The GOP's Immigration Leverage; No, Really!

By Stanley Renshon on August 9, 2013

The basic stance of many prominent members of the GOP establishment after the 2012 presidential election can be described as panic. The president's sufficiently successful effort to reenergize his base, including Hispanic voters, coupled with Mitt Romney's lackluster showing among that same group, plus instant but erroneous extrapolations of ethnic and racial population trends, led to almost hysterical worry that Republicans were in a demographic "death spiral" from which they could not recover.

That is, unless, they "reached out" to those new electoral demographic group kingmakers by embracing the Senate's massive, complex, mostly unready, and not well understood immigration bill.

Immigration activists and Democratic Party advocates of this bill added their voices to the growing sense of panic by posing as friends of the Republican Party who only wanted to help them remain competitive, but of course on their terms.

Panic is an absolutely awful emotional state in which to thoughtfully consider your options. In fact the two emotional states, panic and contemplation, are wholly incompatible:

  • Panic trumps thinking;
  • Panic decreases the consideration of viable options;
  • A panicked response emphasizes action, quick action over consideration;
  • Actions originating in panic are meant to reduce anxiety by doing something — anything;
  • Panicked actions lead people to grab onto any option that is seen, through myopic thinking as a lifeline in dire circumstances, like supporting S.744. The operating premise in these cases seems to be "any port in a storm", without realizing that depending on the storm and the port, sometimes you are better off in the open sea;
  • Panic is contagious. Indeed, the GOP's Democratic friends count on it. Every Republican they can convince that something must be done, now — immediately — brings them that much closer to their preferred legislative solution.

That panic has now been partially checkmated by the determined stand on their principles by many GOP House members:

  • They have insisted that the Senate's immigration bill will not be taken up. And it won't.
  • They have insisted on having time to hold hearings and become more educated on immigration policy's major debates and nuances. And they are doing so.
  • They have insisted on breaking the immigration policy debates and legislation into smaller parts. And they are doing so.
  • They have insisted that America's borders be made more secure and that security be measured by metrics that are transparent, valid, and reliable.
  • They have resisted the panicked acceptance of the Senate bill's immediate legalization as a way to "get themselves right" with Hispanics. Instead, they are considering a number of different legalization options including starting with those who came illegally as children and allowing those who merit a change of status to do so according to the rules now operating.

It is unclear where all of these various initiatives will lead, but it does seem clear that House Republicans have, through their own principled stand that demands that they not be rushed or coerced into simply accepting the Senate bill, bought some time to seriously consider alternatives that might make real immigration policy reform possible.

None of the steps listed above have been the subject of any polls. However, a fair assumption is that the public would strongly approve of them.

Moreover, evidence is emerging that in taking this principled stand, the House is already seeing cracks develop in what was the monolithic, supposedly unstoppable juggernaut of the Senate's bill and its supporters' immigration narrative.

Next: The GOP's immigration Leverage: The Power of Options