I wrote this in 2007. If you want to know what happened with Trump, skim through.
I don’t have much passion one way or the other. Having to speak Spanish to get a decent wet burrito doesn’t bother me, I like cinco de Mayo and it strikes me as vaguely fair that our policy should help families stay together. America survived the Irish invasion, the Italian invasion, the Nordic/Germanic invasion, the slavic invasion, the (involuntary) African invasion and the Chinese invasion so it seems ludicrously insecure to think that one more will kill us. Whichever way they went on the issue the worst heat most Democrats are likely to face will come from David Broder.
But lord, what a tough spot for Republicans. 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 [better] 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.
Running hard on immigration is a brilliant way to win the primary. Nativist bigots make up the bigger half of the Republican party. The problem is that the same strategy becomes catastrophically stupid if you want to do anything other than win a GOP Presidential primary. It alienates everyone who is not a nativist bigot. It makes life especially hard for the Chamber of Commerce wing who need unregulated immigrants just as badly as the nativist bigots hate them. The funny thing is that the party exists and has always existed to serve the Chamber, more specifically the very wealthy people who own the businesses that keep the CoC funded. Since Lincoln died the one through line of GOP policy has and one expects always will be eliminating the inheritance tax, and then lower taxes for the very top, and then weaker regulations on financial transactions. After that comes less regulations on monopolies, polluting, whatever. Plutocrats only grabbed on to the bigot vote after Lyndon Johnson freed it up by embracing civil rights.
Maybe the bigots would some day figure out the scam, but right now we got to beat that Jimmy Carter guy. The tea party had all the pieces in place, but then the tea party turned out to be just another grift to squeeze money and votes from poor, desperate chumps terrified by bugbears on FOX. But the exploit was always there. You just needed someone desperate, stupid or crazy enough to use it. You needed someone who maybe stumbled on the exploit by accident, and had enough independent money to survive the Chamber folks desperately trying to shut him down.
“The party of Reagan was the party that had coalitions that worked seamlessly together,” GOP strategist John Feehery said. “What Donald Trump has identified is a party that is literally splitting apart between the donor class and the working class parts of the party.”
Whether or not Trump prevails in November, the GOP is set for a rebuilding process like none in recent memory.
The GOP is set for debuilding in 2017. The bigots figured out the exploit. Pandora is not going to un-open that box.