The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller

Hello, pols? Opening on the right!

Calling Senator Sessions … Senator Sessions … Senator Cruz … Senator Cruz …: The current immigration debate always reminds me of the “guaranteed income” debate of the late 1960s.  Here  was a pressing national problem (immigration poverty) that had been festering unsolved for too long. But a clear bipartisan consensus had emerged to break the gridlock! Instead of insisting on increasingly archaic distinctions (between legal and illegal working and not working) , the government should adopt a comprehensive approach and just give everyone amnesty the cash they’d need to get by–a guaranteed income. Democrats were for it, Republicans were for it (President Nixon embraced it), libertarians were for it. (Milton Friedman was one of its originators).  Journalists were for it.  Scholars were for it. Pat Moynihan was for it.  A bill–the “Family Assistance Plan”–was drafted and seemed ready to slide through Congress. Sure, some of the facile assumptions of supporters seemed questionable, like the idea that amnesty wouldn’t act as a “beacon” for more illegal entries a cash guarantee wouldn’t encourage dependence or subsidize family breakup, but who was going to call BS on that?

Then an ambitious Republican gearing up to run for President dissented. Governor Ronald Reagan denounced Nixon’s plan as a “megadole.” The plan failed. Nixon pulled back.  You know the rest.

Now that GOP presidential contenders Marco Rubio, Chris Christie and even Rand Paul** have embraced some form of legalization for illegal immigrants, doesn’t that create a rather gaping hole for an ambitious Republican pol to run for President oppoing it? Even if you didn’t give a fig about the (to my mind) persuasive arguments against current amnesty proposals, the opportunity would be almost too juicy to pass up:  You could be the sole candidate championing the party’s substantial anti-amnesty wing against a vote-splitting array of candidates falling in line behind the elite consensus … Pointy-headed, Washington candidates, you might call them, who’ve never tried to find a good paying job in today’s economy competing against cheaper and hungrier undocumented workers from abroad …

Suppose you only got 25% of the primary vote–you might win, but in any case you’d have a big impact, make a big name for yourself and (unless you flaked out) give yourself a semi-permanent role in the debate.  It’s almost a lock. A “special pathway” to prominence. You get to jump the queue.

Any takers? Gov. Walker? Sen. Cruz? Sen. Sessions? If alert kausfiles readers have any other suggestions for candidates, let me (or them) know. Chance of a lifetime! Why pass it up? …

P.S.: If an opponent of amnesty ran, it wouldn’t only help his or her own career–it would also substantially increase the chance that a Schumer-Rubio style amensty will fail to pass. Nothing forces ambitious politicians like Rubio or Paul to reconsider their lurches toward respectability faster than the prospect of losing votes in a future presidential primary. It wasn’t just Reagan’s dissent that killed the late-’60s guaranteed income plan. Nixon abandoned the idea in part because Reagan was potential challenger in the 1972 presidential race.. …

P.P.S.: Reader P.N., who first suggested an item along these lines, notes you don’t have to be Republican to take advantage of this once-in-a-decade  political opening. The anti-amnesty vacuum on the Democratic side is even bigger than on the right, now that prarie populists like Byron Dorgan have left the Senate. But it’s hard to dissent from the amnesty consensus and gain traction in a Democratic primary. Trust me on that one. This is not to say that a national Democrat who took this position wouldn’t get a lot of attention …

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**–Rand Paul isn’t quite on board yet. To the extent anyone can make heads or tails of his plan, it seems to delay legalization until a future vote of Congress has certified that the border is secure. If Paul pushed on this point loudly and stubbornly enough, he could conceivably wind up in an adversarial position, advocating an “enforcement first” approach that conditioned amnesty on actual achievement of border security as opposed to a fake declaration of security as a figleaf for amnesty. But all of Paul’s “optics,” as they say–including his opposition to E-verity system for checking on the status of new employees–suggest he’s for the fake declaration. Or that, if he isn’t for it now, he’ll cave. …