That was the keyword and key memory that came from the silly, muddled mouth of Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign, when he was trying to explain his views on immigration.
The Wall Street Journal summarized Romney’s position, and problem, on immigration about a year ago:
“Mr. Romney has turned off some Hispanic voters by calling a strict Arizona law a model for the nation, promising to veto the Dream Act in its current form and saying he hopes those here illegally will self-deport after tough laws make it impossible to get a job or do other business.”In other words, Romney’s plan was to make the benefits of being in the USA without documentation so diminished, that millions of immigrants would just pick up and leave.
The self-deportation prescription went over with the Hispanic demographic in the USA like a ton of bricks. Romney lost the Hispanic vote to Barack Obama by a huge margin, getting only a little more than the dismal 23% predicted for him in polling back in April, 2012.
After the election, it was generally agreed that if the GOP did not change its position on immigration, and finally agree to crafting a means for millions of undocumented workers in the USA to achieve citizenship, and thus the full protection of the law, the GOP would be doomed. Reason: the Hispanic vote is only going to increase in importance as the years go by.
Proof of this, Marco Rubio, Republican US Senator from Florida, and a Cuban-American, is one of the leading candidates for consideration for the 2016 Republican nomination for president.
Rubio went on Meet the Press yesterday to explain how the so-called Gang of Eight had crafted a compromise immigration overhaul bill that he felt Republicans could support. While the bill allows for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, as Rubio tried to defend the severe restrictions placed on immigrants, to show that the bill was tough enough for conservative Republicans to support, he sounded a LOT like Mitt Romney:
“And so what we are doing is we are creating an alternative to that path [to citizenship] that exists now. And quite frankly, it'll be cheaper, faster and easier to leave [the USA] and wait ten years than it will be to go through this process that we've designed.”So, Rubio’s point was that the reason the immigration bill will be so attractive to Republicans is that it makes getting any path to citizenship, even for immigrants who have been in the USA for many years, so difficult, they would be better off self-deporting.
Well, Hispanics have heard and rejected this rhetoric before. If the GOP new appeal to Hispanics is to creep only a fraction of an inch in the direction of real compromise, they might keep their immigrant-hating base happy, but they will pre-doom their 2016 chances of winning the presidency.
As Rubio said, when confronted by reality, by MtP host David Gregory:
“What we're working on is a starting point. It is not the take-it-or-leave-it offer. It is a starting point of reform.”If Rubio means it’s a starting point on the path to the right from where he’s starting, the GOP will be in deep trouble. If a reasonable path to citizenship, especially for the children of immigrants, can be worked out, Rubio has a chance to be seen as a bridge-builder, instead of a Romney clone.