Democrats get this, some Republicans don’t: You have to satisfy your base. In 2012 Obama built out from his base, satisfying them enough on ObamaCare and then using wedge issues to build out from the base and attract low-information voters. He used the Zimmerman/Martin case to shore up support among black voters, he used the “war on women” and “free” contraception to shore up younger women’s votes, and he used Obama phones and welfare to draw out new voters who had not been engaged before. It wasn’t any single strategy but the combination of all of them that helped him eek out the win.
Republicans haven’t learned anything from 2012. Passing the Rubio-Schumer bill is an excellent way for Republicans to throw the 2014 election and grant Barack Obama unchecked power during his last two years in office.
The GOP base worked hard to win elections for people like Marco Rubio. When he ran for Senate in 2010, Rubio promised Republicans that he was against amnesty, for border security first. That’s turned out to have been a lie. He supports legalization first, and border security eventually. We may as well have elected Charlie Crist. What was the point of electing Rubio, now? He has become the Democrats’ most powerful weapon against the Republican Party.
James Pethokoukis argues that the immigration bill will not create millions of new Democrat voters in a swoop. Maybe it won’t, immediately, but there is no denying that between legalization, the path to citizenship and chain migration, it will create millions of new Democrat voters eventually. But there is a more immediate threat to the GOP lurking in the bill.
Republican base voters feel betrayed not just by Rubio, but by Dean Heller, Jan Brewer, Bob Corker and many other former party and Tea Party stars. They’re all morphing into Democrats on ObamaCare or immigration, or in Brewer’s case, both. You can’t trust any of them. So why work hard to elect them, donate to them, and vote for them? What’s the point of handing dishonest politicians power that they will only use against you?
Who are Republican voters supposed to trust? The senators we trusted to push back against Obama are joining him. Many of them are not standing up to Obama’s surveillance state or prioritizing getting answers in the IRS scandal or Benghazi. They’re going to pass an immigration bill that hands him a massive victory and may wipe those scandals out.
A party that wishes to remain viable must satisfy its base and build out from it. If Republicans pass this bill, the party’s base will be dispirited and fractured. In fact it already is — witness the lack of enthusiasm for Republican Gabriel Gomez going into the Massachusetts special Senate election. Ordinarily base Republicans would be fired up to take such an important seat. Gomez is a fine man but he’s for legalization. He isn’t generating much enthusiasm because he looks like a sellout in advance. On the other hand, at least he’s more honest than Marco Rubio has turned out to be. That’s something I guess, but not enough to get people in Iowa to turn pour out their hearts to help you win.