Immigration

Republicans risk future elections for ignoring immigration reform

This is a leaked copy of a secret memo [from the future] written by the Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, dated Nov. 10, 2014:

Dear Fellow Republicans:

I hate to say that I told you so, but I told you so.

I warned you almost two years ago that the Republican Party had to extend its appeal to Hispanics. Instead, we kicked up a s**tstorm over stalling on immigration reform, and we lost the House because of it. And now, we’ve got a big, fat load of nothing.

Perhaps I’m the only who noticed that:

(a) The Hispanic vote is the fastest-growing part of the electorate, increasing its percentage of the total vote by 1% every year;

(b) The Hispanic vote is concentrated in states like Texas and Florida that we must hold in order to be considered a national party; and

(c) In the 2012 Presidential election cycle, we lost the Hispanic vote by a ridiculous 68% to 30%.

So we already were skating on thin ice, going into the 2014 mid-term elections. And what did we do? We started jumping up and down on that thin ice, we crashed through it, and we drowned.

It should have told us something when Senators like Rubio, McCain and Flake, Republicans representing states with lots of Hispanic voters, said that we needed immigration reform. The Tea Party kept yelling that we would lose big if the undocumented won a path to votership. Yet the Republican Senators who supposedly had the most to lose from this, those very ones, spoke out for immigration reform.

And it should have been obvious what we had to do, when a substantial number of Republican Senators came out in favor of a sane and rational immigration bill. The Tea Party was hoping that the immigration bill would meet the same fate as the April 2013 gun control bill – death by filibuster. They were wrong. Sen. McConnell couldn’t hold the Republican Senators together in a filibuster, because even at that early point, the polling showed that there were a lot more single-issue pro-immigration voters than there are single-issue pro-gun-control voters. And that was before all the fun started, in 2014, in the House of Representatives.

Boehner told us, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this.” And then he went into the usual Orange Man routine: lots of bills, lots of hearings, lots of meetings with “stakeholders,” lots of letters back and forth between House Committee Chairs and Obama Administration officials, lots of amendments, mark-ups in three different committees, etc., etc.

All while the Hispanic vote was coming to a slow boil.

And then the party-line House Floor vote, and Boehner’s refusal to put any Senate bill up for a vote, and Boehner’s refusal to appoint House-Senate conferees. At which point, the Hispanic vote boiled over.

For once, the White House communications staff got it right. Instead of the President assailing “Congress,” the President assailed the Republicans. And he hit us where it hurt, calling out Republicans as heartless and soulless. The “Mean Party.” I particularly well-recall when our supposedly “Muslim” President quoted Matthew 25:40 from the King James Bible: “Truly I say to unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Plenty of Hispanics came right out and called us racists.

And then, as the clock ticked down, the protests – Oh God, the protests. Undocumented workers saying that they had worked for weeks and never been paid. That they had worked 70 hours each week in the hot sun, and hadn’t been paid enough to feed their hungry babies. Teenagers pleading for the chance to remain in the only country that they could remember, and not be exported like farm animals to a place that they had never known. Women testifying that they had been raped, but were afraid to go to the police, because they feared deportation and permanent separation from their own families.

And then the Tea Party lunatics started showing up at the protests with guns, and threatening “citizen arrests.”

And then crazy Sheriff Arpaio started making real arrests.

Every night, on the news. For weeks. Then months. While the House Republicans engaged in vigorous onanism.

We thought that we had a lock on the House of Representatives. We had that huge 10-to-1 post-Citizens United advantage in sewer money. We had the ridiculously gerrymandered congressional boundaries that in 2012 had delivered lopsided Republican House delegation majorities of:

  • 13 to 5 in Pennsylvania;
  • 12 to 4 in Ohio;
  • 8 to 3 in Virginia;
  • 9 to 5 in Michigan; and
  • 17 to 10 in Florida,

– all states that President Obama had won in the same year. (How else could we lose the national House vote by 1.6 million, and still end up on top by 35 seats? Hah!)

Well, we learned that we didn’t have a lock on the House. And we lost it in a way that nobody expected, except that one guy in Central Florida. (For sure, the Three Stooges, Rothenberg, Cook and Sabato, never saw it coming.) We got the Hispanics so incensed that they voted 90-to-10 against us, just like the African Americans do, every time.

After the 2012 election, there were 19 House Republican seats in districts that were 25% Hispanic or more. We managed to lose them all. Every single one of them.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen – gone, after 25 years.

Ken Calvert, Buck McKeon and Ed Royce – all gone, after 22 years. (McKeon must have seen it coming; he retired.)

Hispanics were so riled up against Republicans that even tokenism didn’t work for us. Diaz-Balart and Nunes (Portuguese, actually) were swept out, along with Pearce and Farenthold.

At the last minute, there was a Republican push in Texas to remove party identification from the ballot, but that went nowhere. So Farenthold, Neugebauer, Conaway, Poe and Culbertson all kicked the bucket.

And it turned out that our great Republican “victory” in taking redistricting away from the Democratic-controlled California Legislature (while keeping control in all the states where we’re on top) didn’t help us at all. In California, we lost Valadao, Miller, Nunes, Denham, Calvert, McKeon, McCarthy, Cook, Royce and Hunter. We went from 34 Democrats and 19 Republicans in California to 44 Democrats and 9 Republicans. Could the Democrats in the California Legislature possibly have done any worse to us? (Answer: “No.”)

Part of the problem was that a lot of our people just didn’t know how to run in a competitive race. Take Randy Neugebauer – please. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to shout out “Baby Killer!” at another Member of the House in the midst of a debate on healthcare – when 40% of all Hispanics in America have no health coverage whatsoever. In 2012, Neugebauer won by 70 points. In 2014, he lost by eight. (Luckily for Rep. Joe Wilson, someone else given to vigorous expostulation at inopportune moments, Wilson’s district is less than 5% Hispanic.)

Losing those 19 seats just killed Republicans in the House. (We had only 17 to spare.) The Democrats actually gained seats in the Senate – including one in Texas, which is now just under 40% Hispanic. Farewell, GOP filibusters in the Senate!

But we still have the Supreme Court, right? Well, maybe not, since Justice Scalia, now 78 years old, went into the hospital last month, and he hasn’t come out yet.

In the last few days, I’ve spoken to a lot of lobbyists (or as I like to call them, “the owners”) – at least the ones who still take my calls. They weren’t happy even before the election. Nothing was moving through Congress, which means that nothing was moving for them. But now, with the Democrats holding the White House, the House, and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, I’ve got nothing to offer them.

The Chamber of Commerce doesn’t care about abortion. It doesn’t care about the Second Amendment, or about gay marriage, or about prayer in the schools. The Chamber of Commerce cares about tax breaks and drilling rights and deregulation and no-bid contracts and bailouts. And now, we here in the GOP have no way to help them.

And the electorate? They now see us Republicans exactly as so many of us really are: as callous, bigoted tools.

Gentlemen, we have taken the biggest special-interest money machine in the history of the world, and we have destroyed it. By defeating some immigration bill that millionaires and billionaires and multinational corporations actually would have benefited from.

Stupid is as stupid does.

Speaker-Elect Nancy Pelosi already has told us what she, personally, will introduce H.R. 1: The Immigration Reform Act of 2015. With an 18-month path to citizenship that leaves several months to register all of those undocumented Democrats before the 2016 election. Consolidating the permanent Democratic majority.

Goodbye, Texas. Goodbye, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Florida. In every national election from Day One, the Democrats now start with 30% of the national vote from African-Americans and Hispanics, and then they see how far they can run up the score. In other words, the Grand Old Party is now the Grand Dead Party.

Stick a fork in us. We’re done.

In case you couldn’t tell, this is fiction, at least today. But by November 2014, it might be fact. We shall see.

Rep. Alan Grayson