Immigration reform: of RINOs and Rubio
February 10, 2013 5 Comments
It’s been a couple of weeks since the Senate’s bipartisan Gang of Eight preempted President Obama with a declaration of intent to tackle immigration reform. I’ve not been totally on top of the news cycle since then, but I have sampled some of the conversation on the Right. I was heartened by Cosmoscon’s punctual endorsement of reform. Charles Krauthammer’s more recent advice, with its retrospective “I told you so,” is a somewhat welcoming if wary analysis.
Yet, many other conservatives are beside themselves with complaints and grief. They charge fellow Republicans with foolhardy electoral panic and lament the Charlie Brown naivete of working with Democrats. In the worst instances, they let loose a cry of RINO–Republican In Name Only–against anyone they want to dismiss as spineless or traitorous. For any conservative so tempted, do the rest of us a favor. Vent your frustrations in private. Try screaming into a thick pillow. Such name calling has no place in a party of winners.
No one doubts the need for immigration reform. But the rub lies in the long-running tension between enforcement and “amnesty.” The National Review’s John O’Sullivan warns Republicans that amnesty would mean decades of Democratic domination. He wants conservatives to realize that Hispanics vote Democrat for socioeconomic reasons rather than out of ethnic solidarity. Although an astute observation, it’s only relevant if the proposed reform would result in illegal immigrants readily gaining citizenship. But since it includes caveats like sending illegals to the back of multiple lines, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Besides, O’Sullivan is working with a straw man. Who in the GOP is actually contending that bipartisan reform will automatically garner Hispanic votes?
Victor Davis Hanson, also at National Review, lodges his own reform reservations. He observes that “special interests” (hardly ever an actually helpful term) are too entrenched, whether they be liberal activists working in identity politics or business owners dependent on abusively cheap labor. As he sees it, committed liberals will never budge for a fence or strict enforcement. But there’s little reason to think Republicans won’t be able to leverage public support for sensible enforcement measures. At least as long as any would-be Todd Akins of immigration keep away from the media. Quick, someone check Tom Tancredo’s whereabouts.
Looming above all this are the career prospects for that shiniest senator of the Gang of Eight, Republican Marco Rubio. Immigration will figure into his Tuesday response to President Obama’s State of the Union address. From what I can tell, he won’t fizzle like Bobby Jindal did a few years back. Rubio seemed to acquit himself well in an interview with the Weekly Standard this past week.
Whether he acknowledges it or not, Senator Rubio remains a very decent prospect for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. Maybe a time will come to grill him on his record. But for now I’d encourage you to channel those prosecutorial energies into Karl Rove’s Conservative Victory Project. Consider its effort to defeat a Republican primary candidate who once declared evolution and the big bang to be “from the pit of Hell.” I suspect this puts Rubio’s “I’m not a scientist, man” comment in a slightly better light. Such a clear-eyed initiative buoys the conservative hope that leaders of Rubio’s vintage will get better with age. All the more reason for Republican purists to put down their RINO guns.
Let’s get real about immigration. That 11 million people live a shadow existence in America is inhumane to them, dangerous to us all, and completely unsustainable. No conservative wants an “amnesty” like the ill-considered 1986 reform signed by President Reagan. If it comes down to it, we can deal with President Obama’s obstinate political wrangling when we cross that bridge. Until then, let’s show America what good bipartisanship is made of.