Trouble on the Fringe.
A couple of weeks ago, during immigration week, I wondered about why the GOP would actually take up the legislation. It's a great piece of wedge politics rhetorically: you can subtlely play to racists, the panicked, and low-wage hungry corporations.
This is perhaps one of the main reasons the right are so exercised by the immigration issue. As long as no legislation is on the table, it's a great issue--it unites everyone behind an opaque, fuzzy issue. But it emerges instantly as a wedge for the right when any legislation comes out because either the security hawks, the business lobby, or the isolationist/racist wing loses.The chickens are coming home to roost. Republicans are their own poison pill: left to draft the kind of legislation they really want, they come up with Social Security and Medicare "reform," laws to protect Terri Schiavo, and an immigration bill that criminalizes harboring illegals in a church. The messianic impulse that kept the GOP united, focused, and dominant the past twelve years is now driving the party over the cliff.
The House immigration bill is a case in point. A CNN poll found that 70% of Americans are sympathetic to illegal immigrants. According to a Pew poll, only 21% of Americans think immigration are a serious security risk. That same poll found that Latinos are viewed positively by 80% of respondents. The overheated rhetoric and overreaching legislation--it never had a chance to get through the Senate--is causing massive blowback.
In the wake of this week's massive demonstrations, many House Republicans are worried that a tough anti-illegal-immigration bill they thought would please their political base has earned them little benefit while becoming a lightning rod for the fast-growing national movement for immigrant rights....Not only have the Republicans not pushed through radical, draconian law, but they appear to have opened a Pandora's box that will force them to actually make concessions.
The politics of the issue have shifted markedly since the House acted. Republican lawmakers are increasingly saying they will now consider some avenue to grant illegal immigrants access to lawful employment.
This is good news for all the obvious reasons, but it may have implications for November, too. the base has always stayed in line because they were fed a constant thin gruel of rhetoric that the GOP wasn't in a position to act on (overturning Roe, for example). But now the Republicans are actually trying to make good, and they can't. If this is sufficiently dispiriting, the radical fringe in the GOP base may actually, finally, lose a little of their energy. In November, if the casual Republicans are enervated, the base is enervated, and only the habitual Republicans stay in line, we could actually see serious change.
I have been so wrong for so long about what the right-wing fringe will do that this doesn't rise to the level of even thoughtful speculation. Call it a thought experiment. But a pleasant thought it is...