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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Any Insight Here?

Does anyone know why the GOP-controlled Congress decided to push forward with immigration legislation this year? Is it possible to think of an issue that is more internally divisive for the Republican party? It's a perfect wedge issue, splitting the GOP intelligentsia from the populists, big business from small town, elites from mass. It's brutal for them--almost as bad as the Iraq War is for Democratic officeholders. Immigration even generates some of the same intensity of emotion for Republican base voters as the Iraq War issues (e.g., torture, casualties, Guantanamo, WMD) do for Democrats, as this repulsive Georgia blogger nicely illustrates.

It's not as though the illegal immigration problem suddenly metastasized. Sure, there's been grassroots organizing and agitation on the right, from the likes of the Minutemen and others, but the GOP could have held off on the matter until after the elections. Democratic officeholders are masters at telling their base voters to chill out (or worse); Republicans could have done the same.

There hasn't been significant movement on immigration since 1986. Why now? What were they thinking? I can see why individual Republicans, particuarly in border areas, might want to bring up the issue. But why did the leadership permit it? Did the president insist on it? Does he even care how much pain and suffering he causes these guys?

4 Comments:

At 4:45 PM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

Looks to me like an attempt to "change the topic" gone disasterously wrong. The upsides: it's not Iraq, New Orleans, the budget, or corruption-related; it's a culture war fave, so a natural fallback issue when things aren't going well otherwise; it potentially allows lots of GOPs in Congress to distance themeselves from the unpopular Prez during an election year. That doesn't explain why Bush would be so out front here, unless, of course, this is a Rovean ploy to protect GOP members in working-class areas so as to prevent Dems taking a House and getting subpoena power in 2007. I.e., he'll take both another short-term hit to Bush cred and a long-term risk with Hispanic voters in order to save some seats. But I'm just guessing.

 
At 5:45 PM, Blogger DK said...

I think it points to the decline of Rovean centralized power. It's becoming an issue for the GOP because candidates find it a useful issue for demagoguery. Looks like Frist, e.g., is going to make immigration reform a central feature of his run for president. on the subject, check out the fascinating poll at pewhispanic.org. The Dems should just sit back and watch the GOP implode on this issue.

 
At 8:06 AM, Blogger Rebecca said...

I literally just finished watching the episode of what I think is last-year's West Wing season (Message of the Week, aired Oct 9 2005) when Vinik goes for the hispanic vote via immigration policy in order to throw off Santos' rising numbers and swing the attention back to him. I can't speak on the detailed machinations of current US politics, being somewhat blissfully in the dark (aside from FfB's on-going commentary--the blog equivalent of the Daily Show? who knows?) It strikes me that the 'change the topic' thesis follows the West Wing plot nicely. Not the first time the West Wing has shaped actual politics.

 
At 9:33 PM, Blogger Paramendra Bhagat said...

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