Huelskamp's Moral: Key “Principle” That "Principled Conservatives" Need—Immigration Patriotism, i.e. Trump.
August 04, 2016, 05:47 PM
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Incumbent Tim Huelskamp just lost the Republican primary in Kansas’s First Congressional District to obstetrician Roger Marshall.  On the surface, this may seem a defeat for immigration patriots. But I think they should take a longer view.

Tim Huelskamp has a career ‘A’ rating from Numbers USA and reliably voted against Amnesty. In contrast, the Chamber of Commerce and other business lobbies backed Marshall, who said: “There has to be a pathway to at least have a job. I’m not ready to jump on the Amnesty bandwagon just yet, but we need to find a way to get these people into the system,” because “[w]e make it so hard for good people to become citizens” [Congressional challenger Roger Marshall supports paths for immigrants, block grants to replace ACA, by Justin Wingerter, Topeka Capital-Journal, July 16, 2015].

Some are calling this a “Waterloo for conservatives” [What conservatives are facing now is a Waterloo, by Garth Kant, WND, August 3, 2016], But paradoxically, I’m glad Huelskamp lost. Even though Marshall may well be useless in the House, he could well be harbinger for the political realignment that I have argued must occur if immigration patriotism is to have any political future.

Until recently, the immigration issue did not break down along party or ideological lines. Liberal Democrats like Gaylord Nelson and Richard Lamm and moderate Republicans like Alan Simpson and Pete Wilson led the charge for patriotic immigration reform. In the last decade, however, almost all elected Democrats have endorsed mass immigration, and most of the strongest immigration patriots in Congress are also Tea Party Republicans.

This has been a mixed blessing. Tying opposition to Amnesty to the boilerplate conservative agenda likely scared away many Republicans from supporting Amnesty for fear of a primary challenge. At the same time, conservative Republican positions on a host of issues from upper class tax cuts, outlawing abortion, and reducing entitlements are fairly unpopular among the general electorate. Regardless of what one’s personal views are on these issues, making immigration patriotism as part of package deal with them is an expensive proposition.

Then along came Donald Trump, who promoted immigration patriotism without even giving lip service to Conservatism Inc. slogans about limited government, the Constitution, or social conservatism. The only Congressional immigration hawks to support Trump during the primaries were men like Jeff Sessions, Scott Brown, Lou Barletta, and Duncan Hunter Jr., none of whom were fire breathing Tea Partiers on social or economic issues.

All of the strongest Tea Party immigration patriots in Congress not only supported Ted Cruz, but made personal attacks on Donald Trump. Indeed, they haven’t endorsed him even after Trump won the nomination.

For example:

  • During the primaries Mo Brooks said he would never endorse Trump because he was “serial adulter(er)” with "huge character flaws and who is dishonest," during the primaries. After Trump won, Brooks reluctantly said he would vote for “all of the Republicans on the ballot in November," but made it clear he still did not endorse Trump, meaning he was not willing to put "my reputation behind that person’s candidacy" say he's "all in" or help "them raise money...help them by volunteering, like I did with Ted Cruz" [ GOP congressmen back Trump with reservations, by Mary Troyan, Montgomery Advertiser, May 16, 2016]
  • Steve King served as chairman of Cruz’s campaign and accused Trump of buying endorsements from prominent conservatives, without any evidence. King made headlines at the GOP Convention for pointing out whites have contributed more to civilization than other races, which should be no more newsworthy than stating the sky is blue. The real news, however, is that he also still said he was not endorsing Trump yet because he could not “look at conservatives and my district state and country in the eye and say we can work with the Trump administration” [ Steve King says he's not ready—yet—to work with a Trump administration, by Elizabeth Llorente, Fox News Latino, July 20, 2016].
Brooks and King have earned so much good will from immigration patriots over the years that I’m not willing to throw them under the bus over their endorsements in one election, no matter how important it is. But the fact they cannot summon any enthusiasm for the first GOP presidential candidate who is against Amnesty and put immigrant patriotism at center of his campaign reveals a complete lack of priorities and strategic acumen. Especially when the excuses offered are Trump’s “foul language” and not being enough of a “constitutional conservative.”

Silent-Majority-Trump-Huelskamp

Tim Huelskamp followed this Tea Party/Never Trump mold. (The image on the right comes from a Rush Limbaugh transcript: Never Trump Republican Loses Primary, August 3, 2016). A rabid Cruz supporter, he continued to attack Trump even after he won the nomination, calling him "demeaning" to women," "crass" and "vulgar,” who would not appeal to “values voters” because he was insufficiently pro-life. Absurdly, he compared Trump to “insiders in Washington” and said Trump is not someone “who takes a stand" [Rep. Huelskamp: Trump Too 'All Over the Map' on Life Issues, by Cathy Burke, Newsmax, May 15, 2016].

Huelskamp eventually said in a debate with Marshall that he would vote for Trump, but also promised to fight him in office because “I have conservative principles, and I’m going to stand on those conservative principles. If you don’t have conservative principles, I will work against you.” In contrast, Marshall said that “I will support the president and work with him to get things done” [First duel between Huelskamp, Marshall shows contrast in political approach, by Gabriella Dunn, Wichita Eagle, June 27, 2016]

Moreover, unlike Brooks and King, Huelskamp hasn’t actually earned much goodwill from immigration patriots. He has not made any bad votes for Amnesty, but he has never taken any proactive steps to reduce legal immigration or end birthright citizenship. Nonetheless, he was certainly willing to create controversy and even shut down the government over less important issues like defunding Planned Parenthood and ending farm subsidies.

These stances engendered the enmity of the GOP Establishment and groups like the Chamber of Commerce. Moderate voters by themselves were not enough to defeat Huelskamp in a conservative Kansas district. However, the Trump supporters who overlooked (or didn’t know about) Marshall’s support for Amnesty, but appreciated his willingness to work with Trump, combined with the establishment vote, doomed Huelskamp and his “conservative principles.”

As I have noted before, the opportunistic GOP Establishment is more likely to embrace Trump and immigration patriotism when they realize it’s a winning option. Some have already taken notice. Thus Establishment Republican David Perdue defeated his more conservative primary opponent Jack Kingston by running on his right on immigration. Since assuming office, Perdue heroically blocked the nomination of Hispanic activist judge Dax Lopez based solely on his membership in the pro-amnesty National Association of Latino Election Officials [David Perdue blocks Latino judicial nominee, by Greg Bluestein, Atlanta Journal Constitution, January 20, 2016]

In 2012 Ted Cruz’s Establishment primary opponent David Dewhurst also tried to run to Cruz’s right on immigration. That was not successful then, but if he had support from Trump voters, he might well have won.

If Trump wins the presidency, he’ll need more pragmatic immigration patriots and less “True Conservative” Cruz loyalists in Congress who would rather lose on immigration than give up on their “principles” about pointless issues.

Roger Marshall is far from this ideal. But his defeat of Huelskamp shows how this can be done in the age of Trump.

Washington Watcher [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.