If defeated Republicans like Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine and Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee want to know why “Reagan Democrats” turned against them in 2006, they ought to think back to May 25.
That’s the day DeWine, Chafee and 21 other Republican senators voted yes for S. 2611, the “comprehensive” immigration reform bill. The message was loud and clear: The Republican Party did not give a damn about the American worker.
It was hardly surprising, then, that when Election Day rolled around, the American worker declared he did not give a damn about the Republican Party.
On May 25, a few brave souls tried to talk sense to the fanatics who rammed S. 2611 through the Senate. “We will never solve the problem of illegal immigration by rewarding those who break our laws,” said Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina .
The fanatics would not listen, as Texas Sen. John Cornyn observed.
"There seems to me to be a sense of surreality here, where people in the Senate just are not listening to what the American people are telling us," said Mr. Cornyn, another Republican who voted against the bill.
The results of the 2006 election have been interpreted many ways by different analysts since Nov. 7, but it could be argued that May 25 was the day the Republican Party doomed itself to defeat.
When the late California Rep. Sonny Bono was once asked to debate illegal immigration, he replied simply, “What’s to debate? It’s illegal.” Ah, that Sonny was still with us! But Sonny’s gone and so, too, is the Republican majority of which he was once a famous part.
What happened to the common-sense conservatives who took charge of Congress after the 1994 “Republican Revolution”? The obvious answer is that they stayed too long in Washington . The outsiders became insiders, and succumbed to the Beltway point of view.
One of the odd things about life in nation’s capital is that it is possible in Washington to forget that there is still such a thing as the American working class. The District of Columbia has no factories; the city’s suburbs in Maryland and Virginia are among the richest counties in the United States ; and the D.C. metropolitian economy is recession-proof because Washington is home to the nation’s No. 1 growth industry, government. A government job means lifetime security, and Washington also provides thousands of high-paying jobs for lobbyists, consultants and policy wonks.
From the lofty heights of the Beltway power pyramid, politicians are sometimes able to look down and see the urban poor, whom the D.C. government’s decades of generous welfare policies magnetically attracted to the capital. But what about the American worker? What about the ordinary Americans who have diplomas, rather than degrees? What about those hard-working people who have jobs, rather than “careers”?
Those people are invisible in Washington , at least so far as the Beltway’s Republican elite are concerned. The GOP elite find it more pleasant to listen to the sneering snobs of the Wall Street Journal who – in reaction to a recent roundup of illegals at meatpacking plants – opined that “the nation’s illegal immigration problem is … primarily a labor shortage problem.” Wall Street, it seems, is another vantage points from which it is impossible to see the American worker.
President Bush has made a habit of talking about illegal aliens who supposedly do “jobs Americans won’t do.” But when over a thousand illegals were arrested at Swift Co. plants, a curious thing happened: Americans showed up to apply for the resulting job openings.
There is no “labor shortage problem,” and there is no such thing as “jobs Americans won’t do,” but there are apparently jobs that Republican elites in Washington won’t do – such as protecting the nation’s borders from millions of illegal invaders. And, thanks to their indifference to the concerns of the American worker, being the nation’s governing majority is now another job that Republicans won’t do.
Republican elites couldn’t fool the American worker. Now we’ll see if the Democratic elites are foolish enough to try.