And maybe failure is the point. If recent history is any indication, it’s more probable that negotiations break down and Democrats see the debate as another opportunity to bury the GOP in their own red nativist soil, turning everyone’s attention to the rampant xenophobic, racist and intractable nature of the opposition. President Obama will then use the GOP’s noncooperation as an excuse to make good on his threat to utilize executive power and take credit for fixing the immigration system without anyone’s help. Oh, and rather than focusing on the past five years of economic stagnation or a stubbornly unpopular national health-care law, voters will hear a lot about immigration.

Another scenario, of course, is that Republicans believe they can avoid this fate and pull together enough support to join Democrats and pass something.

Even so, the GOP brand is unlikely to garner the credit Democrats keep assuring everyone it will. A few “reasonable” Republicans will be praised for their courageousness in standing up against the radicals that run the party otherwise. And then every poll measuring Hispanic political support for conservative positions will remain unbothered and unchanged by these events. What the GOP establishment will have is another ugly civil war on its hands, ignited over an issue that is only marginally significant to most voters — and they will have lit the fuse right before a potentially successful mid-term election that may have given them the Senate.