More on whether a GOP Senate will give us immigration amnesty: Fawn Johnson of National Journal contributes to the near-dominant school of MSM reporting on immigration, a sort of locker-room pep talk in which a journalist calls activist Frank Sharry and then sketches a fanciful optimistic scenario on how amnesty could well happen. Soon! Just around the corner, really! Greg Sargent of Washington Post also specializes in this genre, which provides useful information while simultaneously rallying and deluding the MSM’s pro-amnesty base. Johnson speculates about a negotiation in which Democrats would settle for any-kind-of-legalization (e.g. without a “path to citizenship”), and then sounds an ominious note:
“Pro-immigration-reform conservatives [i.e. the only conservatives the MSM likes to call] say a Republican Senate might best foster that type of negotiation. If that happens, Republican leaders who claim they want to act wouldn’t have a Democratic Senate to blame.”
Hmm, or “Uh-oh,” as Mark Krikorian tweets. True, Johnson seems to assume that, in the absence of political excuses, Republicans would just face overwhelming pressure to come up with some sort of amnesty just because it’s so obviously the thing to do. (“This is a situation the country has to deal with. At some point, they have to just do it,” — a quote Johnson highlights.) But there is no overwhelming pressure to do something amnesty-ish on immigration other than from the MSM, Latino activists, and business-friendly Beltway GOP strategists. This isn’t like what happens when an opposition party gains control of Congress and has to come up with a budget and take responsibility for it. If they won the Senate, Republicans wouldn’t have to come up with an immigrant legalization bill, no matter how many editorials the NYT and Mark Zuckerberg write attacking them.
But many Republicans have bought into the iffy argument that they have to do something before the 2016 election to improve their share of the Hispanic vote. That’s why it seems reasonable to be paranoid about putting this sort of Republican in charge of the Senate, where they could immediately set to work coming up with an amnesty First plan that would have just enough conservative features to sneak past enough of the party’s anti-amnesty base but also the near-instant legalization Democrats will demand.
Ann Coulter (see column on the right here) seems to believe that a rousing pro-GOP, anti-amnesty vote in November would cow the K Street “gotta-please-Latino” wing of the party into submission. I tend to think they are more cynical and resilient than that. There are some idealistic Enforcement 1st Republicans, of course, and some idealistic Amnesty 1st Republicans. But there seems to be a large pool who just want to get through this issue, if they can, without alienating either their voters or their funders. Under Majority Leader McConnell, they could be susceptible to a Haley-Barbour-led pre-2016 legalization charge. Under Reid, less so (in part because, then GOPs could claim less credit with Hispanics–they couldn’t say, “See, we took control and legalization happened.”)
But I’m not sure. Coulter’s vicious ad hominem attack on this column could be correct: a big pro-GOP vote might be a message so powerful no Republican politician, however cynical, could attempt to finesse it.
Maybe the outcome to root for is this: All the GOP Senate candidates who make opposing amnesty an issue (Scott Brown, Tom Cotton, David Perdue, Terri Land) win big, yet Republicans somehow fall short of a Senate majority. I wonder what Nate Silver thinks the odds are for that.