Watching the kerfuffle over the immigration bill between party leadership and conservatives reminded me a lot of my daily battles with my four-year-old son. At various times throughout the day, he will inexplicably have a meltdown and refuse to cooperate or interact with the rest of the family. When we are finally able to get him to express his frustration, we usually find out that the tantrum was spawned by something so simple. “Why didn’t you just ask mommy? She would have helped you tie your shoes right away,” I would tell him. “Oh,” responds the little squirt.
Ever since Republicans recaptured the House in 2011, there have been almost a dozen major intra-party conflicts over high-profile issues. The pattern has been the same with each imbroglio. Conservatives want to unite behind an intellectually clear message grounded in the party platform to serve as a bold contrast to the Democrat idea. GOP leaders inexplicably refuse to follow the conservative proposal and seek every trick in the book to appear that they are adopting the principles of the conservative plan, while making sure to undermine it with the fine print of the plan. The outcome has always manifested itself in one of three ways: enough conservatives are pressured into caving, leadership passes the bill with Democrat support, or the bill is pulled from the floor.
Initially, this week’s immigration battle was headed for the same outcome. GOP leadership obstinately refused to take yes for an answer. The public sides with conservatives on immigration more than any other issue, yet leadership pigheadedly pursued a plan that absolved this president from any culpability in the border crisis, even as he promises to douse lighter fluid on the fire with another executive amnesty. They knew that even their muddled plan would never pass with Democrats, yet they refused to adhere to the intrepidness of the conservative messaging on a bill that was inherently all about messaging.
Even as leadership was forced to accommodate the conservatives, as always, they played a game of hide the ball – opting to embrace some of our talking points while ensuring that none of the fine print in the bill reflected our messaging. And our messaging was quite simple: the President doesn’t deserve one more penny until he swears off amnesty and repeals DACA; any funding for the border should go to the governors, not Obama, and the focus of policy must be on deporting all foreign nationals who come here illegally, not changing statutes to create some cumbersome judicial process, which would grant them numerous opportunities to obtain amnesty.
It seemed as if leadership was so committed to avoiding the morally and intellectually clear position on borders and sovereignty that they were willing to face a humiliating defeat and bail out Obama from his dismal approval on the issue. However, when the humiliation of losing a vote on a bill that was oddly deemed “must-pass” became unbearable, they finally did something they never had the courage to do – they reached out to conservatives and worked with them.
Late Thursday night, leadership sat down with Reps. Rep. Steve King (R-IA), Michele Bachmann, and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) – among others – and ironed out an agreement based on what conservatives have been demanding for weeks, and in some ways, for years; a morally clear stand against amnesty, lawlessness, and open borders – a position shared by the overwhelming majority of the country. And much to the surprise of leadership, conservatives were not just about “saying no to everything.” We actually have been starving for unity behind a conservative position, but leadership is always hell-bent on cutting us out of the process.
Now we have a united party against Obama’s impending lawlessness. Now the American people can finally discern a bold contrast between the parties on such a fundamental American issue.
The strong sense of unity going into Friday’s vote engendered a barrage of unhinged vitriol from the Democrats. The ancillary benefit of holding the vote over another day and following the lead of conservatives is that we got to expose the Democrats for their extremism. Anyone watching the floor proceedings observed a Democrat Party that has no belief in borders and sovereignty. They saw a party that places the interests of foreign nationals and special interests over the security and fiscal stability of the American taxpayer and worker.
Listening to conservatives wasn’t so bad after all.
Why not try this paradigm again? Instead of blitzing conservatives with deceptively-written odious legislation hours before deadlines, leadership should work with conservatives to iron out a true Republican platform on all of the major issues. Particularly on immigration, they should work with the rank-and-file members to devise a strategy for using the power of the purse to fight any attempt by this president to illegally enact amnesty over the next few months.
If leadership would actually try viewing conservatives as the solution instead of a thorn in their sides, they will find a receptive partner on the other side of the table.