The holidays prod us to requite, reflect, and resolve. But this season finds our politics enjoined in heightened introspection as well. So, it was fitting that the American Enterprise Institute hosted an event titled “Conservatism: What now?” at their impressive new facility Tuesday.
While it isn’t unusual for the brain trust at National Review to consider the topic (1966, 1967, 2006, 2013 being just a few examples), the timing would be odd if it weren’t for the cataclysmic variable star of the election: Donald Trump. Thus, the self-examination in spite of a historic level of GOP control at state and federal levels.
Though much of the discussion focused on a range of other issues, National Review senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru provided a tidy insight on immigration:
“Let me add one thing which is distinct [from populism], but overlaps, which is immigration. The specific issue of immigration, where, you know – before Trump got into the race, you remember there were 16 other people and all of them were – except for Rick Santorum, who was sort of an asterisk in the race – were taking the view that we should increase legal immigration like the 2013 bill, which doubled legal immigration levels, and that we should have an amnesty for illegal immigrants. This was, at the Presidential level of Republican politics, there was an attempt to kind of create this consensus that just didn’t fit the actual voters in the Republican party.”
This acknowledgment takes a step towards answering that bigger question: what now? Yes, unprecedented (a low bar) commitment to credible enforcement going forward, but what of the debate over legal immigration?
Setting Mr. Trump aside, the conflicting approaches within the GOP have morphed from squabbles between backbenchers (think Rep. Flake vs. Rep. Tancredo), to a national policy-setting showdown between Speaker of the House Paul Ryan vs. Senator Jeff Sessions – perhaps the two most ascendant Republican Congressmen of recent years.
Will Jack Kemp’s or Barbara Jordan’s policy prescriptions prevail on immigration numbers? Conservatives must talk about it, and decide. Could the GOP avoid action for another four years? What would clinging to current “Second Great Wave” levels cost a party with a burgeoning opportunity to buttress its image as pro-worker?
At a minimum, it will inspire more prescient reporting like this:
“Decades of Gallup polls have shown a substantial portion of the public, at times large majorities, favoring reduced immigration – a sentiment ignored by both parties. The GOP’s business wing has pushed for more skilled and unskilled workers from overseas, mainly by lobbying for large expansions of various visa categories, while Democrats, aligned with minority voters, have sought easier entry for family-based migrants…”
A quondam consensus; ignore the public no longer.
ANDREW GOOD works on the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA and is the former executive director for the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus
Updated: Wed, Dec 14th 2016 @ 2:00pm EST