Turning immigration into a GOP winner
By Vincent Fiore
Unquestionably, the Republican Party as a whole has grown over the last twenty-five years. Along with the self-proclaimed "independent" or "moderate" voter, the GOP has seen its rolls swell at the expense of the Democratic Party.
What has led to the expansion of the party, and therefore a fair amount of dominance of government on a local, state, and federal level, has been primarily two factors:
First, ever since Ronald Reagan's sweeping runs in 1980 and 1984, the GOP definitively emerged from the shadows of a society long-ruled by big-government liberalism, and it emerged as an optimistic party of ideas. Reagan's "morning in America again" will go down in history as one of the greatest campaign themes of all time, and heralded the GOP as the political party that always looks to America's future with confidence.
Second, Republicans and conservatives, in general, are a principled lot. This holds true especially for conservatives. We have seen this before and are seeing it again--from the now-defunct nomination of Harriet Miers, to today's bombastic uproar over immigration policy, or lack thereof.
Republicans willfully bend, and even break politically quite often within the confines of party ideals and platforms. Witness the media-proclaimed "courageousness" of malleable figures like John McCain, Chuck Hagel, and Arlen Specter. These senators frequently break away from party ideals and political mainstays.
Conservatives, on the other hand, will bend more than occasionally, but break less so. Because of senators such as John Kyl and Rick Santorum, that recent abomination of an immigration bill went down to an embarrassing pre-vote defeat, 38 to 60.
The numbers tell a story here, and the story is one that the GOP ought to pay heed to. Americans of all walks of life--and by American, I mean legal citizens--do not want mass and uncontrolled illegal immigration, period.
Americans have plainly stated, as in the most recent poll conducted by AP-Ipsos, that illegal immigration is a growing and worrisome national problem. The top three issues that the country is paying heed to these days is the war in Iraq (19%) the economy (14%), and immigration at 13%.
Taken by itself, that 13% looks to be somewhat low on the average voter's issues list. What makes it large, though, is that it comes from a list of many issues, not just the war and the economy. In fact, the single issue of immigration is four times more of a concern today than in was in January of this year.
For those of us watching the issue of immigration closely, this is a welcomed development. But for many within the Republican establishment in Washington, it is more like being under the microscope. Now that the electorate has awakened to the issue of illegal immigration as a dinner-table topic, the mood among some within the elected class is one of controlled concern to, at times, constituency-driven anxiety.
And like it or not, Republicans, you are in charge. So what are you going to do?
The "comprehensive immigration bill," or amnesty for short, was quickly labeled as a failure because the Democrats destroyed it procedurally, or the Republicans made it un-passable with as many as twenty separate amendments. This is complete beltway nonsense.
The bill died an ugly death because the American people made their voice heard. Aside from the ridiculousness of the Senate bill, which separated all 11 million illegal aliens into three different categories of illegality, the Senate bill did virtually nothing in the way of security, except to provide a "virtual" fence of technology instead of a real fence and the manpower needed to watch it.
Republicans have gotten a reprieve here whether they know it or not. Though the mainstream media have tried to spin the issue of immigration as "immigration rights," the public seems to grasp just what this is about. Certainly, the conservative/Republican base knows exactly what this is all about.
The issue concerning the 11 million illegal aliens here now and the future millions that will come if a weak and toothless pseudo-amnesty bill is passed could not be anymore of a gift to the GOP if one tried to find one.
The overwhelming majority of the American people believes in and welcomes immigration, because they realize that they are the sons and daughters of immigrants. However, that was never the issue, though the liberals in the New York Times editorial department hoped you would see it that way.
The issue has always been legal immigration, like our fathers and grandfathers before us. It is a winner for the GOP, and for legal immigration to work properly, there must be enforcement of the borders, and consequences for those who would willfully break the law. This would include American companies that hire illegals.
Since his second term, President Bush has stumbled badly, and the GOP Congress has done even worse. The media have successfully nullified through the partisan press most anything the administration has tried to do and Democrats successfully have so far turned Bush's second term into one "abuse" or "corruption" scandal after another.
With the exception of Bush's picks for the Supreme Court, and a few bills here and there, the second-term big ticket items that were once touted have been relegated to obscurity.
The GOP, not Bush, need an issue that is the equivalent of "The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996," otherwise known as Welfare Reform. It was this issue that saved Bill Clinton's reelection to office. Why? Because the issue of moving welfare recipients off the public dole to work became a national issue, and all the demagogues in Congress and the media could not stop it.
Immigration is a hard issue, but not an intractable one. Americans will accept some form of guest worker program, but will insist on real and dramatic border security. For the GOP, the issue of immigration presents a chance to regain its footing for the November sweeps, and a call for all those apathetic voters who were contemplating the TV Guide on election night to come back into the fold.
Vincent Fiore is a freelance political writer who lives in New York City. His work can be seen on a host of sites, including the American Conservative Union, GOPUSA, ChronWatch, and theconservativevoice. Vincent is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance and a contributing writer for NewsBusters.org. He receives e-mail at
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