Sen. Marco Rubio is having a moment. He’s a charismatic senator from a battleground state whose Cuban heritage and support for immigration reform are helping his party begin a new courtship with Hispanic voters. This much we know. But Rubio is exploiting an opportunity that goes beyond simply good timing and the right last name. He is getting the chance to be first at bat in a larger effort: the post-election audition for GOP leadership. Of all the would-be Republican stars—and the list is long and likely to grow—Rubio is getting a chance to show exactly what it looks like to move the party in a new direction…
The most important political skill is midwifery. The leader who moves the Republican Party into a new era, where it is more attractive to middle-class voters, minorities, and younger voters, will need to communicate a vision as well as communicate back to the base how he is not selling out the party’s core principles. In this effort, Rubio will get a crack at showing key presidential governing skills—the ability to nurse complex legislation by identifying common interests with Democrats while working with Republicans friends through a mixture of cajoling, flattery, and strong-arming.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, an unlikely ally of Obama’s on this issue, appeared on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show on Tuesday and recognized the Right’s discomfort with easing immigration laws. Like Obama, his defense of immigration reform seemed to be yoked to American exceptionalism.
“It doesn’t feel right in some instances to allow people who have come here undocumented to be able to stay. I know some people are uncomfortable with that notion,” said Rubio, a son of immigrants. “But I would just say this to you: If this country goes downhill, there’s nowhere else in the world. There’s nothing else. There’s no replacement for it. There’s no alternative for America. It’s either us or no one.”
And so perhaps now Republicans in Congress have two reasons to cast a risky vote in favor of conditional amnesty. The first, of course, is the fact that 70 percent of Hispanic and Asian voters supported Obama in the 2012 election, a reflection of a demographic tsunami threatening to destroy the GOP. The second is that, setting aside blind prejudice and “us-versus-them” mentalities, immigration reform is essentially conservative.
It seems the conservatives who are most skeptical of immigration reform don’t oppose the merits of Rubio’s framework, so much as they simply refuse to believe it would ever be enacted or enforced.
In other words, they simply don’t trust that the law will be obeyed. They believe Democrats can do whatever they want, and the best conservatives can hope for is to slow them down and not give them any ideas.
This is very destructive for democracy. I wish I could say the cynicism and paranoia was entirely unfounded.
Rubio’s bill is nothing but amnesty. It isn’t even “amnesty thinly disguised as border enforcement.” This is a wolf in wolf’s clothing…
The only thing the newly legalized illegal immigrants won’t get immediately is citizenship. Rubio claims that under his plan, they won’t be able to vote or go on welfare. But in practice, they’ll have to wait only until the ACLU finds a judge to say otherwise…
With Hispanics on track to become the largest ethnic group in California this year, the state that gave us Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan is incapable of electing any Republican statewide anymore. Taxes keep going up, and there’s no one left to pay the bill.
That will be our entire country if Republicans fall for Rubio’s phony “Enforcement First!” plan. Perplexingly, some Republicans seem determined to turn the whole nation into California, in the foolish hope of winning one last election.
“There are Republicans who will tear up their Republican voting cards over this,” said Dan Stein, the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which opposes the bill.
Rubio is widely considered to be among the party’s top-tier contenders in 2016, but this wasn’t necessarily a fight he needed to be involved in. Not only does the effort contain the chance of angering hardcore primary voters, but Rubio, the son of Cuban exiles, would be able to get Hispanic voters and those pushing for a more moderating voice on immigration within the party merely by his presence.
“Rubio has tried to neutralize [the anger on the right] because of the credibility he has with Tea Party folks, but once real measures are put down in black and white you are going to see the bloggers and talk-show hosts on the right become less and less polite,” said Mark Krikorian, the director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which is devoted to limited immigration. “Rubio’s stock among conservatives is going to start going down over the next six months, and I think he has pretty much doomed his chances for 2016.”
At least two 2012 polls provided some evidence that support for large-scale immigration alienates white voters.
Fifty-seven percent of “white working-class Americans … agree that illegal immigrants taking jobs that would otherwise be filled by American citizens are responsible for our current economic problems,” said an August survey of 2,501 Americans by the Public Religion Research Institute…
That poll was echoed by a Quinnipiac University poll whose results are a mirror of the Latino Decisions survey.
Quinnipiac’s poll showed that 27 percent of voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania said Obama’s de facto amnesty policy made them less likely to vote for the president’s re-election. Only 11.5 percent of voters in the two states said the policy made them more supportive of Obama, said the survey.
Public attitudes about immigration: Immigration policy is not a top priority for the U.S. general public or for Hispanics. According to a recent survey of U.S. adults, 39% said that dealing with the issue of illegal immigration should be a top priority for the president and the Congress, placing 17th on a list of policy priorities (Pew Research Center, 2013). For Hispanics, one-third said the issue of immigration was extremely important to them personally, behind issues like the economy and jobs, education and health care (Lopez and Gonzalez-Barrera, 2012).
Attitudes about immigration policy priorities: Among U.S. adults, 28% say the priority for dealing with illegal immigration should be given to tighter restrictions on illegal immigration while 27% say creating a path to citizenship should be the priority. A plurality (42%) says both tactics should be given equal priority. (Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 2012). Latinos are more likely than the general public (42% versus 27%) to say the priority should be a path to citizenship for immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally. Just 10% of Latinos say priority should be given to better border security and enforcement. Latinos (46%) and the general public (42%) are about equally likely to say priority should be given to enforcement and legalization (Lopez, Gonzalez-Barrera and Motel, 2011).
Yes, there will be fewer whites and more minorities in the future, and Republicans will have to adjust. But the situation is more complicated than that.
Start with the obvious: If demographics were determinative, then Republicans shouldn’t have gained 63 seats in the House of Representatives in 2010—the largest midterm shift since 1938—while also taking 30 governorships…
The major impediment is the harsh rhetoric of some Republicans regarding immigration. The solution is less about policy than about respect for the Hispanic community. If federal immigration law is reformed with substantial Republican support—including for a long and demanding but achievable process of earning legal status—the GOP can consistently earn 35%-40% among Hispanics. Having Sen. Marco Rubio as the GOP spokesman on immigration issues will hasten the GOP recovery.
Demography isn’t destiny because nothing is permanent in politics—and Democrats’ insistence to the contrary will likely lead them to overreach, ignoring issues such as jobs, anemic growth and deficits in order to tackle gun control and climate change.
McCain said he hoped to get at least 80 votes for any bill that eventually comes to the floor, although he conceded that there would be naysayers…
If the issue isn’t resolved, McCain said that some states, like his own — which have large Hispanic populations — “will go from Republican to Democratic over time.”
“I think it’s a danger,” McCain said of Republicans permanently forfeiting the Hispanic vote.