But Obama is still vulnerable on one issue—immigration. Obama’s lowest ratings are on immigration, with voters disapproving by a 56-42% margin [Obama Job Approval Poll: Illegal Immigration Is Most Unpopular Issue With Americans, by Howard Koplowitz, International Business Times, February 9, 2015]. And almost all of this opposition is coming from immigration patriots. After all, prior to his Executive Amnesty, many pro-Open Borders voters could have thought he was insufficiently favorable to illegal immigration, but this can hardly be said to still be the case.
Yet Republicans need to look at the rest of the polling data in order to understand the political terrain. The vast majority of Americans appear to want more cooperation between the Administration and the GOP. Ominously for the GOP, more people blame Congressional Republicans for conflict than blame the President. Only 49% of voters believe Obama compromises “too little” with Congressional Republicans, while 66% believe Republicans compromise “too little” with Obama.
These findings—which are consistent with most other polls—create a dilemma for immigration patriots in the fight to defund Obama’s Executive Amnesty [Few See Quick Cure for Nation’s Political Divisions, Pew Research Center, December 11, 2014]. Even though Obama is vulnerable on immigration, how can the Congress block the Amnesty without voters blaming them as “obstructionist”?
Simply opposing the President on everything is not a promising strategy. President Obama announced his Executive Amnesty last November, after the Democrats had lost the election, but before the GOP majority assumed power in the Senate. Many immigration patriots wanted the GOP to refuse to pass any budget which did not defund the Amnesty. However, given that the Democrats controlled the Senate until January, this could only have resulted in a government shutdown.
As a compromise measure, the GOP agreed to fund the government through this September, with the exclusion of the Department of Homeland Security. Since DHS implements Obama’s Amnesty, it was only funded through February [Deal reached on $1.01 trillion spending bill, by Ed O’Keefe, Washington Post, December 9, 2014]. The idea was to allow the GOP majority to threaten a mini-shutdown of DHS once they were in power. And the Republican House has now passed a bill that would fund the DHS except for what is required to implement Amnesty. Of course, Senate Democrats are filibustering the bill in the Senate and Obama says he will veto it [Republicans still stymied despite Senate control, by William Douglas, The Fresno Bee, February 10, 2015].
Senate Republicans are trying to blame the Democrats for not voting for their DHS Bill and argue that they are willing to compromise. Patrick Toomey argued: “We’ve got a bill that fully funds the Department of Homeland Security. In fact, it’s an increase over last year’s funding. It funds every portion of it. I think the American people are going to demand that the Democrats actually take up the bill” [GOP Meltdown: Republicans Battle Each Other On Immigration, Homeland Security Funding, by Ginger Gibson, International Business Times, February 6, 2015]
The problem with this theory: DHS funding is not popular among the Left. While Democrats are currently shrieking about how any small reduction in DHS operations during the “shutdown” will imperil national security, the truth is that they really do not care about the Department except for when it implements Amnesty. Giving extra funding to it does not seem like compromise to the Democrats.
Of course, it’s not actually unreasonable for the GOP simply to defund Amnesty with no strings attached. After all, when he first announced his actions, President Obama declared: “To those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: pass a bill.” No doubt he meant just pass a bill that confirms his Amnesty, but defunding Amnesty is still “a bill.”
DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson argued: "If people in Congress want to have that debate about immigration reform, let's have that debate. But don't tie that to public safety and homeland security for the American people."
But by enacting Amnesty by fiat, it is President Obama who has reduced meaningful debate in Congress to defunding it.
Yet as reasonable as this seems on paper, I believe the political reality is that Republicans need to avoid simply being seen as picking a fight with the President. And unfortunately, while Republicans thought that, by limiting the defunding debate to DHS, they wouldn’t seem as “obstructionist,” they have instead allowed DHS and other Democrats to pretend protecting Amnesty is about “public safety and homeland security.”
Many immigration patriots, including many at VDARE.com, criticized the GOP not shutting down the government over Amnesty last year. However, I don’t think deferring the fight until Republicans had the majority in the Senate was a mistake in itself. A government shutdown would not have actually blocked implementation of the Executive Amnesty any more than will “shutting down” DHS [Fact Check: What happens if Homeland Security shuts down? By Erica Werner and Alicia Caldwell, Associated Press, February 8, 2015]. It simply would have tied immigration control with unpopular Republican obstructionism.
The real mistake was funding the rest of the government through September rather than having the new GOP Congress deal with it. If Congress were debating the entire budget, they could have coupled defunding the Executive Amnesty with approving one of Obama’s pet projects. This is no longer an option.
However, the GOP Congressional leadership could still offer to tie compromising on other issues with defunding Amnesty. For example, in an attempt to appeal to working and middle class workers, the President has argued for raising taxes on upper income voters and increasing the national minimum wage. Both of these proposals are popular among voters, but mass immigration depresses wages and increases income inequality, rendering them both meaningless in terms of policy.
The GOP could now offer to pass one of these “pro-middle class” Obama policies in conjunction with a bill to defund and prevent any Executive Amnesty. This will show they are willing to compromise, while forcing the President to either defund the Amnesty or tell voters he cares more about his unpopular immigration stance than his more popular positions on the minimum wage or tax cuts.
It will also allow the Republican Party to reposition itself as a defender of working class voters against the regressive economic effects of mass immigration.
But however popular or successful a strategy this would be, we already know the Republican Party won’t do it. Why not? Because measures to reduce income inequality or raise wages are far more unpopular among the Republicans’ donor class than Amnesty. Indeed, to many GOP donors, the income inequality and low wages that result from mass immigration are benefits, not problems.
Nonetheless, the patriotic immigration reform movement is a political actor in its own right. It needs to decouple itself from many of the GOP’s unpopular positions. This requires greater political sophistication and a refusal to fall for the usual Conservatism Inc. talking points about higher wages or higher upper class tax rates being akin to Socialism.
The Republican Party should be willing to compromise on some of its more plutocratic economic policies. But patriots can never let the GOP compromise on the most important issue facing our country: the existential threat posed by out-of-control mass immigration.
Washington Watcher [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway