If anger were a legitimate substitute for public policy, Republicans would be in excellent shape in the middle of a debate on immigration. The GOP has stockpiled enough rage, fury, insults, and red-hot disgust to last a lifetime. There isn’t a shred of doubt in anyone’s mind that the entirety of the Republican Party is experiencing genuine, 100%, Grade A outrage.
What Republicans don’t have is a policy.
Or anything resembling a serious, substantive approach to the issue at hand.
A few days ago, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), a strident, right-wing voice in his party on immigration, sat down with Mark Halperin, who asked what the congressman would do about the nation’s immigration challenges. Huelskamp dodged, so Halperin, to his credit, followed up, pressing the Kansas Republican to explain what he’d do about the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Huelskamp dodged again. So Halperin asked a third time, and the Republican would only say, “I want to know how many folks are here. I want to secure the border.”
It was uncomfortable to watch – the far-right congressman was clearly lost – but it was a cringe-worthy reminder that Republicans still don’t have a coherent immigration policy they’re willing to share out loud. Ezra Klein had a good piece on this overnight.
Republicans aren’t just the opposition party anymore. They are, arguably, the governing party – they will soon control the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court, most state legislatures, and more governorships. And the governing party needs to solve – or at least propose solutions – to the nation’s problems. And that means the Republican policy on immigration needs to be something more than opposing Obama’s immigration policies. It needs to be something more than vague noises about border security. […]There are 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the country right now. Congress allocates enough money to deport roughly 400,000 of them annually. Our policy towards the 10.6 million unauthorized immigrants we’re not deporting is that we don’t have a policy. Democrats support a path to citizenship. Republicans don’t support anything.
Quite right. There’s a striking asymmetry, not just between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to presenting policy solutions, but between Republican responsibilities and Republican intentions – they’re a post-policy party with an aversion to governing, which is a problem for a party that has been given broad authority by voters to shape policy and govern.
It’s all painfully obvious, but just as importantly, it’s playing out in real time. This week, for example, a governing party with a policy agenda would respond to White House executive actions by weighing legislation on immigration. The Republican Party, in contrast, is deciding whether to shut down the government until the White House makes the GOP feel better. If that falls short, Republicans might weigh impeachment – and perhaps publish some colorful tweets.
Ezra added, “Even if you think he’s going too far, he at least wants to solve the problem. Republicans don’t seem to want to do anything except stop Obama from solving the problem.”
The GOP wants to present itself as the grown-up party. Republicans see themselves the serious ones who can be trusted to wield power responsibly, unlike those wacky and reckless liberals.
It’d be a less laughable pitch if someone, anyone at all, could identify what the party’s position on immigration policy is.
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A party in search of a policy