David Frum May 26th, 2007 at 12:00 am
The Republican party is hurtling toward disaster in 2008. The latest polls report that 61 percent of Americans think that the Iraq war was a mistake. More than 70 percent of Americans think the country is on the “wrong track”–an astonishingly bad number for a non-recession year.
Historically, Democrats have been perceived as the more caring and compassionate party; Republicans as the more honest and effective party.
Yet today, Democrats enjoy a 5:3 advantage over Republicans on the question, “Which party can manage government better?” They hold a 2:1 advantage on integrity and ethics. They even outpoll the Republicans on national security, for the first time since the Johnson-Goldwater race of 1964!
In this hour of gloom and danger for the GOP, the party leaders have just chosen to launch all-out war against the last remnants of their support.
In recent days, Republican and Democratic Senators acting with the support of the White House concocted a deal on immigration that grants amnesty in all but name to the 12 million illegal aliens inside the United States. The deal also proposes large increases in legal immigration, plus a temporary worker program to import hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers for two years at a time.
At a reception Wednesday, House Minority Leader John Boehner eloquently expressed the feelings of many Republicans about the deal the Senators negotiated in secret: “I promised the President today that I wouldn’t say anything bad about . . . this piece of s–t bill.”
But it did not matter what profanities Boehner said or did not say. The voice of protest was taken up by Web sites and radio stations. The President’s poll numbers tumbled to some of the lowest levels seen in his presidency, under 30 percent.
Bush is in trouble because his own party does not trust him to enforce border security.
Of the estimated 12 million illegals in the United States, four million have arrived since he became president. Bush has made clear in hundreds of speeches that he would prefer to solve this problem with an amnesty in all but name for existing illegals–and higher limits on future immigration.
By working so hard for an amnesty, the President sent a powerful signal to would-be migrants all over the planet: Get in while you can, your green card will arrive soon.
The post-2000 surge of illegals has imposed heavy costs all over the United States. The median American worker earns less today than in 2000, in considerable part because of the wage lowering effects of immigration.
Taxpayers have had to bear heavy new burdens. The state of North Carolina paid an estimated $10 million to educate the children of illegals in 1995; $210 million in 2005. Illegals cost every household in the state of California an estimated $300 per year in extra state and local taxes.
Illegals present serious security threats. Between 1990 and 2005, 94 foreign- born terrorists plotted or attempted terrorist attacks inside the United States. Earlier this month, the U.S. government foiled a plot by six Kosovo-born terrorists to attack Fort Dix, NJ.
Above all, illegal immigration raises issues of disrespect for law that deeply offend the conservative values of Republican voters.
President Bush and the Senate Republicans have had ample warning of the deep unpopularity of their approach within their party. They tried to pass similar measures in 2001, 2004 and 2006, and had to give up every time. They are trying again now only because they sense that it will be easier to pass their quasi-amnesty through a Democratic Congress.
They are right on that last point. Hispanics vote Democratic by majorities of 60 percent and up. So, naturally, Democrats are eager to welcome and register as many as possible as fast as possible.
And Democrats also recognize what President Bush would not–that the attempt to pass a quasi-amnesty through Congress would trigger a bitter debate within the Republican party–which would thereby alienate Hispanics from Republicans even further.
All of this has come to pass. Senate Democrats, watching Republicans tear their party apart over this issue, must echo Cleavon Little’s smug comment in Blazing Saddles: “Oh baby, you are so talented–and they are so dumb.”
I spoke yesterday to a Republican congressman. He had been given the thankless task of dialing donors to invite them to the President’s Dinner, the GOP’s biggest fundraising event of the year. “How’s it going?” I asked. “Worst ever,” he answered.
Conservatives think the Republican party has betrayed them. Hispanics–America’s largest and fastest-growing minority–think that the party has turned its back on them. Ordinary voters now say by 2:1 margins that the Democrats care more about “people like them.” All signs point to a GOP debacle in 2008. And this immigration bill looks like the point of no return.