The war now being waged in Congress over illegal immigration is mostly about which philosophy will prevail in the Republican Party. Will it be the conservative wing that brought the GOP to power after years of wandering in the political wilderness as a minority party, or will it be the moderate-liberal wing that became comfortable in the wilderness?
It is no secret that the Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party (named after the late New York governor and vice president Nelson Rockefeller) has joined forces with liberal Democrats and even conservative (in name only) Republicans to weaken the conservative wing of the GOP.
The New York Times' Jim Rutenberg wrote an "analysis" about the titanic struggle between the party's two wings on that newspaper's front page on May 26. In it, Rutenberg ponders, "...what strain of conservatism the Republican Party carries into the midterm elections and beyond. Will it be the compassionate brand Mr. Bush considers crucial to the party's future, in this case by signaling support for a provision in the Senate bill that would give most illegal immigrants an opportunity to become legal? Or will it be the more doctrinaire variety embraced by much of Mr. Bush's party in the House, one that shuns anything that smacks of amnesty for illegal immigrants and seeks to criminalize them further?"
In the Rutenberg moderate-liberal view, people whose politics are founded on strong beliefs, rather than feelings, are "doctrinaire." To moderate liberals, positions born of convictions qualify an individual for one or more of the following monikers: racist, sexist, homophobic, ultra, intolerant, judgmental, unforgiving, fanatical, extreme or arch. A liberal who holds the opposite positions receives no such labels and much praise in the mainstream media and political culture. Too bad Ken Lay's jury was so "doctrinaire" about the law. Had jurors applied the shifting philosophical and legal winds of some Republicans, who are enamored by amnesty for lawbreaking illegals, Lay might have been exonerated for his Enron misdeeds instead he's facing life in prison.
Too many Republicans seem to care more about the future of their party than the future of the country. Congress should not behave like some ancient pope, handing out papal bulls for absolution of certain sins in exchange for contributions to the church. In the case of illegal immigrants, moderate-liberal Republicans want to "absolve" illegals, hoping for electoral contributions to their party. It won't work, because even if all illegals end up becoming legal and voting for Republicans (which is unlikely), the conservative disgust and abandonment of the GOP would outweigh any short-term gains the party might enjoy.
The bill passed last Thursday by the Senate genuflects toward tougher enforcement of the border and penalties on employers who knowingly hire illegals, but it is like the sinner who gets absolution without real repentance. It is political fraud perpetrated on the public.
Rep. Charlie Norwood, Georgia Republican, sees through the sham. In a press release, Norwood calls the Senate bill an "amnesty bill" designed to give "preferential treatment" to illegals over American citizens. "This bill constitutes treachery against U.S. sovereignty," said Norwood, (and) "allows every illegal alien in America to use the fraudulent document industry they have created in the criminal back alleys of our country to claim they have been here five years and can now stay forever. They have granted blanket amnesty for citizens of foreign nations against tax fraud, Social Security fraud, Medicare fraud, identity fraud, and bank fraud - all crimes for which there is no forgiveness or mercy for citizens of the United States."
By the Rutenberg standard, Norwood would be placed in the "intolerant" wing of the GOP. The congressman says, "The physical results of this bill, while terrible, do not equal the moral devastation this sell-out would produce. There is one overpowering message in this bill - that the law no longer deserves respect in America."
The outcome of "immigration reform" will determine where the party and country are headed. If Republicans lurch to the left, they'll head for the cliff because the left did not bring them to power. The right did. If they have forgotten that, they deserve the cliff and the right should give them a push.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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