Immigration Bill Debate 

Talk radio? Who needs it? Immigration bill troubles show GOP divide

Sen. Trent Lott has seen the enemy, and he is us.

Well, actually ... me.

"Talk radio is running America," Lott thundered from the floor of the Senate last week. "We have to deal with that problem."

"That problem" is that the Bush/Kennedy/McCain/Calderon amnesty bill got beaten like a cheap rug on the floor of the senate last week. "That problem" is that prospects for its revival are dim, at best.

And Trent Lott is blaming what he might have once called "outside agitators" in his Mississippi days, but are better known currently as "voters."

While the media present the Republican divide as "pro-life vs. pro-choice," the real battle is between the insider elites and the rank-and-file voters who support the party. One side has the money, the other side as the votes. But neither side is strong enough to land a knockout blow against the other.

And so the battle rages.

Lott's not alone. On ABC's "This Week," Sen. John McCain complained about the "more conservative, anti-immigrant, anti-legislation group" of senators "backed up by a very vocal group of people who were supporting them."

The people? Vocally supporting senators and affecting the outcome of legislation? Why, it's an outrage!

The people who oppose the amnesty/guest worker immigration approach aren't just talk radio listeners, as much as I'd like to claim the credit. According to the latest Rasmussen poll, just 20 percent of American voters want Congress to pass the immigration reform bill.

In the past, divisive issues inside the Republican Party were settled on the battlefield. That is, one wing of the party would win the debate and the other would go quietly along. Abortion, for example, has clearly been won by the populist pro-life faction, while Wall Street Republicans have largely carried the day on free trade.

Which makes the ongoing GOP struggle on illegal immigration all the more noteworthy. The Trent Lott elites have clearly lost the war, but they insist on heading back into battle.

Sen. McCain's mission of political suicide (one poll has his numbers here in South Carolina in the single digits) appears to be motivated by principle. McCain is principled, courageous and wrong.

Why can't the GOP grasp this issue and run with it? The Democrats are embracing amnesty and open borders with gusto. Sen. Harry Reid last week referred to illegal aliens as "undocumented Americans." The rest of us are merely over-documented, I guess.

The Democrats' race-based allegiance to open borders and amnesty could be a powerful weapon for the Republicans in 2008. The GOP could push "enforcement first," the Bush Administration could spend the next two years on high-profile enforcement efforts targeting evil corporate employers, and leave the Democrats to defend the lawbreakers and their allies.

Instead, the Washington Times reports that small donor fundraising for the Republican National Committee has collapsed. The RNC recently shut down their entire phone solicitation operation, and one former operator told the Times "every donor in 50 states we reached has been angry ... and for 99 percent of them immigration is the No. 1 issue."

The Trent Lott elites are right. They don't need the "Great Unwashed" of talk radio America to push their amnesty plan through the U.S. Senate. But eventually the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November is going to roll around.

And on that day, winning elections is going to be a lot tougher when you've alienated all your supporters. Just ask John McCain.


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