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Thursday, June 06, 2013

Immigration Reform from the White Guy Party? Increasingly Unlikely.

Don't look now, but the GOP is on the verge of committing electoral suicide.

ABC NEWS: Bipartisan meetings in the House of Representatives on a comprehensive immigration reform bill have failed, and the congressmen will meet for the last time today without reaching an agreement on a House bill, ABC News has learned.

The stumbling block is GOP insistence that newly legalized workers now working in the shadows have no access to government-sponsored health care during their 15-year pathway to citizenship, according to two sources with access to the secret house “Gang of 8? meetings.

Democrats say that since these newly legalized immigrants would be paying taxes they should be eligible for benefits.
Was it just months ago that the Republican Party realized they needed to give on comprehensive immigration reform or continue to lose elections? Yes it was. And nothing has changed. "The Republican Party is on bad terms with a long list of voters," Greg Sargent wrote a few days ago. "It has no credibility with African Americans, almost none with young voters, little with Hispanics, and is on the rocks with women."


So why throw the Latino vote away? Steve Benen believes he has the answer. Keeping immigrants off Obamacare is partly about the GOP's unhinged hatred of the reforms, but there's more.

...Republicans’ hatred for Obamacare, and Rubio’s presidential ambitions, both existed a month or so ago, when immigration reform was going swimmingly. So what’s changed? How about the confluence of Obama administration “scandals”—the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party groups, the Justice Department’s aggressive pursuit of journalists, and the ongoing Benghazi saga—that have re-energized the GOP?

What do those stories have to do with immigration? Here’s what: Let’s set aside the question of just how scandalous these "scandals" really are, and how much they really reflect on the Obama administration or the White House. The point is, the Beltway media has bought into them just enough to create, at least temporarily, a storyline about an administration dogged by political controversy. And that's led Washington Republicans and their conservative allies to believe that they can ride that storyline back to power—just as they tried to do in the late 1990s with the Clinton impeachment. (A related benefit: The IRS story, in particular, is a perfect way for Boehner, McConnell et al. to line up behind the Tea Party and bolster their shaky credibility with the GOP’s activist base.)
If there's one thing the GOP does not want to do, it's change in any meaningful way. Immigration was always a wedge issue to split white voters away from Democrats. But it's been used for so long that what began as a cynical attempt to create division has become a hallmark of the party. In fact, the Obamacare provision the GOP is offering satisfies two cherished GOP wedges -- being immigration hard asses and dog whistle racist messaging that paints minorities as lazy and only interested in getting free stuff from the government. Remember what your mom warned you about -- that if you kept making that face, it'd stay that way? That's the GOP. They've kept making their racist, anti-immigrant face for so long that they can't stop now without alienating their base.

So any excuse to ditch immigration reform will do. "They see a potential way to win back the Senate next year and the White House in 2016 without having to alienate their core supporters by backing immigration reform," Benen explains. "So their motivation for getting behind the project has gone out the window."

Of course, there's no way the IRS story is going to last until 2016. It's falling apart now. It probably won't make it until 2014. The best the GOP can do with it is to use it to excite the base and get them to the polls, but it's already been well-established that the base is not enough. Their past rhetoric has basically painted them into this corner where they can either make a play for Latino voters or pander to the prejudices they've cultivated in their base. They knew it would be difficult to do both, but it's starting to look impossible.

So they need a way out and this is it. They'll say to Latino voters "We gave it a shot" -- and hope there are enough chumps in that demographic to buy it and make the difference. And behind those chumps' backs they'll proclaim to the base, "We did it! We beat immigration reform!" Two-faced as always, the GOP will attempt to have their cake and eat it too.

But I just don't see it working out in the long run. They're going to have to lose the racist wedge issues eventually, so why put it off?


[photo by Fibonacci Blue]

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