The only political issues Republicans should be concerned about this year have to do with bad government in all its guises (see: Bad Government, Bad Deals, and Failed Bills). Why are conservative politicians making headlines this week with two losing issues they should have the good sense to leave alone?
Topping the list of damaging political issues for Republicans:
Of all the political issues Republicans have to navigate before midterms, immigration is the one to avoid. Why is it so damaging? Because party members won’t line up behind what needs to be said and too often when the words come out, they come out wrong.
Remember the short-lived, duplicitous attempt to court Hispanics after the 2012 presidential election? No one bought it. That embarrassment segued into GOP members feigning bipartisanship by participating in another failure, the Gang of Eight, followed by John Boehner hinting at his willingness to compromise with Democrats. This gaffe was followed by the speaker’s about face, probably after a moment of clarity over the consequences of playing into the Obama administration’s hands on immigration. Boehner’s refusal to play ball would have been a good time to stop.
There is only one safe conservative answer to the problems caused by illegal immigration: enforcement. So why are we suddenly dealing with a potential presidential hopeful dropping a verbal bomb that will stick in conservative memories for years?
Jeb Bush is right, but just barely. Invading our border is not a felony, but identity fraud, benefit fraud, tax fraud, and other illegal immigrant favorites are crimes that cost taxpayers heartache and money. Act of love or not, no one asked illegals to come here. Labeling their presence a forgivable gesture that shouldn’t get Americans riled up is akin to arguing we should give a pass to the unemployed for dealing drugs for food and living expenses. Bush’s remark was ludicrous, deceptive, and shows just how much the immigration debate has thrown the party line into disarray.
Here’s an idea: let immigration alone. Democrats don’t have the votes and every time Republicans talk about anything but enforcement they blow their toes off.
Do we still burn witches if they work for the IRS?
Scandals can cover up the real political issues Republicans should be fighting over, but the temptation to get sidetracked and attack the wrong thing must be irresistible. With a vindictive IRS screw up that reeks of partisan revenge, midterms beckoning, and tax day just around the corner, is a showy public prosecution of an ex-federal employee a winner?
Pillorying Lois Lerner will turn into a protracted House dog and pony show that will end up further embarrassing conservatives already stung by the IRS’ actions. Republicans will be wide open for retaliation and why not? Liberals are still angry over Citizens United and the recent McCutcheon decision that further dashes Democratic hopes of being the only party worthy of big money contributions.
There are plenty of reasons to punish the IRS, from the tax gap to bad data to issuing refunds and tax credits to illegal immigrants (see: Does Illegal Immigration Mean You Pay for Tax Credits and Tuition?). Lerner is only a symptom of a much bigger problem. Republicans should have stayed away from the temptation to conduct an IRS witch hunt, a loser on Obama’s turf that stands as much chance of success as going after Eric Holder for Fast and Furious or trying to vote away Obamacare.
If Republicans are going to grandstand they need to grandstand over something that’s worth it, like the Senate if party members don’t blow their chances by taking the wrong stand on political issues or taking up causes that can’t be won. The biggest political issue for the GOP is still survival, no matter the positive outlook for midterms. The party has a knack for being its own worst enemy. This week proved it.