The Election That Could Have Been

2014 is shaping up as a pretty good year for the GOP, and I haven’t given up hope on the proverbial “wave.” But the conventional wisdom is that the opportunity for big gains is slipping away. I share that sense. To some extent, the cause is the Democrats’ overwhelming money advantage. But the Democrats always have more money, and it doesn’t always bail them out.

Pundits say that the Republicans have failed to nationalize the election, and I think that is correct. What this means is that Republican messages haven’t been consistent around the country so that voters see the election as turning on a few vital issues. Perhaps Republicans are suffering from an embarrassment of riches: in 2010 they rode a wave that consisted of Obamacare, with a little stimulus thrown in. This year the failures of the Obama administration, across both domestic and foreign policy, are so numerous that it is hard to focus on just one or two. Oddly, that fact may be helping the Democrats.

But in my view, there is one issue that, if Republicans had pushed it consistently on a nationwide basis, would have made 2014 a sweep of historic proportions. That issue is immigration. Not only is immigration itself a key issue in the minds of voters, and one on which a clear majority support the position held by most Republicans, but it also relates to some of the Democrats’ most significant failures in domestic policy. A firm, united stance on immigration would have allowed Republicans to position themselves in the minds of voters as the party that stands up for American workers. And, of course, our porous border also ties in with voters’ concerns about terrorism.

This chart was circulated a day or two ago by Jeff Sessions’ Budget Committee staff. It is almost childishly simple, but it illustrates vividly the dismal failure of the Obama administration on the issue Americans care about the most: jobs. Nearly one American in four, in the prime employment years of 25-54, isn’t working:

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This represents a policy failure the consequences of which will be with us for decades. Given the number of Americans who can’t find jobs–including recent college graduates in science and technology–the idea of legalizing millions of illegal immigrants and authorizing tens of millions of additional legal immigrants borders on the insane.

But, while some individual Republicans have made immigration a central theme of their campaigns, the party as a whole has not spoken nationally, with a unified voice, on the issue. This is because some important Republicans–like John Boehner and, sadly, Paul Ryan–have sided with the Chamber of Commerce’s desire for cheap labor. I think this, more than anything else, explains why the Democrats may be able to skate through 2014 without suffering major losses. Voters aren’t sure what Republicans, as a party, stand for. It would have been nice to be able to tell them that we stand for American workers.

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