in deep trouble in the Congressional midterms--and searching desperately, without obvious success, for a hot-button issue (gay marriage? flag-burning?) that could mobilize conservative "base" voters. But is it possible they've now found one hiding in plain sight--a tough anti-illegal immigration bill?
Immigration has several characteristics that suggest it's a good locomotive for GOP victory in November: 1) Voters say it's an important issue; 2) A majority wants some sort of border-control action; 3) The GOP base feels intensely about it; 4) Many Congressional Democrats are--by ideology or interest group pressure--locked in to a pro-immigrant, non-tough stance (or if they strike a tough pose it seems just that). In all these respects, immigration resembles welfare reform, a key hot-button base-mobilizing issue for Republicans in the 1994 midterms. ...
Kaus goes to query the conventional wisdom on the forthcoming Mid-Term Classic:
Short-term and long-term objections. Short term: President Bush favors a relatively generous approach, proposing a "guest worker" program that would be available illegals already here. Since Bush is his party's leader, isn't his position the GOP position? Long term: Republicans worry that if they angrily crack down on border enforcement--without adding provisions for guest workers or legalization of existing illegals, they'll lose the growing Latino vote for a generation (as California Republicans are said to have lost the state's Latino vote after Gov. Pete Wilson's anti-illegal Prop. 187 in 1994). But there are answers to each objection.
Kaus examines the playbook with both short and long-term solutions to what Gov. Bill Richardson thinks is the most important issue of the 21st century:
Short term: These are the mid-term elections, remember--not the presidential. Are Republican Congressional candidates really incapable of getting out a message to their base that they are tough on illegals, even if Bush is not? One effective way to do that would be to, er, actually pass a tough enforcement-only bill!
Long term: As for losing the Latino vote, there may be method in the current mad GOP disarray. The method is to let the President set the general, generous tone of the party, while local GOP officeholders run as get-tough individuals. Precisely because Bush, not Congress, leads the party, what he says should have the greater impact on its long-term profile. By praising the illegal immigrant work ethic while taking a compromising, high-minded policy line he might at least avoid permanently alienating Latinos. Meanwhile, GOP House candidates wage local campaigns in which they identify with prevailing anti-illegal sentiment--getting themselves reelected while doing a minimum of damage to the party's national image.
The Repubs have to let the country know that they stand for something besides earmarks and national security. Illegal Immigration is a good place for Roland to sound his horn. With the illegals now claiming they built the WTC and mouthing other preposterous hilarious imbecilities, there is a good chance that Dean/Reid/Pelosi will again demonstrate the chronic ineptitude of the American left.