Will the GOP Commit Suicide?
Can the House Republicans hold out against calls to pass the Senate's version of immigration reform? Will Speaker Dennis Hastert keep his pledge never to bring legislation to the floor that doesn't have support of a majority of the House Republican caucus? Will the White House pull out all the stops in pressuring House members to support the Senate version? Will real conservatives draw a line in the sand and say "stop"?
These are all questions whose answers will determine whether the Republicans maintain control of one or both houses of Congress this fall. Whether or not Nancy Pelosi becomes the next Speaker of the House. Whether or not Charlie Rangel and Jack Murtha get to initiate impeachment hearings against George Bush. Whether or not we have a Senate majority that will continue to make some progress on judicial appointments or perhaps confirm another conservative Justice to the Supreme Court.
More importantly however is that the answers to those questions will have much to do with determining the future of the Republican Party.
If the House of Representatives approves anything resembling the Senate immigration bill or anything that smacks of amnesty, then that will mean one of two things: 1) Dennis Hastert will have broken his pledge and the bill will pass with overwhelming support from Democrats and a minority of Republicans, at which point the conservative base will have been abandoned by the entire GOP leadership, or 2) the White House, the press and key "moderates" will have twisted the arms of half of the GOP House caucus, at which point conservatives will have been abandoned by their own.
The end result of either scenario will be the wholesale revolt of conservatives which will manifest itself at the ballot box, either in primaries against traitorous incumbents, or by sitting on their hands in the general election.
This is to say nothing of the energy that will be wasted that could be spent attacking liberals instead. But some in the moderate camp seem to want it that way, or at least don't mind such a conflict. They seem bent on attempting to take control the Party's ideological steering wheel and want a confrontation to bring it about. Many almost seem to smugly revel in provoking the conservative base.
Conservatives brought this party to majority status. They did the work, knocked on the doors, licked the envelopes and made the phone calls. But there are people in this party who are content to let us do just that, so long as we don't control the agenda. Many are the new faces of the old moderate "Rockefeller" wing of the party and have always been a little embarrassed by the conservative "rubes", but needed our votes in order to get and stay in power.
Conservatives have been provoked by these holier-than-thou moderates on a number of issues in recent years. From their opposition to real tax reform, to restrictions on free speech via campaign finance reform and then their lack of support for using the power of our majority to defeat Democrat filibusters and stack the judiciary with true conservatives. Now comes immigration reform.
After countless setbacks, turning the other cheek and generally looking the other way while focusing on the primary prize of Supreme Court seats, conservatives see this as one issue too far and it has crystallized opposition in a way that no other issue has in recent history. It is (or will be) the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not giving up on the GOP. Far from it. It is the vehicle of choice for the conservative movement. I myself have worked to help build this party, fought for a place within it and don't intend to give that up. But if some people don't get their acts together, a lot of conservatives will head for the exits. And many of them won't be back.
We still have time to avoid committing political suicide. The issue rests with the House Republicans and Speaker Hastert. And they need to hear from all of us. Loud and clear.