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Hullabaloo


Saturday, February 27, 2016

 
QOTD: Thomas Schaller

by digby

























From his book The Stronghold: How Republicans Captured Congress but Surrendered the White House, published in January of 2015

No politician stood more squarely at the intersection of these two political developments—the rise of the tea party and the fall of immigration reform—than Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. He was a darling of the tea party movement in 2010 and, following Mitt Romney’s loss in 2012, emerged as the great Latino hope for taking back the White House in 2016 and converting Latino voters to the Republican cause for a generation. Young, handsome, with a beautiful family and a compelling personal story, Rubio represents the largest swing state in presidential politics; in him, many Republicans saw—some still see—a one-man GOP revival.

But in the Republican cosmos, stars that yesterday shone brightly often fade quickly. In the two-plus years between his 2010 election and the 2013 immigration reform fight, Marco Rubio learned the consequences of tea party betrayal. As a Latino and a presidential aspirant, he knew he had to come out in favor of a comprehensive immigration policy that included some path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants with clean records—what conservatives call “amnesty” for “illegals.” The legislation could include tougher border standards and increased funding for enforcement, but any hope Rubio might have of building a general election coalition to win the White House would have to include a citizenship component. Polls showed that Rubio or Jeb Bush—or even Paul Ryan—could capture at least 40 percent of the Latino vote if they backed a version of immigration reform with a path-to-citizenship provision.

As a Gang of Eight senator tasked with constructing a filibuster-proof bipartisan majority behind immigration reform, Rubio put himself out front on the issue. By summer 2013, he was paying the price. Robert Rector of the conservative Heritage Foundation proclaimed that Rubio did “not read his own bill,” specifically the provisions related to costs and enforcement. In a widely discussed essay in National Review in which they called for the bill to be killed, conservative commentators Rich Lowry and Bill Kristol specifically lambasted Rubio for claiming he didn’t want to have to come back in a decade to pass another bill when, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the enforcement provisions conservatives found insufficient would require exactly that. Right-wing talking heads Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck were less diplomatic, dismissing Rubio as the “Dr. Kevorkian of the Republican Party” and a “piece of garbage,” respectively. Attendees at an anti-immigration reform tea party rally held up signs calling him “Obama’s idiot.” Another proclaimed that “Rubio Lies, Americans Die.”

Marco Rubio’s journey from hero to apostate typifies the Republicans’ dilemma. A talented, young, handsome conservative from the biggest swing state in the country who could draw Latino voters back to the GOP, Rubio might have been the Republicans’ answer to Barack Obama: a politician with the star power to transform the party. He’s no RINO, and may yet be the Republicans’ 2016 presidential or vice presidential nominee. But for defying the tea party, Rubio will first need to do penance or see his—and perhaps his party’s—presidential hopes dashed.

Beyond Rubio’s political fate lies the larger point. With the rise of the tea party and with the vexing issue of immigration, the Republican Party faced a choice between the recovery and retrenchment paths, and each time chose retrenchment. Why? Don’t rational political parties make choices that best further their electoral goals? Usually, but not always. When a party sets its course down a particular path, it often closes off options or preempts alternatives that seem patently beneficial in the abstract but are conditionally less preferable than doing the opposite, or doing nothing at all. That is the nature of path dependency: it alters the cost-benefit analysis of future decisions. The Republican Party’s rising congressional fortunes have led the party quite rationally down a path that has made retrenchment more attractive and recovery less so.

As is so often true, Schaller got it right.

And now they have Trump.

.