Is the Damage Done?


TPM Reader JB just read the post below about Republicans getting the blame for the demise of Immigration Reform. But he questions whether the damage is really already done and just how much benefit Republicans will derive from passage. His comment and my reply after the jump …

Granted that a failure to pass immigration reform would be a large and durable setback for the Republican Party among Hispanic voters. How much would passing a reform bill really help the GOP?

From what I can see, not very much at all. To appease the anti-immigrant crowd within the Republican base, even Reform supporter Lindsay Graham has boasted of advocated a military-style “surge” to stop Hispanics from crossing the southern border. Congressional Republicans in favor of reform are insisting on a path to citizenship easily portrayed to Hispanics as onerously long and cumbersome.

And on top of this it is almost certain that a sizable minority (in the best case) of Congressional Republicans will vote against any reform bill. It just seems to me that avoiding complete disaster for the GOP among Hispanic voters — by getting just enough Republican votes to pass immigration reform — still leaves Republicans having suffered significant damage that could last for several election cycles.

Here’s a lightly edited version of my response …

Oh i totally agree. The danger is already vast. I mean, it was vast in 2012 before Reform even came up again. I think my argument would be that it’s one thing to be upset with the GOP but it passed anyway and you’re happy versus being upset with the GOP and it didn’t pass and it was their faultand so you’re really really angry.

Relatedly, whoever’s the blame, in terms of turnout arguments, if Reforms fails it becomes a potent voter recruitment tool for Democrats for basically every election going forward. If you think Reform is important, the presidency isn’t enough. You need to dislodge Republicans from the House too.

If it passes, it’s off the table and if you’re a Republican you try to move on to other less treacherous issues.

Late Update: As McCain puts it here, it’s not that allowing Reform to pass will gain a single Hispanic vote for the GOP. But it will open the door for competing for the votes of this growing part of the population whereas blocking the bill would likely slam the door for many years to come.