Warning: Backing Amnesty Is Bad for Your Political Health

By James R. Edwards, Jr. on August 5, 2013

A headline from Bloomberg really stretches the story into the spin-and-fiction zone. The "news" item claims "Yes Votes on Immigration Revamp Haven't Hurt Republicans". Believe that and you're a gullible dolt. Believe that as a politician and you may find yourself an ex-politician. Anybody with any political sense knows that supporting amnesty is the wrong side of this issue, politically, unless you're a sold-out soul from a safe ethnic district. When three out of five Latinos back an enforcement-first approach to immigration, that should be a clue not to walk the plank for amnesty.

The evidence for arriving at Bloomberg's inaccurate conclusion lacks credibility because it uses the highest standard you could use: No primary challengers to GOP Senators who supported S.744.

One of the media-fawned-over and featured lawmakers, Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, was erroneously reported not to have a primary challenger. The Bloomberg reporter got it wrong. Richard Cash, a businessman, has thrown his hat in the ring and Nancy Mace, the first female Citadel graduate, has been actively exploring a race and is set to announce her candidacy. A state senator, Lee Bright, is also widely reported to be considering a challenge. Graham's primary opposition is swelling.

Lamar Alexander, who flip-flopped on amnesty, has stirred up a hornets' nest in Tennessee. Tea Party groups are actively looking for a challenger. His amnesty support has spawned protestors picketing along roadways. And the most telling sign of Alexander's standing on the wrong side of the issue is that his Republican House colleagues aren't about to follow his lead down the amnesty path.

More than anyone, Exhibit A of a Republican flip-flopper on amnesty who's suffering for it is Marco Rubio of Florida. As a candidate he portrayed himself as a darling of the Tea Party movement, a true-blue conservative who even convinced then-Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) that he was the genuine article. Rubio did a 180 on immigration and took on the mantle of a chief strategist and activist, taking a prime seat in the backroom deal-cutting with the Gang of Eight. His amnesty flip-flop has cost him substantially with the public. Rubio's poll numbers have fallen by double digits between January and the June vote in the Senate. His freefall showed up in a Rasmussen survey — salvaging 58 percent favorable ratings from GOP voters nationally, which was 15 points below his favorables in February and 10 points down from May to June. In the all-important presidential primary state of Iowa, Rubio's amnesty sellout has tanked him. Iowans had favored him in early 2013 as the first choice Republican presidential hopeful. He's now lucky to place fifth there. And nationally, one-fifth of Republican voters had expressed support for Rubio. Now, he's barely in double digits.

Rubio's presidential ambitions may have run onto the shoals of immigration politics. Some politicians come to town thinking they're smarter than everybody else. They actually believe their own press releases. On the immigration issue, they confuse the editorial opinion of the Washington Post, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal as representative of the American people's principled views. The facts escape them that, actually, immigration breaks down along the lines of elite vs. grassroots opinion. Most Republican senators seemed to discern that; 14 did not.