The coming Republican civil war on immigration:
“This is not conservatism.” With those four simple words, House Speaker Paul Ryan dismissed Republican front-runner Donald Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entry into the United States until the federal government gets terrorism committed in the name of Islam figured out.
“This is not what our party stands for,” Ryan added, “and, more importantly, it’s not what our country stands for.”
That may depend on how the party is defined. While elected Republicans have almost unanimously distanced themselves from Trump’s Muslim gambit, one poll found that nearly two-thirds of GOP voters agreed with him. Another determined that more than three-fourths believe the United States is accepting too many immigrants from the Middle East.
There is a civil war in the Republican Party on immigration. Those on Trump’s side tend to see the enemy as including the party’s leadership, consultants, intellectuals and donor class. (The dust-up over Trump and Muslims is likely to bolster that perception.) But they’ve been courted by other GOP presidential candidates too, including Ted Cruz, Scott Walker and Rick Santorum.
Walker is already out of the race and Santorum has stalled in the low single digits. But Cruz is ascendant and Trump has been leading in the New Hampshire polls for a longer period of time than Walker’s presidential campaign lasted.
Trump isn’t the most articulate or consistent spokesman for immigration control in the GOP. That distinction goes to Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. And Trump’s Republican critics would be the first to point out he isn’t the most conservative. But his rise has fueled a family argument inside the party about how conservatives should view immigration.
Ryan’s position has a long conservative pedigree. He has followed in Jack Kemp’s intellectual footsteps. He can cite Ronald Reagan as well. The Wall Street Journal editorial page that championed Kemp and Reagan’s tax cuts also called for open borders. Republicans like Ryan tend to see America as a proposition or an idea, defined by the political principles laid out in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.
In this telling, immigration affirms the truths we hold to be self-evident, particularly that all men are created equal and the unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness. The willingness of immigrants to come here is a testament to the success of those principles. “Immigration,” writes veteran conservative columnist George Will, “is the entrepreneurial act of taking the risk of uprooting oneself and plunging into uncertainty.”
Restricting immigration, according to these Republicans, isn’t conservative because it requires government bureaucracies to interfere in labor markets. Immigration is like free trade and restricting it is like protectionism.
Read that last sentence again. Those who have read Cuckservative: How “Conservatives” Betrayed America will now understand, if they didn’t already, why we addressed free trade and immigration in the Immigration and Economics chapter, because the latter, in its open-borders variant, is a subset of the former.
It’s interesting, is it not, that the cuckservatives are willing to fight fellow Republicans to the death, but they’re always eager to negotiate a genteel surrender with the liberals. Of course, as we showed when discussing the six conservative principles laid out by Russell Kirk, cuckservatives reject the last two.