Lindsey Graham poised to sell out to Chuck Schumer on immigration reform

When the smarmiest Senate Democrat and the smarmiest Senate Republican sit down for talks on an issue of fundamental importance to the nation, and to the future of conservatism, conservatives should be very scared. When the smarmy Democrat is Chuck Schumer, a shrewd partisan, and the smarmy Republican is Lindsay Graham, a squish who gets his kicks from cooperating with Democrats, conservatives should panic.

Schumer’s objectives in the negotiations are clear: to reach a deal that will enable the Democrats (1) to cement their position as the Party that dragged reluctant Republicans into a breakthrough immigration deal, thereby keeping the Dems’ promise to Hispanics and (2) to cement his Party’s future success by bringing millions of reliable Democratic voters into American politics.

Graham’s objective is also clear. He wants to ensure his status as a star legislator who is able to broker bipartisan deals that address the nation’s most important problems.

It’s obvious which Party will emerge as the winner in these negotiations.

But we don’t have to infer the nature of the impending deal from the character of the dealmakers. We know what a Schumer-Graham deal will look like because we’ve seen their plan before. As the National Journal reports, it would purport to strengthen border security and enforcement of immigration laws by toughening punishment for businesses that hire illegal workers; require fraud-proof Social Security cards to prevent hiring of workers who lack them; create a temporary worker program; and set a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country.

The only meaningful part of the upcoming Schumer-Graham deal is the path to citizenship. Employer sanctions don’t work, not because the penalties are insufficient but because neither political party (the pro-illegal immigrant one or the pro-business one) has an interest in punishing businesses that hire illegals. By contrast, both parties have a strong interest in protecting the border from threats to our national security. Thus, accomplishing this objective doesn’t require a grand immigration bargain.

As for the path to citizenship, it will, over time, ensure that the Republican Party ceases to exist as a conservative force. If Republicans think it’s difficult to win elections now without veering to the center, wait until millions of new low income voters enter the electorate.

In fact, the injection of these voters might well sink the Republican Party altogether, since the Party’s turn away from conservatism will likely give rise to a third party. Alternatively, Republicans will limp along as a “me-too” party that loses more often than it wins.

I don’t doubt that such a future is okay with Lindsey Graham, who isn’t much of a conservative and who regards himself as above Party. Graham’s name will be on landmark legislature and he will have been at the center of an historic, bipartisan deal, and that’s what matters most to him.

I would once again call Lindsey Graham the Arlen Specter of the South, but to do so now would dishonor a dead man.