Mystery Solved

07.18.13

Moderate Republicans Exist But Have No Vehicle

This, as some of you know, is one of my pet issues. There are moderate Republicans in this country. Or even if maybe not very many of those anymore, then at least there are conservative Republicans in the Reagan mold who aren't full of social rage and aren't hell-bent on destroying Democrats and would welcome seeing Washington work better and seeing the two parties get something done once in a while. There are millions of such.

The problem is they have little to no voice on Capitol Hill, and no pressure-group vehicle through which to make their views and collective power known. So consequently, the hardened assemblage that is Capitol Hill Republicans listens only to the most extreme people back home, the ones who make the most noise, threaten primaries, and all that.

This, my friend Greg Sargent, is in my view the answer to the question you pose. Sargent writes up a new poll showing that 60 percent of Republicans support either the Senate bill as is or the Senate bill with toughter border security. Sargent writes:

It’s been widely accepted at face value that House Republicans can’t support comprehensive immigration reform because they will face a massive backlash from their voters and even will face primaries and all but certain political destruction. (Buzzfeed’s John Stanton has been one of the view to challenge this conventional wisdom.) But is it even true? The above poll suggests a solid majority of Republicans want action on reform, even including citizenship under certain conditions. and that only a minority of Republicans support reform without citizenship or no action at all.

The idea that Republican voters won’t stand for anything approaching comprehensive immigration reform is shaping the entire immigration debate. Can’t some crack polling guru type get to the bottom of whether it’s even true or not?

But see, both things are true. Not all rank-and-file Republicans are nutso extremists. In fact it may well be the case that most aren't. But they have no voice, and the guys'n'gals on the Hill listen to and fear only the nutos extremists. Whether Boehner ever permits a vote will depend ultimately on him deciding that he's just fed up with that and is going to change it.