Rubio goes into the arena, but it may be the critics who count

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
Font Size:

Sen. Marco Rubio appeared on seven Sunday shows this weekend. At the end of his appearance on NBC’s “Meet The Press” he said something that I think deserves more attention:

[I]mmigration is a serious problem. The 11 million people, or supposedly, the 11 million people that are here undocumented, is not a theory. No one is talking about bringing 11 million people here illegally. They are here now. They will be here for the rest of their lives. That needs to be addressed.

Unless if someone believes we can round them up and deport them, they should advocate that. I don’t think that’s a reasonable goal. If someone thinks that we should basically make life miserable for them so that they self deport, they should advocate that. That hasn’t gone over well in the past because it doesn’t work.
Or we can leave things the way they are. That is status quo, and that is amnesty. Or we can try to address it in a way that’s responsible. And that’s what I’m attempting to do. And that’s what I hope I can convince my fellow Republicans to be supportive of. (Emphasis mine.)

It’s easy to attack immigration reform right now. In fact, if you’re a conservative pundit, it’s probably the smart career move. But Rubio is in the arena — and as easy as it is for his critics to demagogue this issue — I’d love to see them come up with a better solution.

Here’s the problem. Incentives matter, and I worry that it is once again in a lot of people’s best personal interest to undermine immigration reform. (This is not to say that some people don’t have legitimate concerns, but it is to say that a lot of other people have an incentive to criticize.)

Even if the perfect solution were somehow crafted, the critic can always just say: “Sure, they say but they’ll never really control the border.”

Stoking cynicism, skepticism, and paranoia may be a great way to pander to an audience (and those hoping to maintain the status quo), but it doesn’t solve much. You could use that line of thinking to prevent addressing almost any problem.

And so, some conservative pundits get to score points by attacking “Amnesty” and the “Gang of Ocho.” Meanwhile, liberal pundits (who want you to know Hispanics are not conservatives who just don’t know it yet) get to strangle the baby in the crib — to work “in bipartisan fashion” to snuff out the one man who is arguably the most articulate and eloquent voice on behalf of conservatism in a generation.

Matt K. Lewis