By Markos Moulitsas - 02/11/14 05:22 PM EST
GOP Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul wants to be president, and he isn’t dumb. So it’s not surprising that he’s horrified at the mess Republicans have made out of the immigration reform issue.
Speaking in Houston at a fundraiser for Texas Sen. John Cornyn, Paul didn’t temper his assessment: “Texas will be a Democratic state within 10 years if you don’t change.” And while comments like “People who are Hispanic or Latino, they have to believe that we want them in our party” might have received just “tepid” applause (Paul’s own assessment of his audience’s reaction), he is absolutely right. The Republican Party cannot survive the nation’s changing demographics without evolving past its reflexively xenophobic opposition to comprehensive immigration reform.
Most importantly, Boehner made it clear that Republicans still stand in the way of a full path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. While Latino voters would welcome any legislation that would spare their friends and relatives the fear of deportation, the Boehner position — the crux of which is telling Latino immigrants that “we hate you too much to ever consider you American” — is unlikely to earn new Latino support for Republicans.
Not that any of it mattered anyway, because even that cup of weak tea never stood a chance. Conservatives didn’t just line up against legislation — indeed, no House alternative to the already-passed Senate reform bill has even been submitted — they lined up against the idea of doing anything.
Idaho Rep. Raúl Labrador was outraged, saying, “I think it should cost him his Speakership.” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was beside himself: “[The GOP’s focus on immigration] makes utterly no sense unless your objective is to keep Harry Reid as majority leader.” And allies like the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol wrote, “Bringing immigration to the floor [insures] a circular GOP firing squad, instead of a nicely lined-up one shooting together and in unison at ObamaCare and other horrors of big government liberalism.”
So after a couple of days of not really trying too hard, Boehner threw his hands up, declared reform dead for the year, and blamed President Obama — the guy who has deported more undocumented immigrants in five years than former President George W. Bush did in eight years. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called Boehner’s bluff with language that would delay reform until 2017 — after Obama had left office — which Republicans quickly shot down.
All of this was predictable. Just days after MSNBC pathetically apologized to the Republican National Committee and fired a staffer for tweeting that “the right wing” wouldn’t like a Super Bowl ad featuring a multicultural family, conservatives exploded in outrage over ... a Super Bowl ad celebrating our nation’s multiculturalism. Paul can talk all he wants about needing “a more diverse party ... a party that looks like America,” but it won’t play to a base built on historical racial, ethnic, gender, sexual choice and geographic animosity.
Paul might be looking to the future. His presidential ambitions demand it. But his base is clinging to an America that no longer exists, a past that will never return.
Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos.