Most of the spotlighted conservative leaders at the giant CPAC convention this weekend showed that they are far more interested in the feelings of Republican Party major donors than in offering help for 25 million Americans who can't find a full-time job.
Americans might have hoped that finally at this meeting there would be a sign of true leadership in stopping the massive importation of new foreign workers during a jobs depression. But on that topic, hope was as scarce as at the Obama White House.
But reports from those at the convention (I wasn't there) indicated that the thousands of (mostly young) conservative attendees seemed to have a much better grasp of what the country needs on immigration.
They exploded into a standing ovation when a freshman congressman on Saturday finally broke the taboo and stated emphatically:
We need to lock down the border and enforce visas, reject amnesty and enforce our current laws, get rid of our rewards and incentives to be here illegally, mandate E-Verify . . . .
-- Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)
For three days, one star speaker after another from Congress, from the media, from the conservative pantheon and from potential presidential hopefuls glaringly avoided immigration when given the microphone in the big room. (See P.S. about a couple of exceptions.)
The mood for the convention had been set even before the opening of the annual extravaganza for conservative activists when some of the inside leadership of the convention made a big news splash with the argument that conservatives should stop talking about limiting immigration (and should support some kind of amnesty) if the Republican Party is to have a decent chance at winning elections in the future.
I've got news for those kinds of conservatives: The political independents of America -- who are deciding one key election after another -- are not going to be attracted to the same Big-Business-As-Usual, Country-Club Republicanism of the Bush era that always put immigration ahead of struggling American workers and their families.
And the many eye-witness reports from the conversations in the hallways and exhibit areas suggest that immigration-avoidance doesn't sell well with the rank-and-file conservative activists, either.
There were a couple of excellent break-out sessions where small audiences could actually hear the immigration issue discussed as if it demands an urgent response. But it seems there was a pent-up desire to hear immigration tackled in a forthright way in the Big Room. There was a satifying release of emotion when Chaffetz finally violated the immigration blackout.
All the potential presidential hopefuls could have had the adultation Chaffetz received as their own if they had only dared to speak the obvious truth that came during Chaffetz' address on foreign policy:
If we are going to have an effective foreign policy that is true to our convictions then we need to address illegal immigration.
No longer can we ignore the immigration problem. I believe it's highly immoral and very exploitive.
-- Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)
Remember that Chaffetz is the young upstart who challenged incumbent Congressman Chris Cannon in the Republican primary of 2008 and beat him because the voters wanted an alternative to Cannon who was the House Republican leader for amnesty.
Cannon had represented the approach to immigration advocated by the only CPAC leaders who spoke up on immigration this year (for amnesty). Chaffetz broke the taboo in Utah just as he broke it at CPAC.
Cannon stood for the cheap-labor business lobbyists and campaign contributors. Chaffetz stood for the unemployed Americans.
The conservative and Republican stars who spoke in the Big Room decided not to take sides between the Cannon and Chaffetz approach. They just decided to ignore immigration. And that meant ignoring 25 million U.S. workers who want a full-time job and can't find one, in part because immigration policy gives out 160,000 permanent and temporary, new and renewal work visas EVERY MONTH.
ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA
P.S. Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) brought the room down on immigration in break-out session. And California gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner in the Big Room (on the topic "Saving Freedom from the California Model") said the state magnets for illegal immigration have to be cut off "once and for all" and the borders have to be secured by National Guard if necessary.
Updated: Mon, Feb 22nd 2010 @ 10:30am EST