I’ve got a great idea for congressional Republicans who are hopping mad about President Obama’s executive action suspending deportation for several million undocumented immigrants: If you want to undo what the president has done and improve your standing with the American people, turn off talk radio and pass an immigration reform bill.
Sure, that’s not as fun as going on Fox News to call Obama an emperor and to pose as valiant defenders of the imperiled Constitution. It’s not as exciting as shutting down the government or threatening to impeach the president. But it will be a far better use of your time, much better for your party and a whole lot better for the United States.
Yes, Rush Limbaugh has lectured you about how you were not elected to govern. He says your job is to spend the next two years doing nothing but stopping Obama from doing anything. It would be smart, though, if you put Rush on mute and began thinking about the people who elected you and, more crucially, the people you want to vote for you in the next election and the elections after that -- Latinos, in particular.
Plenty of GOP voters are devoted fans of Rush and the other screamers who turn every political disagreement between Republicans and Democrats into a blood feud. Those riled-up folks turned out to vote and helped give you control of the Senate. Still, you need to face the fact that, down the line, you will need to expand your base beyond angry old white guys. The very best thing you could do to start building a bigger tent is to fix the immigration mess.
There are millions of immigrants who are cowering in the shadows because they fear their families will be divided by deportation. There are thousands of young Latinos who have grown up in the U.S. and who are going to college and trying to start productive lives who worry that they too could be forced to leave the only country they know. Barack Obama has earned their thanks by taking the limited steps he has available to make them feel more secure. So far, he’s gotten all the credit because you have failed to do anything.
One of these days, you will lose Texas and Arizona and other states to the Democrats because the rising numbers of Latinos who are citizens think you don’t give a damn about them. Pass a good bill that establishes fair rules for achieving legal status, for bringing in the guest workers needed by our agricultural industry, for welcoming those who have gone to college or done military service and you will suddenly have removed the single biggest handicap you have in attracting Latino voters.
Plenty of non-Latino voters would also be pleased and amazed that something finally got done in Washington and the credit will go to you guys, the new Republican-controlled Congress.
Rush will rant and the anti-immigrant fear mongers will be livid, but most of them will come around and vote for you anyway because they do not want commie-pinko-liberals running the show. And whatever votes you may lose on the right you will more than make up with swing voters and with many Latinos who, seeing the immigration crisis addressed, will start thinking about the business climate and taxation and family values -- the things you may have in common with them.
You can spend the coming months distracted by a fight with Obama -- which might be exactly what Democrats want you to do -- or you can put your energy into showing you can do him one better on immigration. Maybe he’ll get some credit when a good immigration bill gets passed and maybe you hate that idea. But remember, he’s never running for office again. You are.