Ronald Reagan liked to tell the story of the optimistic boy who, when shown a room filled with a mountain of horse dung, looked for the pony. It is with that metaphor in mind that I bring you a tale of Fighting Repubicanism on the issue of immigration reform.
Our tale is set in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District, which could be the tightest House race in 2014. Once represented by Tom Tancredo, the seat is currently held by Republican Rep. Mike Coffman, who faces a challenge from Democrat Andrew Romanoff, the carpetbagging former Speaker of the Colorado House.
Post-redistricting, the 6th has become more liberal and Hispanic. Republican Coffman, who first won the seat opposing “comprehensive immigration reform,” now favors it. He explains his shift by claiming meetings with his new Hispanic constituents “really put a face” on the issue. Politics being what it is, you might be forgiven some skepticism about Coffman’s epiphany.
Ironically, the story is not much different for Democrat Romanoff. As Speaker, Romanoff was the driving force of a 2006 Special Session which passed anti-illegal immigration legislation then termed the “toughest in the nation” by The Washington Post. He too has had a change of heart on the issue.
Given the stakes in 2014, it is entirely unsurprising that Coffman has been targeted by the Latino Victory Project — a national committee co-founded by Eva Longoria and run by Cristóbal Alex (who has the seemingly obligatory Soros affiliation on his resume) — which plans to spend $20 million in 10 competitive House races. What is surprising was the response from the NRCC:
“If this partisan and hypocritical group really cares about comprehensive immigration reform, they would attack Andrew Romanoff’s lengthy anti-immigration voting record from his days as Speaker of the Colorado House,” said Tyler Q. Houlton, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “Mike Coffman has done everything in his power to help undocumented children and students earn citizenship through common sense policy proposals.”
Whatever you might think about that second sentence, the pony is in the first one. For far too long, the Democrats have posed as the party of immigration reform, even as their actions told a different story. Indeed, a cynic might conclude the Democrats have been far more interested in race-baiting than legislating when it comes to immigration reform. And the media has been all too happy to go along.
There may be no more egregious example of this than President Obama. In 2008, running against Mavericky John McCain, candidate Obama had the gall to attack McCain on the issue — and McCain’s response was to essentially blame the GOP. In reality, at the behest of Big Labor, Obama was a deciding vote in killing the immigration reform McCain championed, via a “poison pill” called the Dorgan Amendment. Indeed, given the 49-48 vote, it’s worth noting that Hillary Clinton, as well as top Senate Dems Harry Reid and Dick Durbin, all killed immigration reform in 2007. There were those on the McCain campaign who sought to correct the record, but the media much preferred to tout McCain’s attacks on the grassroots. (Shocka!)
As president, Obama continued in much the same mold. He refused to pursue immigration reform, even when he had a Democratic House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. He decided to disregard immigration law to pander to the Hispanic vote in 2012. And the media (save Univision) allowed him to pretend he was really interested in reform.
When this is your baseline, the NRCC’s willingness to call out the hypocrisy of Democrats on immigration is at least a good first step (even if you disagree with Coffman’s latest position supporting reform). GOPers would also likely benefit from highlighting support for fixing the problems with the legal immigration bureaucracy.
Indeed, Republicans and conservatives who oppose amnesty could go on offense with their own basic position regarding illegal immigration. Sixty-two percent of Americans say that border security should be the main focus of US immigration policy. Given that even the same basic percentage of Hispanic voters agrees with the “border security first” approach, Republicans ought to be making the case that Democrats are the obstacles to any compromise, just as they were in 2007. They could add that Obama’s track record of bad faith makes compromise impossible. And only eleven percent of voters think people who want to secure the border and prevent illegal immigration are racist, which makes it inexcusable that the GOP and its candidates fail to more forcefully call out Democrats, their media mouthpieces and Republican fellow travelers for their extremist race-baiting on the issue. Indeed, the example of Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) demonstrates that politicians who legitimately engage Hispanic constituents and sell themselves can win, even with a hardline position on illegal immigration.
When it comes to immigration reform, the pony is there, for anyone who wants to see it.