Immediately after losing the 2012 presidential election, Republican pundits and consultants — the very same ones who had laid out the losing strategy — declared the GOP would need to embrace amnesty for illegal aliens in order to win over the Latino vote and assure future Republican victory.
A look at recent history indicates their declaration was not only misguided but downright wrong.
In 2010 a little-known young state politician named Marco Rubio decided to run against a popular sitting governor for the Republican nomination for a U.S. Senate seat in Florida. He painted himself as a true conservative and mocked those who would provide a “pathway to citizenship,” saying with contempt in his voice, “A pathway to citizenship is just another way of saying amnesty.” His strong opposition cemented his conservative credentials and Mr. Rubio was elected to the Senate by a wide margin.
Mr. Rubio’s conservative image, natural charisma and seemingly strong stance on issues catapulted him onto the national stage almost immediately, and within three years of going to Washington he consistently sat atop Republican polls as potential presidential timber. Just a couple of months after the 2012 GOP defeat, Time magazine even went so far as to put Mr. Rubio and its cover and label him “The Republican Savior.”
In 2013 however, Mr. Rubio became the face of the Gang of Eight, a bipartisan group of senators who pushed amnesty for millions of illegals. Their efforts were thwarted by a GOP House and Mr. Rubio’s numbers tanked. His popularity fell so far, so fast that as the 2016 presidential cycle begins, Mr. Rubio barely registers in most national polls in the low single digits. Amnesty for illegal immigrants was clearly not the path to political popularity.
Immigration policy was far from being ignored as a campaign issue however. In 2014, Republican candidates ran aggressively opposed to Barack Obama’s proposed changes to immigration law. They wouldn’t support legislation, they said, and would do all in their power to assure he couldn’t do an executive order end-run. Such a thing wasn’t legal and they simply wouldn’t allow it. The public loved the strong stand. Republicans built their biggest majority in generations in the House and gained nine seats and the majority in the Senate. Standing up for law and order, it seemed, was ballot-box gold.
Despite the clear support of the American public for the stand against amnesty in the 2014 elections and the obvious damage to Mr. Rubio, the tone-deaf GOP leadership caved in almost immediately to President Obama on the issue. Unable to stand up to the president and unwilling to keep their word to the voters, Congress funded his program in its entirety. It provides up to $24,000 in taxpayer-funded goodies annually to illegals, including Social Security benefits.
Republican centrists operate under the false premise that support for amnesty and benefits for illegals will bring the Latino community flocking to the right for years to come. This ignores the fact that among Latino registered voters Democrats lead Republicans by more than a 2-1 margin. It ignores the positive results of the strong stand in the 2014 elections and ignores the Rubio effect when he flip-flopped his position on amnesty. It ignores how livid conservatives, the heart and soul of the Republican Party, are about the GOP collapse on the issue.
It ignores reality.
This week Republican leaders have been selling the line that now isn’t the time for a fight on illegal immigration. If not now, when? After millions are granted taxpayer funded benefits? More than amnesty is at stake. More than fiscal responsibility is at stake. No less than the U.S. Constitution and its clear separation of powers is at stake.
Politically speaking, the immediate future of the Republican Party is at stake as well. No backbone will translate to no victory.
Thank goodness for a judge in Texas who still believes in the Constitution. Considering those elected to represent our interests in Washington aren’t willing to do so, that judge may be the only hope.
Tim Constantine is the talk-radio host of “The Capitol Hill Show” and writes a column for The Washington Times. To contact Tim or to learn more visit TimConstantine.com.
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