Yesterday, I had a column at The American Spectator on Marco Rubio’s New Hampshire fizzle and what was actually behind it. And no, it wasn’t the murder-suicide attack Chris Christie whacked him with in last Saturday’s debate. There is more eating at Rubio…
But few candidates are perfect when it comes to ideological consistency, and Rubio’s fatal sin was his participation in that Gang of Eight bill. He’s going to suffer for that mistake in this cycle, because immigration — and the Beltway Republican Party’s lack of felicity on the issue — is the single defining issue of the primary campaign, if not the entire cycle.
And while Rubio is an adult and bears the blame for his own choice to join the ill-fated Gang of Eight — a good rule for freshman senators on the Republican side is to avoid anything John McCain and Lindsey Graham are seeking volunteers for — he didn’t make that decision in a vacuum.
Remember that the Gang of Eight bill was precipitated by a document released by something called the Growth and Opportunity Project, an initiative the Republican National Committee put together in an effort to diagnose why Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election. Rather than recognize that Romney was unable to speak effectively against Obamacare thanks to his having authored its forebear in Massachusetts, or note that running a Wall Street financier who lost the “cares about me” question to Obama by a 4-to-1 margin was a terrible strategy, or to lament the failure to fully mobilize the Republican electoral coalition to match the intense effort at racial and identity-group Alinskyite politics of the Obama campaign, or even to understand the miserable failure of Romney’s data operation to create a working Election Day get-out-the-vote campaign, the document’s “autopsy” of the loss came to a central conclusion that what the GOP really needs is to get more minority voters.
Which isn’t a terrible conclusion. After all, the horrendous showing by successive Republican presidential candidates among the black community has got to stop at some point particularly given the performance the Democratic Party has delivered in governing (or rather destroying) America’s cities where most blacks live. And while the narrative which says Hispanic voters are natural conservatives is badly off the mark, there is no reason why the GOP shouldn’t engage in that community and prevent it from becoming a solid Democrat voting bloc.
But what the “autopsy” offered as a vehicle for a Republican resurgence in the Hispanic community was a patently stupid full-on retreat on immigration policy. That somehow Hispanic citizens, a large number of whom are working-class people whose wages have been stagnant since 2000 amid a flood of immigrants both legal and illegal and whose communities — schools, hospitals, and streets — are groaning with the burden of that flood on social services, would immediately run to the GOP if only it capitulated to the Democrats on a “comprehensive” immigration reform that would make voters out of 12 million illegal aliens.
As though the Democrats, who have devised such things as sanctuary cities, welfare benefits, and driver’s licenses for illegals, and the prohibition as “racist” of even referring to illegal aliens as illegal aliens, wouldn’t be able to claim the credit for an amnesty that led to those 12 million new voters over time.
The Republican Party has not had a cogent policy on immigration for a long time, and that’s largely because the GOP has allowed itself, at least in Washington, to be ruled by corporate lobbyists to an unhealthy degree. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its members have pushed the Republicans in Congress and elsewhere to pave the way for cheap labor, and some of those members have abused that policy direction badly. For example there’s the awful story about Disney and their having fired American workers at Disney World after making them train their foreign replacements. To be sure, the market ought to punish that behavior severely, but part of that punishment can be that the political party which is supposed to be allied with a Disney – and why they’d be allied with a company whose political contributions to Democrats vastly outnumber those to Republicans is a major question – can drop them like a stone for such a dastardly deed.
Particularly when the corporate class’ interest in cheap labor is diametrically opposed to the interest of the middle class in making decent wages and getting ahead.
The current status quo is perfect for the Democrats. They’re running an open border and flooding the labor market with immigrants, legal and illegal. As a result, wages have been stagnant or declining more or less since the 1990’s as fewer and fewer Americans are in the labor force. The immigrants are generally in the underclass, which makes them likely Democrat voters, and the suffering Americans who are leaving the labor force are also likely Democrats. That the country is in decline and people are losing faith in the American dream as they become more and more dependent on government isn’t a particular problem for the Democrat Party; just look at the cities they run and you’ll know those people are a lot more interested in political power than they are in successful outcomes from that power.
And rather than recognizing if you tighten the labor market through a combination of economic growth and slowing the flood of immigrants you’ll put upward pressure on wages, we get people on the Republican side trying to concoct ways to compensate for the damage the current economic regime has done. We get what’s called “Reformicons” who are out trying to find ways that the GOP can help the working class and make them interested in voting Republican again.
Earlier this month Ace of Spades had a good post on how all those lavish “Reformicon” policies wouldn’t be so necessary if the GOP would do what its voters want done on immigration…
Point is, what do you offer this group, which has been long suffering and not just during the Great Recession, but maybe since the mid-eighties? You can’t offer them income tax cuts; you’ve cut their income taxes down to very low levels, or to nothing at all.
What you can do is double down on cultural issues, but cultural issues aren’t as powerful an attractor as they once were — and furthermore, many cultural items sought by the working class (like resistance to gay marriage) are actually opposed by the upper-income, college-educated cohort of the GOP, making such gambits of dubious effectiveness.
What you could do, the “reformicons” proposed, is to begin subisidizing the working poor with federal tax credits that would boost their incomes. Or, this:
Let employers pay some workers less than the minimum wage as an inducement to hire them and use the federal tax code to bump up salaries.
Mr. Rubio credited reformicons in his new book, “American Dreams,” for helping shape his redo of the earned-income tax credit, a payment to the working poor, so it would give more to single workers, not just those with children. “Marginal tax rates do matter,” Mr. Rubio said in an interview. “But doing them alone won’t be enough to reinvigorate the economy.”
So, some variation of just directly paying people some money out of government funds.
I’m not necessarily against this — and not necessarily against it just because Marco Rubio has pushed some reformicon ideas — but I do have to point out it constitutes a heresy, to some extent, a rejection of conservative principle that we should not just pay people off as an inducement to get their votes, that we should not intrude into the free market with government interventions.
Maybe we have to do this, because you don’t want the entirety of the working class to vote Democratic. That would simply be the end of the GOP as any kind of equal to the Democrat Party.
So maybe simple electoral reality demands a heresy to be committed — we have to yield on this one principle, in order to save the others.
Now, as I’m agreeing that this is possibly something we must do, if reluctantly, let me propose adifferent heresy which could attract working class voters to the GOP, and would not require government payoffs to them.
I’m talking about, as Mickey Kaus has been talking about, as even David Frum has been talking about, restricting immigration so that the labor markets tighten and employers just wind up paying the working class more because there is no longer the downward pressure on wages caused by forever importing more low-skill workers to compete with them in the (shrinking) jobs pool.
I covered the argument in favor of this in the American Spectator column…
…Namely, that labor participation in this country is at an alarming low, that young Americans coming out of school are desperate to find full-time jobs, that Americans who are members of ethnic minorities are struggling mightily to climb aboard the economic ladder, and most of all that the standard of living of the average American has been stagnant for more than a decade. The argument follows that if wages are stagnant, and on net all jobs created in America over the past 15 years have gone to immigrants, then the easiest way to improve the lot of the working class is a tighter labor market which makes corporate America a lot friendlier to regular citizens looking for work.
Further, that the Democrats’ key issues — free college tuition, student loan amnesty, single-payer health insurance, a minimum wage hike — are all government giveaways aimed at compensating middle-class Americans for the economic damage they’ve done preventing regular folks from getting ahead, and that tighter labor market eliminates the need for most if not all of those initiatives at no cost to the taxpayer.
The added benefit to this is it puts immigration advocates firmly on the side of economic growth and the tax and regulatory policies that make it possible. Because a booming economy will need more immigrants to supplement the native labor force as the tide rises, and when that economy comes to pass the dreams of major immigration reform are far more realistic — at some indeterminate future time when middle-class Americans, rather than the Beltway elite, reach a consensus for it.
Yes, there are tradeoffs to a slowdown in immigration. A slowdown in immigration for more than a few years – and I’m not sure it would be necessary to have more than a five or 10 year slowdown if it were paired with the kind of pro-growth economic policies that would accelerate a tightening of the labor market – would exacerbate the problem of an aging population and a shaky birth rate, and immigrants unquestionably fill some jobs it’s difficult to get Americans to fill. You probably want to start getting a lot stingier with welfare benefits to make some of those jobs look more attractive to some Americans, and some effort will need to be made in the culture of this country to make some of our people have slightly better attitudes toward work, and even then you’re going to have some mismatch between jobs needing to be done and people who won’t do them – at least until technology steps in and fills that gap.
But where politics and economics chiefly intersect in America right now is on the issue of average Americans who cannot get ahead and who are living hand to mouth amid a stagnant economy and are becoming more and more angry about it – to such an extent that when they’re Republican voters they’ll seriously consider Donald Trump and when they’re Democrats they’ll listen to what Bernie Sanders has to say.
The Reformicon ideas are interesting thought experiments well worth bandying about in think-tank seminar rooms. But if you want to win elections and govern effectively, the solution to the immigration issue and the plight of the working class at the same time is a whole lot simpler than anything that crowd is proposing.
And Rubio didn’t align himself with the simple solution. He went a different way, and he’s paying a price for it. Christie’s murder-suicide plan from last Saturday had an effect on him, sure, but what’s keeping him from truly resonating with the electorate is that Gang of Eight bill and the knowledge that he’s an open borders guy.
I don’t know how he fixes that without making a wholehearted mea culpa.
– By the way, you’ll notice that here at the Hayride we always refer to it as the Democrat Party and not the Democratic Party. We’re not alone in doing that; it’s something of a slight lots of conservatives throw at Democrats.
But if it was ever a cheap shot, it’s absolutely not now. How can it be, when that party’s presidential nomination process is so un-democratic?
Bernie Sanders has tied Hillary Clinton in Iowa and beaten the stuffing out of her in New Hampshire, and look at the delegate count:
Does that look like democracy to you? Looks more like a corrupt rigged game to me. Looks “democratic” in the same way East Germany was the German Democratic Republic; that country cared so much about the will of its populace that it built a wall to keep them in when they wanted to vote with their feet. Or, if you’d rather, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – otherwise known as North Korea.
Not a lot of democracy in any of those entities.
Now, if you want to make the observation that America is a constitutional republic rather than a democracy, that’s fine. We recognize that and we’re damn glad it’s the truth. Democracy means mob rule and, ultimately, tyranny.
But it’s not even mob rule at the DNC. Mob rule would mean Bernie Sanders is the nominee. And those people are not going to allow that to happen.
But you’ve got to love the irony here. You’ve got to love that Sanders, whose entire life has been spent demanding redistribution from each according to his ability to each according to his need, just as a good communist would, is being hoisted on his own petard.
Those are the delegates he earned beating Hillary Clinton in an election and a half, and she’s stolen them away from him by rigging the game for what she’d say was “the greater good.”
It’s delicious. And it’s the Democrat Party. They don’t get to call themselves democratic.