The Senate-approved comprehensive immigration reform bill could be the greatest legislative achievement of President Obama’s second term -- but only if Speaker of the House John Boehner allows it to be voted on. The chances of that? Pretty darn slim.
Boehner says he will only bring the bill to a vote if a majority of his caucus approves and, right now, the legislation appears to be only slightly more attractive to the House GOP than two lesbians getting married at an abortion clinic.
After Obama won reelection with the support of more than 70% of Latino voters, conservative gurus such as Sean Hannity and Karl Rove said the Republican Party faced demographic doom if it failed to grow beyond its current base of melanin-deficient Toby Keith fans. The assumption was that Republicans would have to shed their fears of a Mexican invasion and vote to provide a path to legal status and citizenship for the 11 million undocumented Latinos in this country. Otherwise, they would continue to be shunned by the fastest growing segment of the electorate.
However, Ann Coulter and a few others on the right made the counter argument that legalization was the political equivalent of suicide for the GOP. Republicans might gain a measure of goodwill by backing an immigration plan, but it would not be nearly enough to pull in more than a scattering of Latino voters. Instead, all those millions of new citizens would simply provide additional votes for Democrats.
That analysis seems to be winning the day in Republican circles. House opponents of immigration reform will say their concern is border security, but, though the amended version of the Senate bill essentially militarizes the border (and provides a windfall for defense contractors), it has not changed many minds among House Republicans. They may be more worried about all those potential Democratic voters already inside the border than the imagined fearful horde still in Mexico.
The Republicans’ new political strategy is to double down on their old strategy: get more white votes. The plutocrat Mitt Romney turned off many white, working-class voters who then failed to go to the polls in 2012. Republican strategists now are thinking victory is in reach if they can get those folks to turn out next time around.
They may be right, but it is an admission that the Republican Party is, more than ever, a white people’s party that can thrive in an increasingly diverse America only by suppressing the non-white vote and by blocking all attempts to bring millions of immigrants out of the shadows and into the national family.