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Avoiding GOP Immigration Self-Sabotage, Pt. 2: Tea Party vs. Establishment

Written by Stanley Renshon

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One of the most basic forms of self-sabotage is unnecessary warfare among parties that essentially agree with each other. GOP-versus-Tea-PartyHowever, another form of self-sabotage is denying that important differences exist among like-minded parties and not clarifying them so the differences can receive a fair hearing.

It's now fairly clear that the differences in the political goals of the so-called "Tea Party" elements in the Republican Party and more establishment figures are wildly exaggerated. They share the general goals of economic freedom; smaller government; and opposition to an intrusive, increasingly authoritarian administrative state.

That said, liberal pundits' attempts to tar Republicans with a "Tea Party" label are also wildly off target. The view that "there was never any significant ideological divide between the Republican establishment and the Tea Party" is simply wrong.

Yes, both want to increase the number of Republicans holding office. Yes, both share common views on large important issues, as just noted. However they do differ, sometimes significantly, in some policy areas. And immigration is one of them.

The difference between them on immigration can be described in part as the clash between principles and panic, overlaid by a clash between public- and self-interest.

The self-interested part of the Republican establishment is represented by the CEOs of business groups represented by the Chamber of Commerce demanding tens and hundreds of thousands of new visas to satisfy what they say is their need for a steady, reliable workforce. With an average of over a million new legal immigrants a year over the last decade, a continuously high unemployment rate, and unprecedented numbers of people who want work but have despaired of getting it and dropped out of the labor market, why these factors haven't helped satisfy business' interest in expanding their workforce without an additional enormous wave of new immigrants every year is unclear.

As a result, the Chamber of Commerce has signed on to — no, mortgaged — what it said were its free enterprise principles for a bit of crony capitalism. That, compliments of the 2013 Senate Democratic bill, gave them what they wanted in their behind-closed-doors trading sessions, in return for which they simply accepted the immigration wishes of the other members invited into the back-room to bargain.

Faced with a choice between a reliable supply of low-skilled, minimum-wage workers provided by new, larger waves of immigration, on the one hand, and on the other support of a Republican Party committed to personal freedom, a smaller, less intrusive, more effective government, lower taxes, less unneeded regulation, and the rule of law, big business chose their bottom line, consistent with their primary value of increased profit.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue said that if Republicans don't pass an immigration bill this year, "they shouldn't bother to run a candidate in 2016." That quote was reported in an article entitled "Chamber of Commerce gives ultimatum to GOP". Donohue said that he was just trying "to get everybody's attention".

It's not often that major organization officials ask to have people pay attention to the difference between their professed values and their actual behavior when the two don't match.

Mr. Renshon has been a Center Fellow since 1999 and an expert in the areas of citizenship, national identity and the psychology of immigration. He has testified before Congress several times on these matters and has assisted government net assessments in these areas.

More of Mr. Renshon's writings  and Part I can be found on his CIS blog here.

Source: Center for Immigrartion Studies

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