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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

Mitt Romney”s “Anti-Immigrant Extremist” Friends: The Worst Kind Of Company One Could Keep

Mitt Romney’s endorsement sheet is beginning to read like a who’s-who of tough talk, anti-immigrant extremists: Former California Governor Pete Wilson, Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeau, and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the architect of immigration laws in Arizona and Georgia, have all signed on to his campaign. Unfortunately for Romney, these names alone have the potential to embolden the very community they seek to disempower.

Until this week, Romney was boasting the endorsement of Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeau, a co-chair of his Arizona campaign. Babeau came to national attention after starring in John McCain’s 2010 “Complete the Dang Fence” ad, part of McCain’s effort to fend off a right-wing primary challenger. Babeau went on to become a frequenter commentator on Fox News. He’s even running for Congress. Then, last week, the Phoenix New Times revealed that Babeau had maintained a multi-year relationship with a Mexican immigrant who he allegedly threatened with deportation if any details of their relationship were to become public. Babeau swiftly stepped down as co-chair of Romney’s Arizona campaign, leaving some big shoes to fill.

Enter America’s self-proclaimed “Toughest Sheriff,” Joe Arpaio. Sheriff Joe, who the Department of Justice recently accused of systematically profiling and abusing Latinos, is busy lining up presidential hopefuls to kiss his ring. On February 13th, Arpaio took to Twitter to announce that he’d received a call from Republican hopeful Newt Gingrich seeking his endorsement. “Nice surprise and what a gentleman he really is,” Arpaio wrote. Then on February 18th he gave a shout out to yet another suitor, tweeting, ”Big week ahead, I’ll be meeting another presidential candidate.” Arpaio doesn’t exactly have a Midas touch— he’s endorsed the failed campaigns of former U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Hayworth, Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, and Republican drop-out Rick Perry. But polls find that over 30 percent of Republican primary voters are more likely to vote for a candidate if he boasts Arpaio’s endorsement.

Ever the desperate salesman, Mitt Romney continues to trade Latino general election votes for the votes of his primary’s fringe electorate. No one should understand this trade-off better than Pete Wilson, a godfather of the anti-immigrant movement. In 1994, then-Governor Wilson led the fight for Proposition 187, the “Save Our State” initiative, which would have barred undocumented immigrants from access to social services like health care and public education. But then the effort boomeranged: the Republican push for Prop 187 galvanized the state’s Latinos, inspiring drives for naturalization and voter registration and turnout that turned Reagan’s state into a Democratic stronghold.   In a general election, Pete Wilson doesn’t have enough fans to offset the potential cost of his endorsement. Ask Meg Whitman. She flaunted Wilson as chairman for her 2010 gubernatorial campaign as a way to build conservative credibility in a tough primary. Then she spent the general election unsuccessfully trying to distance herself from Wilson when he became a liability with Latino and independent voters. That’s of no immediate concern to Romney. Facing a primary that just won’t end, he’ll do what it takes to get some of California’s proportional delegates, no matter the cost.

If Romney’s other endorsements are any indication, there can be no doubt that he’d gladly swap general election Latino votes for 32 percent of Republican primary voters, even in a state where he has no real competition.    Democrats are already portraying Romney as having two faces: wooing Latino voters out of one side of his mouth and courting anti-immigrant champions out of the other. In advance of last month’s Florida primary, the Romney campaign aired Spanish-language spots aimed at Hispanic voters, while in South Carolina he touted the endorsement of Kobach. Immigration advocates decried the hypocrisy.  The problem is that Romney doesn’t see himself that way because he misunderstands the Latino community. Romney believes that he can call the DREAM Act a “handout” and sell Draconian immigration laws to those of us who are citizens by telling us that they only affect those of us who are not. He claims that he’s pro-legal immigration, just anti-illegal immigration, as though that clarifies the issue. What Romney doesn’t realize is that even those Latinos who are American-born or naturalized citizens often come from mixed-status families, learn in mixed-status classrooms, and live in mixed-status communities. For us, the “undocumented” aren’t anonymous; they are people we know and love.  For us, the Wilsons, Babeaus, Arpaios and Kobachs of the world aren’t brave problem solvers. They are simply put, the worst kind of company one could keep.


By: Alicia Menendez, Contributing Writer, NBCLatino, February 21, 2012

February 24, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Immigration | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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