Wednesday, May 15, 2013

La Pregunta Grande

Yesterday, we examined the latest outbreak of excessive drama on Capitol Hill. In particular, we looked at how the latest haute faux scandals have deflected attention from the fragile state of comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) legislation in Congress. Yet despite the lack of attention, the Senate Gang of 8 bill is working its way up.

Yet with that being said, it's facing other challenges within Congress. In particular, mounting "tea party" opposition to CIR has led various Republicans to find excuses to oppose CIR. One convenient excuse so far has been "TEH GAYZZZ!!!" Several Republican Senators are threatening to kill CIR if an amendment to include LGBTQ families passes into the bill, and Kerry Eleveld asked in Salon this morning why they really want to go there.

Must we really revisit the fact that the ever-growing tidal wave of Latino voters chose President Obama over Mitt Romney by a margin of 71 to 27 percentage points? Meanwhile, white Evangelicals – the voting bloc that sustained the GOP for almost 20 years – accounted for 26 percent of 2012 voters (a very solid turnout that exceeded their 2004 showing by 3 percent) yet they still didn’t have the juice to push Romney over the top. Simply put, Republicans need the new lifeline that Latino voters represent and, therefore, they need the bill worse than the Democrats. And if the GOP really thinks it can walk away from this bill and justify it to Latinos by saying the gays killed the bill, think again. That rationale may play on the Hill — where most lawmakers live in an insular world of their own making — but it isn’t going to work at the polls. The next election won’t be a referendum on LGBT people, it will be a referendum on lawmakers. Plus, in a bilingual poll that was commissioned by the LGBT immigration group for which I consult, 64% of Latino voters said they support including same-sex couples in immigration reform.

The even sadder truth is, Republicans have political cover if they want it. Instead of siding with the social conservatives who have become a millstone around their electoral neck, they could choose to side with Corporate America, which has been lobbying for inclusion of LGBT families in the bill. While Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention is piously promising that his organization will pull its support from the legislation if it brings any relief to same-sex couples, a coalition of nearly 30 Fortune 500 companies – including the likes of Goldman Sachs, eBay, Google and Nike – have been urging the gang of eight to equalize immigration treatment for same-sex couples.

“We have lost productivity when those families are separated; we have borne the costs of transferring and retraining talented employees so they may live abroad with their loved ones; and we have missed opportunities to bring the best and the brightest to the United States when their sexual orientation means they cannot bring their family with them,” the companies wrote to the gang of eight in March.

The GOP has the chance to choose between two constituencies, one of which has nowhere else to go and happens to be in decline (antigay social conservatives) and one of which could choose to turn more of their resources toward Democrats (the business community). By siding with the former, they cut themselves off from generations of Latino voters rather than broadening their appeal. As the Log Cabin Republicans recently noted in this blunt ad, “Reagan’s big tent isn’t what it used to be.”

As we've discussed many times before, America is changing. Our society is evolving in favor of civil rights. Yet while the rest of American society evolves in the direction of equality, the 21st Century Know Nothings continue to devolve... And they're holding back the rest of the Republican Party.

The reason why "establishment" Republican leaders rushed to back CIR earlier this year is precisely because they wanted to price to voters that their party is "evolving" and is no longer just a safe haven for crotchety, hateful, old white guys. And because of that, the "tea party" started pushing back. But now, these very folks want to enshrine hateful discrimination in the compromise CIR bill by punishing LGBTQ immigrants? Doesn't this just defeat the Republicans' political purpose entirely?

Earlier today, Steve Benen suggested the insatiable "tea party" demand for "OBAMA SCANDAL!!!" shouldn't derail immigration reform in Congress. And funny enough, a very prominent Republican is stepping up to suggest this as well.

Even Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), hardly a White House ally, said there's no reason to believe immigration reform will be derailed. "When Iran–Contra was going on, President Reagan was still able to work with Congress," McCain told reporters yesterday. "Legislation was passed, et cetera." That scandal captivated Washington and the world, and "everyone thought that it would damage President Reagan, but it didn't."

A month ago, assorted right-wing lawmakers wanted Obama impeached; Beltway pundits were annoyed by the president's indifference to their advice; Republicans wanted more spending cuts; much of the GOP assumed there'd been a Benghazi cover-up; and a bipartisan group of lawmakers were optimistic they could pass comprehensive immigration reform, while far-right lawmakers held out hope of killing the bill.

A month later, conditions may seem different, but are they?

Right now, that's the big question. Are conditions different? And if so, how?

Will Republicans see this as a carpe diem moment? Or will they just seize the latest haute faux scandals as use them as the latest & greatest excuse to kill reform this year? Oh, and we're still awaiting any kind of answer from Senator Dean Heller (R-Scared).

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