There’s cause for alarm as Rubio makes headway with Limbaugh on immigration reform

Yesterday, Rush Limbaugh said of comprehensive immigration reform, “I don’t know that there’s any stopping this; it’s up to me and Fox News, and I don’t think Fox News is that invested in this.” After Limbaugh’s interview today with Marco Rubio, I wonder how invested Limbaugh is in stopping the comprehensive immigration reform express.

Rubio has been designated by the Senate’s immigration leftists — Schumer, Durbin, McCain, and Graham — as the man who will sell to conservatives their agenda of amnesty and a path to citizenship for illegal aliens. Rubio appears to have done a good sale’s job on Limbaugh.

Rush started out by asking a great question:

The first question I have for you is, why are we doing this? It seems like Washington has a pattern, and that is, when the Democrats want to do something, the media gets behind it, the Democrats get behind it, and it becomes something that has to be done and therefore the Democrats set the stage, they start the ball in motion. The Republicans then react to it, say, “Okay, that’s what you want to do, we’ll do it, but here’s our way of doing it.” Why are we doing this now?

Rubio answered:

The president clearly outlined that he was gonna push on this, the media was gonna focus on this, the Senate Democrats were gonna push on this issue, and I thought it was critically important that we outline the principles of what reform is about. . . .In the absence of stepping forward with our own principles, the left and the president will tell people what we stand for, and it’s not necessarily gonna be true.

This is fine as far as it goes — Republicans should define their position rather than having it defined for them. However, this begs the question of what the Republican position on immigration should be. In Rubio’s mind, as in the mind of Schumer, Durbin, McCain, and Graham, reform should include, among other things, a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

But, as Rush asked, Why? Of course, the Democrats were always going to push for citizenship for illegals — it’s a vital element of their plan to obtain permanent political supremacy. But Republicans need not capitulate. The House can block whatever the Senate Democrats push; even Senate Republicans could do so if they were united. With Rubio on board with the Dems, however, it will be politically difficult for even the House to avoid the amnesty/path to citizenship steamroller.

Thus, Rush’s question stands: Why capitulate on amnesty and the path to citizenship?

Unfortunately, Rush didn’t press the point. Instead, he raised the separate concern of how to make sure that the border enforcement component of the deal Rubio is pushing — amnesty and a path for citizenship once the border is secure — will be fulfilled. The question is an important one to be sure, but it assumes that amnesty and a path to citizenship would be meritorious outcomes if the border were secured. But why? Rubio didn’t say and Rush didn’t ask.

Instead, Rubio touted his supposed powers of persuasion:

I am confident, I really am, maybe people don’t share this confidence, I am confident that, given a fair chance, I can convince most Americans, including Americans of Hispanic descent, that limited government and free enterprise is better for them and better for their upward mobility than Big Government is. Because that’s the reason why they came here. You look at people that come from Latin America. They come to get away from stale stagnant economies where the rich keep winning and everybody else keeps working for them because Big Government dominates those economies.

Rush was skeptical:

Well, is that the reason that a majority of immigrants come to this country today? I know it used to be. They wanted to be Americans. They wanted to escape oppression. They wanted to become citizens of the greatest country on earth. I’ve seen a number of research, scholarly research data, which says that a vast majority of arriving immigrants today come here because they believe that government is the source of prosperity, and that’s what they support. It’s not about conservative principles and so forth, not the way it used to be. Are the Republicans stuck in the past in misjudging why the country is attractive to immigrants today?

Rush might have added that even the immigrants of the past supported a leftist, big government agenda for many decades after arriving in America. But Rush was certainly spot-on in refusing to romanticize today’s immigrants.

Rubio responded by resorting to anecdote. Even he didn’t seem convinced by his response:

I haven’t done a scholarly study on the makeup. I can only tell you about the people I interact with, and I can tell you the folks I interact with, once they get into this country and they start to work and they open up their own business, they start to understand the cost of Big Government. I see it every day firsthand from people that have been here about eight to ten years. All of a sudden, they have their own business, they have a bunch of permits that they have to comply with, a bunch of complicated laws. Their taxes just went up a couple of weeks ago even though President Obama has been saying it’s only gonna go up on the rich, and the light bulb is going off that, in fact, Big Government, you know, rich means them even though they’re middle class and Big Government means less opportunity for them. So we have work to do, there’s no doubt about it.

Rubio’s personal observations do not trump the data. Hispanic immigrants vote overwhelmingly for the party of big government. The Republican position on immigration reform probably contributes to this phenomenon at the margin, but it can’t explain it. The waves of immigrants who preceded the Hispanics also voted overwhelmingly for big government liberalism, and for the same reason — they were a resentful underclass.

Rush switched the focus to President Obama. He argued that the president has no real interest in achieving border security.

This enabled Rubio to tout the Gang of Eight, whose blueprint for reform includes improving border security. Rush countered that this will not prevent the Democrats from calling the Republicans anti-Hispanic if they block reform on the grounds that it won’t bring about real border security.

Here, I think Rush misses the game the game of “good cop, bad cop” the Democrats are playing. Obama is the bad cop — the pro-immigration extremist. Schumer and Durbin are the good cops, insisting on (faux) border security. Obama will gladly take what the good cops are offering because it’s also what he craves — the path to a permanent Democrat political majority. Meanwhile, out of fear of the bad cop, Rubio and company probably will ultimately agree to what the good cops are insisting upon — that, by hook or by crook, the border is certified as secure so that millions of illegal immigrants can become citizens.

In any event, Rubio seemed to win Rush over:

Well, what you are doing is admirable and noteworthy. You are recognizing reality. You’re trumpeting it, you’re shouting it. My concern is the president wants to change the reality. My concern is the president wants people to believe something that isn’t true is, and that is that you guys are not being truthful of what you say, that you really don’t want an improved life for Hispanics, that you really are still racist. He’s not gonna give that up. Look how far he’s gotten with this so far. You know, it’s an enviable task that you’ve got.

Rush seems to be suggesting that Republicans should support legislation that includes amnesty and a path to citizenship in order to rebut Obama’s claims that Republicans are racist. In my view, Republicans shouldn’t be cowed into supporting bad ideas in order to avoid charges that the Democrats will always level, based on one pretense or another, against them.

Rush’s next-to-last question was: “What do you think the result will be if this effort fails?” For me, the more pertinent question is: What will be result be if Rubio’s effort to bring about amnesty and a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants succeeds?

One result, I believe, will be the inability, for decades, of the Republican party to win more than the odd election as a conservative entity.

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