Chait on Immigration Politics
Jonathan Chait argues immigration will hurt the GOP in New York Magazine.[icopyright one button toolbar]
Substantively, Obama’s executive order gives him less than he hoped to gain with a bipartisan law. But politically, he has ceded no advantage. Indeed, he has gained one. Not only does immigration remain a live issue, it is livelier than ever. The GOP primary will remorselessly drive its candidates rightward and force them to promise to overturn Obama’s reform, and thus to immediately threaten with deportation some 5 million people — none of whom can vote, but nearly all of whom have friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors who can.
Michael Gerson, the Bush-era speechwriter and an advocate of bipartisan legislation, warns that Obama is “uniting conservatives — from the Obama-obsessed to reasonable institutionalists — in fervent opposition.” Actually, just the opposite is occurring. Ardent populists are demanding a series of suicidal confrontations, from shutdowns to, potentially, impeachment, as the Party leadership strains desperately to keep them at bay. In the Senate, Jeff Sessions, a full-spectrum reactionary, is waging a fight for the chairmanship of the Senate Budget Committee against Mike Enzi, with Sessions promising to use his position as a bastion of full-scale resistance on immigration.
The emotional momentum in the Republican Party now falls to its most furious, deranged voices. Michele Bachmann has denounced what she calls “millions of unskilled, illiterate, foreign nationals coming into the United States who can’t speak the English language.” Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama has even presented the most sympathetic slice of the immigrant community — the ones serving in the military — as a source of insidious competition and even treason. (“I don’t want American citizens having to compete with illegal immigrants for jobs in our military … These individuals have to be absolutely 100 percent loyal and trustworthy.”) Steve King, a regular font of nativist outbursts, is setting himself up as a power broker in Iowa, which will command center stage in the GOP primary for months and months on end.
Cross-posted from The Sensible Center