACA has nothing to do with the crisis on the border. Although some Republicans have surmised that it caused the ongoing influx of child migrants, there is no evidence to support this claim.

Now Boehner can say that House Republicans did something on immigration before they left for the August recess. Yet this is a hollow victory, because these bills are going nowhere. The Senate would never approve them and even if they did, the president has pledged to veto them.

The anti-DACA vote, however, will have real consequences for the Republican Party. Consider that recent polling from Latino Decisions showed that 75 percent of Latino voters said that any move to dismantle DACA would make them less favorably inclined towards the GOP. Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist, tweeted that the anti-DACA vote “antagonizes Latinos, energizes Democratic base, and emboldens the GOP ‘No’ caucus.” She is right — and the GOP will be paying the price for years to come. Two hundred sixteen House members, many of whom harbor national ambitions, are now on record as opposing a policy supported by overwhelming majorities of Latino voters.

Obviously, a majority of House Republicans supported these measures — or they wouldn’t have passed. “The changes brought into this (the border bills) are ones I’ve developed and advocated for over the past two years. It’s like I ordered it off the menu,” Rep. Steve King (R- Iowa) told CQ Roll Call. The fact that the GOP position on immigration is now in sync with King, a man who once compared Dreamers to drug mules, should be alarming to Republicans concerned about their long-term viability as a national party. As disappointing as President Obama has been on immigration, these mean-spirited votes make it clearer than ever which party values Hispanic voters.

Friday’s House votes were a sad spectacle. On immigration, the GOP has taken another hard lurch to the right, and Latino voters will not soon forget it.


By: Raul A. Reyes, The Huffington Post Blog, August 4, 2014

August 5, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, House Republicans, Immigration | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Addicted Republicans Wage War On Latino Voters”: The GOP Is Rolling The Dice While Standing On Quicksand

It’s an addiction. Republicans really can’t help themselves — when they see an opportunity to irritate the Latino electorate, they go for it with gusto.

Republicans have transformed the humanitarian crisis of children at our southern border into an “invasion” that must be repelled with soldiers.

This is war!

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), speaking on Glenn Beck’s program, said “We are under invasion, and this president will not protect our country, and he will not step in and enforce the law as it is.”

Of course, it’s President Obama’s fault. Because anything that goes wrong in this world is either Obama’s overreaching or disengagement. There is no issue to which the Republicans will not attach one of these labels — a cognitive dissonance that seeks to depict Obama simultaneously as a power-mad dictator and, in Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) unfortunate depiction, a president who sleeps through crisis.

Playing on this meme, Michael Reagan, son of the president that signed the amnesty bill in 1986, wrote recently: “Emperor Obama is the culprit in chief.”

Yet the law is being enforced. According to the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, passed unanimously by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush, these kids have a right to due process. They cannot simply be shoved into a bus and dropped like cargo in Mexico. Or sent first class on a plane, as Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn (R) suggested as a bizarre solution.

Republicans’ aggressive response against these kids is baffling as both a matter of policy and politics. The border kids crisis is not about immigration. The flows of unaccompanied minors over the last few months (estimates put the number of kids at over 57,000) has many causes: brutal violence, chaos, mortal fear and hope.

The violence and related mayhem in Central America has reached a critical juncture. The toxic cocktail of narco-mafias, violent gangs, acute poverty and corrupt governments has created dangerous instability and the subsequent need to flee from a life-threatening situation.

Ironically, much of this instability can be directly traced to America’s multi-decade, failed and wildly expensive “War on Drugs” that has made these countries transit points for America’s illegal drug imports.

The narco-mafias are multi-billion dollar “enterprises” with the economic capacity to cripple governments, field heavily armed guerrilla armies and an addiction to violence that terrorizes a vulnerable population that has been largely abandoned to fend for itself by the weak governments in the region.

Politically, the GOP is like a man standing on quicksand. After killing immigration reform in Boehner’s House of Representatives, voting to deport the Dreamers and urging the faster deportation of the border kids, the party’s chances of attracting a sizable percentage of Latino voters needed to win national elections recedes with every acrid declaration by Republican politicos seeking to court the far-right midterm election voters they need to win the Senate in November.

The GOP is rolling the dice with its future by seeking the older white vote while simultaneously repelling large swaths of the electorate – women, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, gay people, young people, Latinos, etc. — with its antediluvian policies.

While some analysts on the right have concluded that this is the optimum approach to win the midterm election — an assumption predicated on the expectation of low turnout of those same constituents that have largely voted for Democrats in past elections — that’s an awfully big bet when the very future of the GOP is at stake.

What happens if the unthinkable becomes reality? What’s the future of the GOP if come November 2014 furious Latinos turn out at the same rate as they did in the 2012 election? Or women outraged by the Supreme Court’s decision that a corporation’s newly “discovered” religious rights trump a woman’s right to control her own health?

Yes, the projecting of voter turnout is based on past voter participation. But as Mitt Romney’s failed campaign for president in 2012 showed, predictions of turnout can be wrong — very wrong.

In particular, Republicans underestimate the blowback from Latinos. This year in the California congressional primaries, I endorsed a moderate Republican, part of the reform wing of the party. The reaction from the audience of my radio program, and especially through social media, was swift and brutal. Hundreds of Latino voters told me I was crazy – and that they would never vote for Republicans after they killed immigration reform in the House.

As Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) and other big name Republicans continue to call for a military response to this crisis by deploying the National Guard, the image of a GOP actively vilifying children and comparing them to foreign invaders is bound to further crystalize Latino anger and voting patterns.

Whatever else, should the National Guard be deployed because of these GOP demands, the effect on public opinion could further sink the Republican Party.

Republicans will crash with a harsh reality of their own making: soldiers versus 10-year-olds is a “battle” with the optics of Birmingham, Ala. in 1963.


By: Fernando Espuelas, The Huffington Post Blog, July 20, 2014

July 22, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, GOP, Humanitarian Crisis | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“When Will Republicans Learn?”: Jim DeMInt And The Heritage Foundation Simply Do Not Have Their Best Interests At Heart

After congressional Republicans’ total surrender finally ended the government shutdown that they caused, and removed the country from the brink of a calamitous debt default, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) joined MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown on Thursday morning to break down the costly political defeat.

In Hatch’s estimation, the Heritage Foundation and its political arm, Heritage Action for America, deserve a good portion of the blame.

“Heritage used to be the conservative organization helping Republicans and helping conservatives and helping us to be able to have the best intellectual conservative ideas,” the seven-term senator explained. “There’s a real question on the minds of many Republicans now…is Heritage going to go so political that it doesn’t amount to anything anymore?”

“Right now I think it’s in danger of losing its clout and its power around Washington, D.C.,” Hatch added.

If Republicans are smart, they should be doing everything possible to make sure that Hatch is proven correct. Arguably no single force has been more destructive to the Republican Party since the 2012 election than Heritage.

After President Barack Obama routed Mitt Romney among Latino voters by an overwhelming 71 to 27 percent margin last November, many Republicans — including the Republican National Committee — accurately diagnosed the GOP’s performance among the rapidly growing demographic as a huge impediment to winning national elections in the future. Most focused on comprehensive immigration reform as the best solution to the problem. And while fixing the broken immigration system would not be the cure-all that many Republicans hope, there’s no question that a sincere effort to solve the crisis would go a long way toward erasing Latino voters’ memories of “self-deportation.”

Ignoring that logic, Heritage stepped in to stop congressional Republicans from helping the nation — and themselves.

As debate over a comprehensive immigration reform bill heated up in Congress, the Heritage Foundation released a report claiming that the bill would cost a minimum of $6.3 trillion over the lifetimes of the 11 million immigrants who could gain legal status as a result. The report utilized a deeply flawed methodology — even many Republicans scoffed at its shoddy accounting — and quickly turned into a public relations nightmare once it was revealed that one of the authors admitted that he hadn’t even read the bill in question, and the other had posted inflammatory articles about Latinos’ inferior intelligence to a “white nationalist” website. In other words, Heritage managed to neatly personify the ignorant bigotry from which the Republican Party was desperately trying to distance itself.

Heritage Action would go on to strongly warn Republicans against passing any serious immigration reforms. And although they were unable to prevent the comprehensive bill’s passage in the Senate — with the support of 14 Republicans — it kept up the pressure on the House of Representatives, which is full of more conservative members with more reason to fear challenges from the right (due to their two-year terms and extremely conservative districts).

Heritage’s efforts have been successful so far; almost four months after the Senate passed the immigration bill, it appears to be dead in the water in the House. Meanwhile, 75 percent of Latinos now disapprove of congressional Republicans. Additionally, by encouraging the right to rise up against immigration reform, Heritage may have dealt a fatal blow to Senator Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) chances of navigating the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, potentially removing a top-tier presidential candidate from the board.

Heritage also damaged the GOP by politicizing the farm bill. Usually the legislation, which contains both subsidies for farmers and food aid for working Americans, is one of few initiatives to gain bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress. This year, however, Heritage Action demanded that the bill be split into two sections: a “farm-only bill” containing the agricultural subsidies, and a separate bill dealing with food aid — and mandating sharp cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (more commonly known as food stamps).

Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) put forth an amendment to split the farm bill, as Heritage Action proposed, but it failed to pass. Heritage Action then “keyed” a no vote on the bill, leading 62 House Republicans to oppose it — enough to prevent its passage, due to the opposition of Democrats who were appalled by its harsh cuts to food aid.

The bill’s failure was a tremendous black eye for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), and clearly established that he was at the mercy of the right wing of his caucus — a condition that helped lead him into the disastrous shutdown and debt ceiling standoff.

Two weeks later, the House would pass a split bill without any funding for food stamp and nutrition programs — reinforcing the party’s damaging image as a group that does not care about the struggles of everyday Americans. And for their trouble, Heritage Action slammed those Republicans who voted for the bill that it had supported just weeks earlier, now claiming that the legislation “would make permanent farm policies—like the sugar program—that harm consumers and taxpayers alike.”

Heritage Action’s reversal infuriated many Republicans, and even led the influential House Republican Study Committee to ban the group from its meetings. But it ultimately did very little to reduce Heritage’s reach within the party, as the government shutdown would show.

As Time‘s Zeke Miller has reported, nobody did more to cause the shutdown than Heritage Action. Although Republican leadership had hoped to avoid another politically disastrous budget battle, they did not anticipate the right’s commitment to battling over the law — a fervor that was whipped up by Heritage. Heritage Action CEO Mike Needham took a nine-city bus tour with Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), demanding that conservatives stand up against Obamacare, whatever the costs. The group spent $550,000 on a digital advertising campaign criticizing Republican congressmembers for perceived weakness on the issue. It keyed votes against any government funding bill that wouldn’t dismantle health care reform. It aggressively used social media to promote Senator Cruz’s 21-hour non-filibuster against the Affordable Care Act. And it assured Republicans that provoking a crisis over the law would not cripple them politically.

As we now know, that was not the case. The shutdown totally failed to stop the Affordable Care Act’s implementation, but it did send the GOP’s poll numbers into a freefall, and seriously jeopardize the party’s once-bulletproof House majority. And once again, for their troubles, right-wing Republicans who followed Heritage into battle got stabbed in the back almost immediately.

“Everybody understands that we’ll not be able to repeal [Obamacare] until 2017,” Needham said during a Fox News appearance on Wednesday. Apparently “everybody” didn’t include dozens of House Republicans, or Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint. Just as with the farm bill, Heritage led Republicans further and further to the right — then turned on them as soon as it became convenient.

There’s no reason to believe that Heritage will change its pattern any time soon — as long as there is money to be raised from the far right, Heritage has no incentive to stop pressuring Republican politicians to take more extreme positions. Quite simply, that is their business model. It also seems very unlikely that Speaker Boehner will change his pattern of allowing the far right to pressure him into supporting Tea Party-backed plans in exchange for letting him keep the Speaker’s gavel.

Perhaps the business community — which is well represented on the Heritage Foundation’s board of trustees — will attempt to moderate the group’s political activities, in an effort to counteract their disastrous economic effects. Or perhaps Republican voters will finally run out of patience for Heritage’s preferred brand of governing by self-created crisis.

If not, the Republican Party is in trouble, because the evidence is clear: Heritage simply does not have its best interests at heart.

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, October 18, 2013

October 19, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Heritage Foundation, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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