Ryan Lizza writes in the New Yorker about Republicans coming to grips with a divisive presidential candidate, particularly one that has sent such a virulent message to immigrants.
Some want to reach out to immigrants with reform legislation. Not Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas. Lizza recounts when Cotton, then in the House, argued against immigration reform in a Republican caucus session.
Cotton, who is tall and scrawny and loves partisan combat, delivered an unexpectedly sharp rebuke. He told me that he condemned the Senate bill for giving priority to “the illegal immigrant population” over the plight of “natural-born citizens and naturalized citizens who are out of work” and warned his colleagues that Republican voters were against immigration reform. Cotton was eying a Senate seat in deep-red Arkansas, where voters were strongly opposed to it. He led the House opposition to the Senate bill, and Boehner, then the Speaker, decided not to bring the bill to the House floor.
Lizza recounts how Cotton, who hasn’t ruled out joining a Trump presidential ticket, rose to prominence by calling for jailing of reporters who exposed a program to thwart terrorist financing. He finds all wrong the so-called Republican autopsy report that said the party was marginalizing itself with alienation of minorities and immigrants.
“There’s no issue on which élites in both parties are more disconnected from the American people—in both parties—than immigration.” The conclusions of the Autopsy Report have become an article of faith among the consultant and donor class, but Cotton laid out an alternative argument, citing data from exit polls and even margins of error. George W. Bush won his historic forty per cent of the Hispanic vote in 2004 almost without a mention of immigration. John McCain made immigration reform a centerpiece of his 2008 Presidential campaign and received thirty-one per cent of the Hispanic vote. Four years later, Romney talked about “self-deportation” and won twenty-seven per cent. “It didn’t seem to hurt him nearly as much as you might’ve expected,” Cotton said. “So, whatever it is that we can do to appeal to Hispanic voters, it would seem, is independent of what we do on immigration.”
Cotton’s remark drew a derisive reaction at Daily Kos. “Unpacking the stupid,” is how they put the analysis.
For one thing, Bush did talk about immigration. For another, every Republican candidate from Bush on has received about 3 million Latino votes — no more — while the number of Latinos in the electorate has risen. Daily Kos calls wishful thinking Cotton’s notion that immigration doesn’t count. Instead, Cotton suggests:
The corollary to this view of the effects of an anti-immigration platform is that Republicans can appeal to Hispanics with an economic message. “If you’re a first-generation Guatemalan working in northwest Arkansas, legal, you’re working for Tyson or something, maybe you’re working for a landscaping company or something, maybe your wife is a nanny or something, you have the same concerns as the white guy living down the road from you,” Cotton said. “By and large, you want a job that pays a decent wage and some benefits and some prospect for advancement. You want safety on your streets so you don’t have to worry about crime against your family. You don’t want radical terrorists to blow up the mall when you go shopping for back-to-school clothes for your kids.
Daily Kos sneers. The white guy is worried about an ICE agent carting him or family or friends away? Decent wages and benefits on the chicken line, cutting grass, tending someone’s kids? Safety? Is Tom Cotton doing anything about access to assault weapons? And then there’s fear of terrorists?
I can guaran-fucking-tee you that this isn’t a concern among Latinos, where they live in fear of family destroying government SWAT teams, violent gang members, and racist fucks with military-grade hardware. Terrorism? How quaint! They wish that’s all they had to worry about. That would mean they lived in a world where violence and trauma were an aberration, rather than the norm.
But they don’t live in that world in huge part because of people like Tom Cotton, who are so self-deluded they think the current racist GOP agenda will do anything to expand their share of the Latino electorate beyond that base three million. And when they fail this year, and the next cycle and the one after, they can keep consoling themselves by saying “it didn’t hurt us much”—even as the White House falls further and further out of their reach.
SPEAKING OF TOM COTTON: A right-wing organ reports on the showcasing of Cotton and another right-wing senator, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, at Mitt Romney’s annual political gathering. Which won? I’d vote Sasse, simply because he sees Trump as an existential threat to the future of conservatism. (Wait. Maybe that’s good.) Cotton on the other hand, said National Review, “believes the billionaire developer represents a populism the GOP should and must incorporate.”
It’s worth noting — as the article does — that tall talking Tom Cotton who has an opinion, usually involving use of force, on just about everything has been mostly silent on Trump. Maybe Tom Cotton, for all his bellicosity, is a political wuss.
“Cotton knows just as much as Sasse how bad Trump is,” says a Republican operative close to both men. “Cotton is being a little more political than he ought to be, but part of that is that in Arkansas, Trump is actually a fairly good fit among Republicans, and the Clintons are very poisonous.”
This has cost Cotton points, the article says:
Though none would say so on the record, Cotton’s silence has been a disappointment to many Never Trumpers. One called it “a fly in my vanilla milkshake” — something that would forever sully his view of Cotton. And his careful positioning has resulted, at least for now, in a slightly diminished reputation among top conservative donors and opinion makers.