In the aftermath of the Tea Party's hijacking of the Constitution to effect a “shutdown” and threaten the full faith and credit of the United States, President Obama offered Republicans a deal: Pass a budget, immigration reform and the farm bill. Essentially, he challenged the Republican leadership in Congress to show Americans that they could still be an effective governing party.
After all, as a CNN poll showed last week, a stunning 75 percent of Americans believe that Republicans should not be reelected in 2014. A barrage of other polls also showed that broad supermajorities blamed Republicans in Congress for putting party over country. The GOP's brand has been battered, garnering historically low approval from Americans across the political spectrum— even among Republicans.
So what to do about one of the three Obama challenges, immigration reform? As Tea Party Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) informed the country, nothing. Labrador explained, "For us to go to a negotiation, to the negotiating table with Obama after what he has done over the last two and a half weeks, I think would be probably a very big mistake."
So, we will not advance with a highly popular immigration reform bill because the architects of an epically flawed political strategy are afraid to lose again. This is the logic of a 5-year-old, not the stratagems of a national political party with the ambition to retain its majority in the House and capture the Senate in 2014. This is petulance with a generous mix of hubris.
And, as is clear to at least 75 percent of Americans in the CNN poll, this is yet another sign that the Tea Party and their Republican Party enablers are not ready for prime time. That would be fine if we were talking about a high school student council — but not for the U.S. Congress.
The narcissism of Labrador and his cohorts is stunning. As Ted Cruz flies around raising money for his anti-Republican Tea Party allies, mystifyingly proclaiming that the shutdown was a “victory,” mainstream Republicans are starting to wake up to fact that the Tea Party is destroying the GOP's image and electoral chances with the majority of Americans.
Considering that the Senate has already approved on a bipartisan basis a comprehensive immigration reform bill — a bill Obama has said he would sign as is or even consider a version with the House's improvements — the position taken by the leadership in the House to block an immigration reform vote this year is politically untenable.
Even GOP Rep. Bob Goodlatte's (Va.) efforts to fig-leaf the Tea Party's blockage of immigration reform with so called “piecemeal” bills will fail. That strategy assumes that voters are too stupid to know the game. They're not.
Here we are at a historical crossroads. Will Republican leaders wrest control from the Tea Party and pass immigration reform, or will they set down the path of a spectacular defeat in the 2014 election? Famously, the Mitt Romney presidential campaign bet that the 2012 electorate would mirror the older, more conservative turnout of 2010.
But with some 80 percent of Latinos supporting immigration reform, and 75 percent of all Americans saying that they don't want Republicans to be reelected next year, that bet is a ticking time bomb about to go boom.