Someone smart wrote this in early 2007.
At its heart the GOP has two basic camps* – business conservatives who bankroll the party and the social conservatives/theocons who staff it. In that light one could say the towering achievement of Bush’s term as POTUS was that he defied the centrifugal forces of majority power and held the GOP’s unlikely coalition together as firmly and as long as he did. If so, his towering failure will undoubtedly be his adamant support of this immigration bill.
I have tried for days to think of something that could wedge the social cons apart from the business cons than immigration but I just can’t do it. The Chamber of Commerce loves our current system because one can pay illegals practically nothing and they will thank you for it. In their view any fix to the current system has to keep bringing in large numbers of people with poor language skills (can’t have them reading those OSHA flyers on the wall) and a weak bargaining position, e.g. guest workers. Otherwise Americans had better get ready to start paying more for hotel beds, restaurant meals and packed meats.
The key problem is that the thing that the business cons need more than anything is exactly what the social cons desperately want to end. This issue has no conceivable middle ground because the social cons want less of precisely the same thing that business cons need more of. The historical calm between these two camps lasted and could only last as long as party leaders had the good sense to keep the issue off the front burner altogether. Any move to change the status quo would necessarily set off contrary demands that could easily spiral into open warfare.
Pushing immigration now was a dumb move by Bush, but it was far dumber than I think most people realize. Hilzoy has argued that the immigration is really a convenient outlet for Republicans to vent their deeper disappointment over issues J through Z, and I’m sure that there is plenty of that, but I think that the president’s screwup is more profound than Hilzoy lets on. The president’s party is reeling from Iraq, rudderless and lacking in leadership at any level, facing political losses as bad or worse than 2006, and now his own mulish push on immigration has lit the fuse on a wedge-shaped charge** that could split the party in two.
(*) There are two kind of people in the world: those who see two kinds of people in the world and those who don’t.
The GOP can’t keep reallocating money upwards if they rule over a rabid but shrinking demographic of white people. Karl Rove knows that rich people need latinos. Marcio Rubio bloody well knows it, for all the good it did him. FOX News keeps those rabid white folks voting, but it also keeps them rabid. You could point at a lot of ways the GOP painted themselves into this corner but I think immigration is the alpha and omega of their problems.
And now they have the perfect wedge-shaped charge. He doesn’t tap dance. He doesn’t give a crap what the Chamber o’ Commerce wants. For rabid white FOX viewers the guy is all dessert, all the time. At this point I suspect he really could win the nomination, but overall I take that as a good omen. Those rabid white folks already vote. But latinos don’t vote, not in anywhere near their potential numbers. I think the idea of a country ruled by Trump will give latino Americans all the reason to show up in November.
Remember the first rule of politics: once a new voter starts voting they keep voting. And party loyalty is a potent thing.