While the GOP is still far from dependable on the issue, the Democratic Party supports mass immigration with a unanimity rarely glimpsed outside North Korea or black neighborhoods on Election Day.
The House recently voted 216-192 to bar the president from using “deferred action” to enact administrative Amnesty. [Republicans Vote to End DACA After Tense Floor Debate (Video), by Emma Dumain, Roll Call, August 1, 2014] This was an important symbol. The Senate will not pass the bill, and even if they did, President Obama would veto it. Nonetheless, it forced Congressmen to put themselves on record in an election year: did they support administrative Amnesty or not?
With the exception of four people, all the Democrats said they did.
The four dissenters —John Barrow (GA), Mike McIntyre (NC), Collin Peterson (MN), and Nick Rahall (WV)—are among the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents. [Exclusive: GOP Targets Seven House Democrats It Calls Vulnerable, by Alex Roarty, National Journal, January 16, 2013] Indeed, facing tough polls, McIntyre has already announced his resignation.
Take another example. Every single Democrat in the Senate, including “moderates” like Jon Tester of Montana, voted in favor of the Gang of Eight’s Amnesty/ Immigration Surge last year.
This situation is a dramatic departure from the progressive past. Liberal Democrats like Gaylord Nelson and Eugene McCarthy were consistent proponents of immigration control. And more Democrats than Republicans voted against the 1965 Immigration Act and the 1986 Amnesty.
Of course, there are caveats. The South, which was still overwhelmingly Democratic at the time, provided almost all of the opposition to the 1965 Immigration Act. Furthermore, some of the Democrats who voted against the 1986 Amnesty, such as Ted Kennedy, justified their vote because they opposed the enforcement provisions (which as we know were ignored anyway).
But that said, Democratic politicians were just as likely, if not more likely, to support immigration control until the 1990s—when the issue reemerged as part of the culture war. After California’s Proposition 187, Republicans became the relatively restrictionist party.
Despite this, Democrats such as Texas’ Rep. Barbara Jordan helped lead the fight for patriotic immigration reform in the 1990s.
9/11 was one of the factors that changed the immigration conversation. As immigration patriots focused more on the national security implications of immigration rather than income inequality and sustainable population growth, the issue became more closely identified with the Republicans.
By the time immigration became a major issue during Bush’s second term, Jordan had died, Clinton and Feinstein endorsed Amnesty, and Harry Reid called his past immigration patriotism the “biggest mistake I ever made.” [An immigration push Reid regrets, by Jon Ralston, Las Vegas Sun, July 21, 2010]
Still, even into the 21st century some Democrats still moderately opposed mass immigration.
Still, before Nancy Pelosi had to relinquish the Speaker’s gavel, she gave the historic American nation a parting shot by trying to push through the DREAM Act Amnesty. Even in 2010, 38 House Democrats voted against it. [House sends DREAM Act to Senate, by Scott Wong, Politico, December 8, 2010] Five Senate Democrats joined in opposition. [DREAM Act dies in Senate, by Scott Wong and Shira Toeplitz, Politico, December 18, 2010]
Contrast that to the current environment.
Barring the election of some previously unknown Democrat who opposes mass immigration, there will be no anti-Amnesty Democrats in the Senate, and three or less in the House, in the next Congress. .
What does this mean?
After all, one year ago practically the entire Republican Party was openly in favor of Amnesty. Today, at least rhetorically, they are opposed to it. This didn’t happen because rich donors changed their positions or because politicians suddenly developed integrity. It was because polls showed that Republican voters cared more about immigration than Obamacare—and proved it by replacing pro-Amnesty politicians like Eric Cantor with immigration patriots like David Brat.
We can mourn the loss of the immigration patriot blue dog Democrats. But we should rejoice if it leads to the rise of the patriotic, National Conservative, Republicans.
Washington Watcher [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway