Of course they should. The one thing both sides in the immigration reform debate agree on is that the issue is a vital one. The legislative outcome, both sides correctly believe, will say much about what kind of a nation we are and what kind we will be.
If it’s a bad idea to challenge Republican incumbents in primaries based on their vote on such a crucial issue, then when is it appropriate to mount a primary challenge? Conservatives would basically be giving Republican incumbents a career-long pass, as long as they avoid sexually harassing congressional pages and tapping their feet in public restrooms.
Will pro-amnesty Republicans be “primaried”? It’s starting to look that some will be. The Tea Party, which has fueled past primary challenges, appears finally to have become aroused.
Moreover, Sean Hannity is now expressing deep skepticism about the Gang of Eight legislation and its amnesty-first variations. At least as importantly, he’s allowing strong opponents of amnesty express their view on his program. In the past two days, Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter both have done so. It doesn’t get much stronger than that.
Bill O’Reilly, by contrast, has come out in support of the Gang’s legislation, at least if it is amended by the Corker-Hoeven border security provisions. That’s fine, but it would be nice if O’Reilly had guests who took the opposing view. To my knowledge, he has not, though I confess rarely watching his show from beginning to end (I’m just not that into him). [NOTE: see update/correction below]
O’Reilly engages with nutty leftists like Marc Lamont Hill, so it shouldn’t be asking too much for him to debate amnesty with mainstream conservative thinkers and/or personalities. Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker has written that O’Reilly is collaborating with pro-amnesty Republican Senators. I don’t know about that, but he might as well be formally collaborating, given his behavior. [NOTE: see update/correction below]
However, if the Tea Party becomes fully engaged and Hannity allows debate on his program, this level of pot-stirring, coupled with what’s happening on conservative talk radio, should create a drumbeat sufficient to produce primary challenges next year, especially if amnesty-first legislation passes. And already, there is anecdotal evidence that conservatives finally are making their strong anti-amnesty views known to their representatives.
That’s really the name of the game. By the time primary season roles around, it may be too late.
UPDATE/CORRECTION: This post is unfair to Bill O’Reilly. In point of fact, he debated Laura Ingraham on his show last night. I tuned out during his interview with Gang of Eight member Jeff Flake. That’s excusable, I think, but I certainly should have watched the entire show if I was going to accuse O’Reilly of shunning debate on immigration. So I apologize to O’Reilly and commend him for having Ingraham on to debate immigration reform.
The good news is that Ingraham, Malkin, and Coulter have all appeared on Fox News’ top commentary programs in the past two days to attack amnesty legislation. This is the fair and balanced coverage of the issue we’ve been hoping for.