Jennifer Rubin begins her latest on the RNC’s report in this way:
The reaction to the Republican National Committee’s after-action report has been telling. Anti-immigration activists don’t like the suggestion that comprehensive reform is needed, even if the content of that reform is left entirely blank in its report. In other words, whatever might lessen the barrier to minorities they oppose. Okey-dokey.
So, opposing what we’ve all seen pushed as “comprehensive immigration reform” over the years, which generally involves putting people who’ve broken the law ahead of those who haven’t while never addressing real border security, makes you a racist? Okey-dokey.
Actually, not. “Comprehensive immigration reform” generally includes two things: Some form of slow or fast amnesty with a pathway to full citizenship for those who have broken our laws, and promises for security that are never delivered. That in mind, Rubin’s paragraph is a disgraceful smear of well-meaning folk who do not trust the Democrats based on their rhetoric and record, and have been burned by the GOP’s establishment in the past, on this issue and others. It’s not difficult at all to see why the Washington Post keeps her around. After that paragraph, designed to stir up anger, the rest of her article is useless except as a weapon for the left, who will use it to say “See, even the Post’s token Republican agrees that her own party is full of racists!” Thanks for that…
Setting the smear aside, it’s awful politics. “Alienating what’s left of your dispirited base is great politics,” said no one, ever, who has any idea what they’re talking about or has ever contemplated what it really takes to build a winning coalition. If you want to persuade someone to your point of view, it’s unhelpful to insult them right off the top.
So, no, I’m not trying to persuade Rubin of anything here. I’m offering an alternative point of view.
My second take on the GOP’s Opportunity report is that it’s as unserious on immigration policy as Rubin is. It discusses strategies and math, but buzzes over the former and never does the latter. For instance, as Ramesh Ponnuru points out, the authors never contemplate what impact embracing “comprehensive immigration reform,” in whatever form, will have on the party’s grassroots and turnout. Will more of them stick with the party, or stay home, if the party moves in a direction that they do not support? Will they become more fervent activists, stay the same, or offer less of their services, if the party does something that they consider to be unwise? The report never makes any attempt to figure that out. It never examines the trade-offs involved. Isn’t that kind of important — not just the content of the policy, but its political impact? The report’s authors seem willing to trade sure-thing base votes for iffy votes from independents and soft Democrats based on an unwritten policy. Whether this can really be a winning strategy is very debatable. You don’t generally destroy the foundation of a house before you add onto it, at least not if you want it to remain standing for very long. You certainly don’t start the project without a plan, unless you’re either a savant or an idiot. Which of the two tend to dominate Washington?
Political parties are, fundamentally, vehicles for enacting some policies and resisting others. Membership and activism are optional. People can always find something better to do that listen to yet another speech or go out knocking on doors. If Republican base voters see their party as surrendering on an issue that they believe will damage the country and the party, based on how that policy has been crafted and offered in the past, and choose to withdraw their support for the party based on its choice, they are not racists. They’re making a choice based on the party’s performance as a vehicle for policies they prefer.
If Jennifer Rubin thinks that calling people racists over serious policy differences helps, then she’ll find herself well-liked in certain elite circles within the Beltway. If those same elites follow her advice, the GOP will stand for nothing and become a rump party in short order.