Here's the way the media see things. "House Republican Flailing Over Border Bill Drags On," from Daily Kos. "House GOP Abandons Border Crisis Bill Amid Conservative Opposition," from Talking Points Memo. The New York Times writes:
Many Republicans worried that leaving for the break without passing any border legislation would be damaging to them politically in the midterm elections, and vowed to stay as long as was necessary to reach a compromise within their own ranks.
The House may pass some kind of bill, but the meme, among some smart journalists, rests on some questionable assumptions.
One, that Republicans want to make a constructive response to the "border crisis" of the moment. Two, that the GOP is terrified that it must address this and other immigration issues or lose the future to changing demographics. Thus, failure to "do something" is a Republican defeat. Three, that there is a split within the Republican Party that has any real meaning.
I addressed the third point in a previous post. Today, I want to explore the first two assumptions.
Anyone who has been paying attention to Arizona politics for the past decade understands the reality of Republican border and immigration politics.
Sowing fear of immigrants, particularly illegal Hispanic immigrants, has proved highly profitable for the GOP. This is not only true in Arizona, where no political price was paid for SB 1070 and Arpaio's "sweeps," but nationally in the states of the New Confederacy. In fact, the result was increased political power.
There is no small amount of hypocrisy and cynicism in GOP calculations. But the party's stance — whatever the theater of "internal divisions" — appeals to deep-seated fears among its base of whites, and especially older whites.
Some are bigots. Others don't even realize they are pushing for continued white supremacy. Still others use illegal immigration and a "browner" America as a proxy for the destruction of the middle class. Here, the Republicans have masterfully shifted the focus of rage away from the real culprits: the oligarchy and bad policies such as tax cuts, federal austerity and bad trade deals.
So even if some Republican strategists and (quietly) a few pols would prefer a more constructive approach, doing so would alienate the base. And in a party whose policies are mostly out of touch with a majority of potential voters, the energizes base is all important.
As as result, I have always been skeptical of the notion that Republicans must join Democrats and President Obama in "comprehensive immigration reform." The status quo is better for Republicans (and many of their business allies that like a cheap and fearful illegal immigrant workforce). Serious concerns and tradeoffs involving immigration and border issues are lost amid all the WHAT PART OF ILLEGAL DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND!!! fever.
Similarly, the media conceit that Republicans will go the way of the Whigs if they don't make concessions to attract Hispanic voters isn't convincing. Everything from gerrymandered state legislative and U.S. House districts to voter suppression measures and hapless Democrats ensure that Republicans can keep de facto control for many years to come.
Two consecutive presidential election losses has done nothing to cause more than a handful of GOP wonks to take stock. The party has become more extreme. And its tight discipline and true-believer dogma makes it effective. It can destroy every Obama policy initiative — and then blame Obama for getting nothing done. Apparently a majority of Americans believe them.