So why isn't this the CW** already? Short-term and long-term objections. Short term: President Bush favors a relatively generous approach, proposing a "guest worker" program that would be available to illegals already here. Since Bush is his party's leader, isn't his position the GOP position? Long term: Republicans worry that if they angrily crack down on border enforcement--without adding provisions for guest workers or legalization of existing illegals, they'll lose the growing Latino vote for a generation (as California Republicans are said to have lost the state's Latino vote after Gov. Pete Wilson's anti-illegal Prop. 187 in 1994). But there are answers to each objection.
Short term: These are the mid-term elections, remember--not the presidential. Are Republican Congressional candidates really incapable of getting out a message to their base that they are tough on illegals, even if Bush is not? One effective way to do that would be to, er, actually pass a tough enforcement-only bill!
Long term: As for losing the Latino vote, there may be method in the current mad GOP disarray. The method is to let the President set the general, generous tone of the party, while local GOP officeholders run as get-tough individuals. Precisely because Bush, not Congress, leads the party, what he says should have the greater impact on its long-term profile. By praising the illegal immigrant work ethic while taking a compromising, high-minded policy line he might at least avoid permanently alienating Latinos. Meanwhile, GOP House candidates wage local campaigns in which they identify with prevailing anti-illegal sentiment--getting themselves reelected while doing a minimum of damage to the party's national image.
What about those swing districts in which individual House and Senate candidates need to appeal to Latinos? Answer: in those few districts, individual Republicans can tailor their stands accordingly. That's the genius of de-nationalizing the election at the same time as you put the immigration issue on the front burner.
Could individual Republican candidates have run as anti-welfare in 1970, even though a GOP President, Richard Nixon, had proposed a startlingly liberal guaranteed income plan? They could--that was Ronald Reagan's position, for example--and I suspect many did. The same with immigration.
P.S.: According to Chris Matthews, his show's poll of pundits declared, by a lopsided 10-2 margin, that the immigration issue would cost the GOP "key Western states." But are Republicans really going to lose Arizona and New Mexico, say, because they pass a border-security-only bill? New Mexico Gov. Richardson certainly seems to be a popular governor in part because he's made dramatic noises about border control.
When President Bush signs that border-security-only bill, he can always give a speech--like the one Clinton gave when he signed welfare reform--in which he expresses his reservations and vows to pass the guest worker and "earned legalization" provisions in the next Congress.
It's also hard to believe that the enforcement-only bill--like welfare reform--won't in the end get a lot of Democratic votes, further diluting the "Latino blowback" against the GOP.
Am I missing something?
** CW= conventional wisdom 11:40 P.M. link
The Plano Con, Coda: Remember Plano, Texas, the Mid-American city where Brokeback Mountain'sticket sales so impressed Frank Rich and others with the film's hard-core red-state appeal? When Wal-Mart decided to open a new experimental "upscale" store, featuring a sushi bar, an espresso bar, $500 bottles of wine--but no guns--guess where they decided to do it? ... Reports A.P.: "[I]f plasma TVs, microbrewery beer and fancy balsamic vinegar sell in Plano, those items could be added to stores in other affluent communities." ... Plano is in fact an affluent Dallas suburb. ... [Thanks to reader G.B.] 10:20 P.M.