The central weakness of the Republican’s political position in Washington has been on vivid display as the situation at the southern border has devolved into a complete crisis. As tens of thousands of foreign nationals overwhelm the border and render our sovereign boundary meaningless, Republicans in DC are tinkering with legislative fixes they say will address the situation. As if the crisis at the border is the result of some drafting error or a failure to enact some specific law relevant to this precise set of circumstances. It is a fool’s errand.
Republicans, especially in DC, can always be lured by Democrats into a very small-ball political game. According to Gallup, illegal immigration has now catapulted to one of the top issues for voters. At the beginning of the year, the issue barely registered with voters, coming behind “foreign aid” as a concern. The issue is especially important to Republicans and seniors, two critical voting blocks in the upcoming elections.
In response, Republicans are focused on tweaking a 2008 law enacted to deal with the narrow issue of human trafficking. The Obama Administration’s claims that this law somehow prevents it from actually securing a national border is, at best, dubious. Republicans, however, have retreated into the legislative details, rather than confront the true failures of the Obama Administration to enforce existing laws.
“An average case of someone coming across the border illegally … will take between a year and a half to as long as five years,” said GOP Rep. Kay Granger, who is drafting recommendations on a legislative fix. “That’s just not acceptable. So we’ve got to change that.”
Waiting times are not the problem here. The real problem at the border is not that we don’t have the correct process in place, but that Obama and his Democrat allies will ignore any process or legal framework at the first point of convenience. Arguing over legislative minutiae, as Republicans in DC are prone to do, not only fails to address very real concerns of Americans, it also opens the party up to rank demagoguery from the left.
A top Democrat in the House, Rep. Xavier Beccera, blasted the GOP proposal. “If it’s just change for the sake of returning kids, then what they’re essentially saying is, we’re trying to diminish the rights and protections we afford to children.”
Political commentator Glenn Beck has echoed Beccera’s comments by reacting to the border crisis with pleas that we should be “decent people” and be compassionate to the minors caught trying to cross the border.
Beck is answering a question exactly no one has posed. Years ago, I was firmly, yet politely, told I needed to leave East Berlin. The men with machine guns were all very cordial and friendly about it, but there was absolutely no mistake about what my options were. Obviously, we ought to be compassionate to those caught in a cynical political game started by the left. Compassion does not negate our leaders’ responsibilities, however.
Republicans in DC have chosen to be a legislative opposition, rather than a political opposition. They don’t articulate an alternative vision of the role of government and law in our society but, rather, a different basket of legislation and proposals. Is is any wonder that House Democrats are raising more money than House Republicans for the midterm elections? Contrast that with how Republican governors are running fundraising rings around state Democrats.
Voters want to support a vision, not a laundry list of legislative proposals. Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama on almost every single issue in 2012, according to exit polls. Voters, however, believed that Obama “understood” them. The rest is history.
The political and humanitarian crisis currently unfolding at the border is exactly what happens when a large segment of the government simply abandons its job. It is the result of years of unserious policy debate and short-term political expediency.
Republicans, unfortunately, have no idea how to respond.