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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Great Republican Revolt

The Atlantic (Opinion)
By David Frum
Jan/Feb Issue

The angriest and most pessimistic people in America aren’t the hipster protesters who flitted in and out of Occupy Wall Street. They aren’t the hashtavists of #BlackLivesMatter. They aren’t the remnants of the American labor movement or the savvy young dreamers who confront politicians with their American accents and un-American legal status.

The angriest and most pessimistic people in America are the people we used to call Middle Americans. Middle-class and middle-aged; not rich and not poor; people who are irked when asked to press 1 for English, and who wonder how white male became an accusation rather than a description.

You can measure their pessimism in polls that ask about their expectations for their lives—and for those of their children. On both counts, whites without a college degree express the bleakest view. You can see the effects of their despair in the new statistics describing horrifying rates of suicide and substance-abuse fatality among this same group, in middle age.

White Middle Americans express heavy mistrust of every institution in American society: not only government, but corporations, unions, even the political party they typically vote for—the Republican Party of Romney, Ryan, and McConnell, which they despise as a sad crew of weaklings and sellouts. They are pissed off. And when Donald Trump came along, they were the people who told the pollsters, “That’s my guy.”

They aren’t necessarily superconservative. They often don’t think in ideological terms at all. But they do strongly feel that life in this country used to be better for people like them—and they want that older country back.

You hear from people like them in many other democratic countries too. Across Europe, populist parties are delivering a message that combines defense of the welfare state with skepticism about immigration; that denounces the corruption of parliamentary democracy and also the risks of global capitalism. Some of these parties have a leftish flavor, like Italy’s Five Star Movement. Some are rooted to the right of center, like the U.K. Independence Party. Some descend from neofascists, like France’s National Front. Others trace their DNA to Communist parties, like Slovakia’s governing Direction–Social Democracy.

These populists seek to defend what the French call “acquired rights”—health care, pensions, and other programs that benefit older people—against bankers and technocrats who endlessly demand austerity; against migrants who make new claims and challenge accustomed ways; against a globalized market that depresses wages and benefits. In the United States, they lean Republican because they fear the Democrats want to take from them and redistribute to Americans who are newer, poorer, and in their view less deserving—to “spread the wealth around,” in candidate Barack Obama’s words to “Joe the Plumber” back in 2008. Yet they have come to fear more and more strongly that their party does not have their best interests at heart.

Against all evidence, GOP donors interpreted the Tea Party as a movement in favor of the agenda of the Wall Street Journal editorial page.

A majority of Republicans worry that corporations and the wealthy exert too much power. Their party leaders work to ensure that these same groups can exert even more. Mainstream Republicans were quite at ease with tax increases on households earning more than $250,000 in the aftermath of the Great Recession and the subsequent stimulus. Their congressional representatives had the opposite priorities. In 2008, many Republican primary voters had agreed with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who wanted “their next president to remind them of the guy they work with, not the guy who laid them off.” But those Republicans did not count for much once the primaries ended, and normal politics resumed between the multicultural Democrats and a plutocratic GOP.

This year, they are counting for more. Their rebellion against the power of organized money has upended American politics in ways that may reverberate for a long time. To understand what may come next, we must first review the recent past.

Not so long ago, many observers worried that Americans had lost interest in politics. In his famous book Bowling Alone, published in 2000, the social scientist Robert Putnam bemoaned the collapse in American political participation during the second half of the 20th century. Putnam suggested that this trend would continue as the World War II generation gave way to disengaged Gen Xers.

But even as Putnam’s book went into paperback, that notion was falling behind the times. In the 1996 presidential election, voter turnout had tumbled to the lowest level since the 1920s, less than 52 percent. Turnout rose slightly in November 2000. Then, suddenly: overdrive. In the presidential elections of 2004 and 2008, voter turnout spiked to levels not seen since before the voting age was lowered to 18, and in 2012 it dipped only a little. Voters were excited by a hailstorm of divisive events: the dot-com bust, the Bush-versus-Gore recount, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Iraq War, the financial crisis, the bailouts and stimulus, and the Affordable Care Act.

Putnam was right that Americans were turning away from traditional sources of information. But that was because they were turning to new ones: first cable news channels and partisan political documentaries; then blogs and news aggregators like the Drudge Report and The Huffington Post; after that, and most decisively, social media.

Politics was becoming more central to Americans’ identities in the 21st century than it ever was in the 20th. Would you be upset if your child married a supporter of a different party from your own? In 1960, only 5 percent of Americans said yes. In 2010, a third of Democrats and half of Republicans did. Political identity has become so central because it has come to overlap with so many other aspects of identity: race, religion, lifestyle. In 1960, I wouldn’t have learned much about your politics if you told me that you hunted. Today, that hobby strongly suggests Republican loyalty. Unmarried? In 1960, that indicated little. Today, it predicts that you’re a Democrat, especially if you’re also a woman.

Meanwhile, the dividing line that used to be the most crucial of them all—class—has increasingly become a division within the parties, not between them. Since 1984, nearly every Democratic presidential-primary race has ended as a contest between a “wine track” candidate who appealed to professionals (Gary Hart, Michael Dukakis, Paul Tsongas, Bill Bradley, and Barack Obama) and a “beer track” candidate who mobilized the remains of the old industrial working class (Walter Mondale, Dick Gephardt, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Hillary Clinton). The Republicans have their equivalent in the battles between “Wall Street” and “Main Street” candidates. Until this decade, however, both parties—and especially the historically more cohesive Republicans—managed to keep sufficient class peace to preserve party unity.

Not anymore, at least not for the Republicans.

The Great Recession ended in the summer of 2009. Since then, the U.S. economy has been growing, but most incomes have not grown comparably. In 2014, real median household income remained almost $4,000 below the pre-recession level, and well below the level in 1999. The country has recovered from the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. Most of its people have not. Many Republicans haven’t shared in the recovery and continued upward flight of their more affluent fellow partisans.

It was these pessimistic Republicans who powered the Tea Party movement of 2009 and 2010. They were not, as a rule, libertarians looking for an ultraminimal government. The closest study we have of the beliefs of Tea Party supporters, led by Theda Skocpol, a Harvard political scientist, found that “Tea Partiers judge entitlement programs not in terms of abstract free-market orthodoxy, but according to the perceived deservingness of recipients. The distinction between ‘workers’ and ‘people who don’t work’ is fundamental to Tea Party ideology.”

It’s uncertain whether any Tea Partier ever really carried a placard that read keep your government hands off my medicare. But if so, that person wasn’t spouting gibberish. The Obama administration had laid hands on Medicare. It hoped to squeeze $500 billion out of the program from 2010 to 2020 to finance health insurance for the uninsured. You didn’t have to look up the figures to have a sense that many of the uninsured were noncitizens (20 percent), or that even more were foreign-born (27 percent). In the Tea Party’s angry town-hall meetings, this issue resonated perhaps more loudly than any other—the ultimate example of redistribution from a deserving “us” to an undeserving “them.”

Yet even as the Republican Main Street protested Obamacare, it rejected the hardening ideological orthodoxy of Republican donors and elected officials. A substantial minority of Republicans—almost 30 percent—said they would welcome “heavy” taxes on the wealthy, according to Gallup. Within the party that made Paul Ryan’s entitlement-slashing budget plan a centerpiece of policy, only 21 percent favored cuts in Medicare and only 17 percent wanted to see spending on Social Security reduced, according to Pew. Less than a third of ordinary Republicans supported a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants (again according to Pew); a majority, by contrast, favored stepped-up deportation.

As a class, big Republican donors could not see any of this, or would not. So neither did the politicians who depend upon them. Against all evidence, both groups interpreted the Tea Party as a mass movement in favor of the agenda of the Wall Street Journal editorial page. One of the more dangerous pleasures of great wealth is that you never have to hear anyone tell you that you are completely wrong.

It was mitt romney who got the first post–Tea Party presidential nomination, and he ran on a platform of Conservatism Classic: tax cuts, budget cuts, deregulation, free trade—all lightly seasoned with some concessions to the base regarding stricter immigration enforcement. The rank and file did not like it. But they could not stop it. The base kept elevating “not Romneys” into first place, and each rapidly failed or fizzled; Romney, supported by a cumulative total of $139 million in primary funds by March 2012, trundled on.

Romney ultimately lost the presidential election, of course, to the surprise and dismay of a party elite confident of victory until the very end. One might have expected this shock to force a rethink. The Republicans had now lost four out of the past six presidential elections. Another election had been won only in the Electoral College, despite the loss of the popular vote. Even their best showing, 50.7 percent of the vote in 2004, represented the closest escape of any incumbent president who won reelection since the first recorded popular vote.

And yet, within hours of Romney’s defeat, Republican donors, talkers, and officials converged on the maximally self-exculpating explanation. The problem had not been the plan to phase out Medicare for people younger than 55. Or the lack of ideas about how to raise wages. Or the commitment to ending health-insurance coverage for millions of working-age Americans. Or the anthems to wealth creation and entrepreneurship in a country increasingly skeptical of both. No, the problem was the one element of Romney’s message they had never liked anyway: immigration enforcement.

Maybe it was not a good idea for Jeb Bush’s allies to describe his fund-raising strategy as “shock and awe.”

Owners of capital assets, employers of low-skill laborers, and highly compensated professionals tend to benefit economically from the arrival of immigrants. They are better positioned to enjoy the attractive cultural and social results of migration (more-interesting food!) and to protect themselves against the burdensome impacts (surges in non-English-proficient pupils in public schools). A pro-immigration policy shift was one more assertion of class interest in a party program already brimful of them.

Nobody expressed the party elites’ consensus view more assuredly than Charles Krauthammer. “Ignore the trimmers,” he wrote in his first postelection column. “There’s no need for radical change. The other party thinks it owns the demographic future—counter that in one stroke by fixing the Latino problem. Do not, however, abandon the party’s philosophical anchor … No reinvention when none is needed.”

“We’ve gotta get rid of the immigration issue altogether,” Sean Hannity told his radio audience the day after the election. “It’s simple for me to fix it. I think you control the border first, you create a pathway for those people that are here, you don’t say, ‘You gotta go home.’ And that is a position that I’ve evolved on.”

A co-owner of Fox News—Krauthammer and Hannity’s TV network—agreed: “Must have sweeping, generous immigration reform,” tweeted Rupert Murdoch on November 7, 2012. “It would be inhumane to send those people back, to send 12 million people out of this country,” the casino mogul and Republican donor Sheldon Adelson told The Wall Street Journal in December of that year. “We’ve got to find a way, find a route, for those people to get legal citizenship.” The Republican National Committee made it all official in a March 2013 postelection report signed by party eminences. The report generally avoided policy recommendations, with a notable exception: “We must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform.” To advance the cause, Paul Singer, one of the most open-pocketed GOP donors, made a six-figure contribution to the National Immigration Forum that spring.

If all of this sounds like a prescription for a Jeb Bush candidacy for president … well, perhaps that was not an entirely unintended consequence.

Almost as soon as the new Congress convened in 2013, Senate Republicans worked to strike a deal over immigration issues. A bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” including Florida’s ambitious young Marco Rubio, agreed on a plan that would create a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants and substantially increase legal-immigration limits for both high- and low-skilled workers. Otherwise, the party yielded on nothing and doubled down on everything. No U-turns. No compromises.

The new strategy soon proved a total and utter failure. George W. Bush’s tax cuts for high earners expired in 2013, and Republicans could not renew them. The drive to cut the deficit ended in budget sequestration, whose harshest effect fell on the military. The Gang of Eight deal never came to a vote in the House. All the while, Republicans’ approval ratings slipped and slid. Instead of holding on to their base and adding Hispanics, Republicans alienated their base in return for no gains at all. By mid-2015, a majority of self-identified Republicans disapproved of their party’s congressional leadership—an intensity of disapproval never seen by the Republican majority of the 1990s nor by Democrats during their time in the majority after the 2006 midterm elections.

In fact, disapproval had flared into an outright revolt of the Republican base in the summer of 2014. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the No. 2 man in the Republican caucus, had emerged as a leader of the new line on immigration. Up for reelection in Virginia’s Seventh District, Cantor was challenged that year by a conservative Christian professor of economics, Dave Brat. During Obama’s first term, Tea Party insurgents had toppled incumbents and defeated party favorites in primaries from Delaware to Nevada. Those challenges had ended badly in the general election, for the most part: Tea Party Republicans lost at least five Senate seats that might plausibly have been won. Party leaders believed the lesson had been learned and expected their voters to be more tractable in future elections.

Cantor’s loss to Brat jolted House leaders. Immigration reform slipped off their agenda. Marco Rubio repudiated his own deal. But Republican elites outside Congress did not get the message. They rationalized Cantor’s defeat as a freak event, the sad consequence of a nationally minded politician’s neglect of his district. They continued to fill the coffers of Jeb Bush and, to a lesser extent, Rubio and Scott Walker, all reliable purveyors of Conservatism Classic. Last February, three of the party’s most important moneymen—the fast-food executive Andrew Puzder, the health-care investor Mike Fernandez, and the national finance chair of Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, Spencer Zwick—publicly urged the GOP to push ahead toward more-open immigration. “America should be a destination for hardworking immigrants from all over the world,” said Puzder, an advocate of importing more low-skilled laborers to meet the needs of his high-turnover industry. Zwick said that any presidential candidate who wanted to be taken seriously had better “be in a similar place” to Jeb Bush on the immigration issue.

Maybe it was not a good idea for Jeb Bush’s allies to describe his fund-raising strategy as “shock and awe.” Perhaps the Iraq War reference stirred painful memories, even among Republicans. Still, Bush’s fund-raising genuinely inspired awe. In his financial disclosure for the second quarter of 2015, Bush reported raising $11.4 million for his formal campaign and another $103 million for his super PAC. These funds were provided by a relatively small number of very wealthy people. Of Bush’s presidential-campaign dollars, only 3 percent arrived in amounts of $200 or less. Almost 82 percent arrived in the maximum increment of $2,700. Nearly 80 percent of Bush’s super-PAC take arrived in increments of $25,000 or more; about a quarter of the haul was made up of donations of $1 million or more.

Yet seldom in the history of fund-raising has so much bought so little, so fleetingly. Between December 2014 and September 2015, Jeb Bush plunged from first place in the Republican field to fifth. Between late September and mid-October, he purchased 60 percent of all political spots aired in New Hampshire. That ad barrage pushed his poll numbers in the state from about 9 percent to about 8 percent.

As the governor of Florida, Bush had cut taxes and balanced budgets. He’d challenged unions and championed charter schools. At the same time, Bush passionately supported immigration liberalization. The central event in his life history was his reinvention as an honorary Latino American when he married a Mexican woman, Columba Garnica de Gallo. He spoke Spanish at home. He converted to Catholicism. He sought his fortune with a Cuban American business partner. In his most quotable phrase, he described illegal immigration as an “act of love.”

Bush’s update of Conservatism Classic had made him a hit with the party’s big donors. He had won accolades from Karl Rove (“the deepest thinker on our side”) and Arthur Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute (“a top-drawer intellect”). Yet within five weeks of his formal declaration of candidacy on June 15, Bush’s campaign had been brutally rejected by the GOP rank and file.

From Jupiter Island, Florida, to Greenwich, Connecticut; from Dallas’s Highland Park to Sea Island, Georgia; from Fifth Avenue in Manhattan to California’s Newport Beach, the baffled question resounded: What went wrong?

Big-dollar Republican favorites have run into trouble before, of course. Rudy Giuliani imploded in 2007–08; Mitt Romney’s 2012 nomination was knocked off course as Republicans worked their way through a series of alternative front-runners: Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and finally Rick Santorum. But Giuliani lost ground to two rivals equally acceptable to the donor elite, or nearly so: Mitt Romney and John McCain. In 2011–12, the longest any of the “not Romneys” remained in first place was six weeks. In both cycles, resistance to the party favorite was concentrated among social and religious conservatives.

The mutiny of the 2016 election cycle has been different. By the fall of 2015, a majority of Republicans favored candidates who had never been elected to anything: Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina. Fiorina’s campaign was perhaps not so unusual. A former CEO, she appealed to the same business-minded Republicans who might have voted for Romney in 2012. Carson appealed to the same religious conservatives that candidates like Mike Huckabee and Santorum had appealed to in prior presidential cycles. What was new and astonishing was the Trump boom. He jettisoned party orthodoxy on issues ranging from entitlement spending to foreign policy. He scoffed at trade agreements. He said rude things about Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers. He reviled the campaign contributions of big donors—himself included!—as open and blatant favor-buying. Trump’s surge was a decisive repudiation by millions of Republican voters of the collective wisdom of their party elite.

Trump’s grim pessimism didn’t resonate with those who’d ridden the S&P 500 giddily upward. But it found an audience all the same.

When Trump first erupted into the Republican race in June, he did so with a message of grim pessimism. “We got $18 trillion in debt. We got nothing but problems … We’re dying. We’re dying. We need money … We have losers. We have people that don’t have it. We have people that are morally corrupt. We have people that are selling this country down the drain … The American dream is dead.”

That message did not resonate with those who’d ridden the S&P 500 from less than 900 in 2009 to more than 2,000 in 2015. But it found an audience all the same. Half of Trump’s supporters within the GOP had stopped their education at or before high-school graduation, according to the polling firm YouGov. Only 19 percent had a college or postcollege degree. Thirty-eight percent earned less than $50,000. Only 11 percent earned more than $100,000.

Trump Republicans were not ideologically militant. Just 13 percent said they were very conservative; 19 percent described themselves as moderate. Nor were they highly religious by Republican standards.

What set them apart from other Republicans was their economic insecurity and the intensity of their economic nationalism. Sixty-three percent of Trump supporters wished to end birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants born on U.S. soil—a dozen points higher than the norm for all Republicans. More than other Republicans, Trump supporters distrusted Barack Obama as alien and dangerous: Only 21 percent acknowledged that the president was born in the United States, according to an August survey by the Democratic-oriented polling firm PPP. Sixty-six percent believed the president was a Muslim.

Trump promised to protect these voters’ pensions from their own party’s austerity. “We’ve got Social Security that’s going to be destroyed if somebody like me doesn’t bring money into the country. All these other people want to cut the hell out of it. I’m not going to cut it at all; I’m going to bring money in, and we’re going to save it.”

He promised to protect their children from being drawn into another war in the Middle East, this time in Syria. “If we’re going to have World War III,” he told The Washington Post in October, “it’s not going to be over Syria.” As for the politicians threatening to shoot down the Russian jets flying missions in Syria, “I won’t even call them hawks. I call them the fools.”

He promised a campaign independent of the influences of money that had swayed so many Republican races of the past. “I will tell you that our system is broken. I gave to many people. Before this, before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them. They are there for me. And that’s a broken system.”

He promised above all to protect their wages from being undercut by Republican immigration policy.

It cannot last, can it? “The casino does not always win,” Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney’s lead strategist during the 2012 campaign, quipped to me in September. “But that’s the way to bet.” The casino won in 2012, and will very likely win again in 2016.

And yet already, Trump has destroyed one elite-favored presidential candidacy, Scott Walker’s, and crippled two others, Jeb Bush’s and Chris Christie’s. He has thrown into disarray the party’s post-2012 comeback strategy, and pulled into the center of national discussion issues and constituencies long relegated to the margins.

Something has changed in American politics since the Great Recession. The old slogans ring hollow. The insurgent candidates are less absurd, the orthodox candidates more vulnerable. The GOP donor elite planned a dynastic restoration in 2016. Instead, it triggered an internal class war.

The contest for the presidency turns on external events as much as—or more than—internal party politics. George W. Bush’s team believed that the last-minute revelation of a 1976 drunk-driving arrest cost him the popular vote in the 2000 election. Jimmy Carter blamed his 1980 defeat on the debacle of the attempted rescue of American hostages in Iran. So anything can happen. But that does not mean anything will happen. Barring shocks, presidential elections turn on the fundamentals of economics, demography, and ideology.

The puzzle for the monied leaders of the Republican Party is: What now? And what next after that? None of the options facing the GOP elite is entirely congenial. But there appear to be four paths the elite could follow, for this campaign season and beyond. They lead the party in very different directions.

Option 1: Double Down

The premise of the past few thousand words is that the Republican donor elite failed to impose its preferred candidate on an unwilling base in 2015 for big and important reasons. But maybe that premise is wrong. Maybe Jeb Bush has just been a bad candidate with a radioactive last name. Maybe the same message and platform would have worked fine if espoused by a fresher and livelier candidate. Such is the theory of Marco Rubio’s campaign. Or—even if the donor message and platform have troubles—maybe $100 million in negative ads can scorch any potential alternative, enabling the donor-backed candidate to win by default.

And if not Rubio, maybe the core donor message could still work if joined to a true outsider candidacy: Ben Carson’s, for example. Carson is often regarded as a protest candidate, but as The Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes enthused back in January 2015: “One thing not in doubt is Carson’s conservatism. He’s the real deal, an economic, social, and foreign policy conservative.” Carson may say wacky things, but he does not say heterodox things.

Yet even if the Republican donor elite can keep control of the party while doubling down, it’s doubtful that the tactic can ultimately win presidential elections. The “change nothing but immigration” advice was a self-flattering fantasy from the start. Immigration is not the main reason Republican presidential candidates lose so badly among Latino and Asian American voters, and never was: Latino voters are more likely to list education and health care as issues that are extremely important to them. A majority of Asian Americans are non-Christian and susceptible to exclusion by sectarian religious themes.

So …

Option 2: Tactical Concession

Perhaps some concession to the disgruntled base is needed. That’s the theory of the Cruz campaign and—after a course correction—also of the Christie campaign. Instead of 2013’s “Conservatism Classic Plus Immigration Liberalization,” Cruz and Christie are urging “Conservatism Classic Plus Immigration Enforcement.” True, Cruz’s carefully selected words on immigration leave open the possibility of guest-worker programs or other pro-employer reforms after a burst of border enforcement. But Cruz and Christie have seen the reaction to Donald Trump’s message, and appear to appreciate the need to at least seem to do something to redress the grievances of the Republican base.

Much of the donor elite could likely be convinced that while Jeb Bush’s idea of immigration reform would be good to have, it isn’t a must-have. Just as the party elite reached a pact on abortion with social conservatives in the 1980s, it could concede the immigration issue to its Main Street base in the 2010s.

The party elites’ “change nothing but immigration” advice after Romney’s defeat was a self-flattering fantasy from the start.

Yet a narrow focus on immigration populism alone seems insufficient to raise Republican hopes. Trump shrewdly joins his immigration populism to trade populism. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders’s opposition to open borders is logically connected to his hopes for a Democratic Socialist future: His admired Denmark upholds high labor standards along with some of the world’s toughest immigration rules. Severed from a larger agenda, however—as Mitt Romney tried to sever the issue in 2012—immigration populism looks at best like pandering, and at worst like identity politics for white voters. In a society that is and always has been multiethnic and polyglot, any national party must compete more broadly than that.

Which brings us to …

Option 3: True Reform

Admittedly, this may be the most uncongenial thought of them all, but party elites could try to open more ideological space for the economic interests of the middle class. Make peace with universal health-insurance coverage: Mend Obamacare rather than end it. Cut taxes less at the top, and use the money to deliver more benefits to working families in the middle. Devise immigration policy to support wages, not undercut them. Worry more about regulations that artificially transfer wealth upward, and less about regulations that constrain financial speculation. Take seriously issues such as the length of commutes, nursing-home costs, and the anticompetitive practices that inflate college tuition. Remember that Republican voters care more about aligning government with their values of work and family than they care about cutting the size of government as an end in itself. Recognize that the gimmick of mobilizing the base with culture-war outrages stopped working at least a decade ago.

Such a party would cut health-care costs by squeezing providers, not young beneficiaries. It would boost productivity by investing in hard infrastructure—bridges, airports, water-treatment plants. It would restore Dwight Eisenhower to the Republican pantheon alongside Ronald Reagan and emphasize the center in center-right.

To imagine the change is to see how convulsive it would be—and how unlikely. True, center-right conservative parties backed by broad multiethnic coalitions of the middle class have gained and exercised power in other English-speaking countries, even as Republicans lost the presidency in 2008 and 2012. But the most-influential voices in American conservatism reject the experience of their foreign counterparts as weak, unprincipled, and unnecessary. In parliamentary democracy, winning or losing is starkly binary: A party either is in power or is the opposition. In the American system, that binary is much blurrier. Republicans can, of course, exert some control over government as long as they hold any one of the House, Senate, or presidency.

Which brings us finally to …

Option 4: Change the Rules of the Game

“The filibuster used to be bad. Now it’s good.” So Fred Thompson, the late actor and former Republican senator, jokingly told an audience on a National Review cruise shortly after Barack Obama won the presidency for the first time. How partisans feel about process issues is notoriously related to what process would benefit them at any given moment. Liberals loved the interventionist Supreme Court in the 1960s and ’70s, hated it in the 1990s and 2000s—and may rotate their opinion again if a President Hillary Clinton can tilt a majority of the Supreme Court their way. It’s an old story that may find a new twist if and when Republicans acknowledge that the presidency may be attainable only after they make policy changes that are unacceptable to the party elite.

There are metrics, after all, by which the post-2009 GOP appears to be a supremely successful political party. Recently, Rory Cooper, of the communications firm Purple Strategies, tallied a net gain to the Republicans of 69 seats in the House of Representatives, 13 seats in the Senate, 900-plus seats in state legislatures, and 12 governorships since Obama took office. With that kind of grip on state government, in particular, Republicans are well positioned to write election and voting rules that sustain their hold on the national legislature. The president may be able to grant formerly illegal immigrants the right to work, but he cannot grant them the right to vote. In this light, instead of revising Republican policies to stop future Barack Obamas and Hillary Clintons, maybe it’s necessary to revise only the party rules to stop future Donald Trumps from confronting party elites with their own unpopularity.

The inaugural issue of The Weekly Standard, the conservative magazine launched in 1995, depicted then–Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich swinging into action, a submachine gun blazing in his left hand, under the headline “Permanent Offense.” But that was then. Maybe the more natural condition of conservative parties is permanent defense—and where better to wage a long, grinding defensive campaign than in Congress and the statehouses? Maybe the presidency itself should be regarded as one of those things that is good to have but not a must-have, especially if obtaining it requires uncomfortable change.

What happens to an elite whose followers withdraw their assent?Soes it self-examine? Or does it take refuge in denial? Does it change? Or does it try to prevent change? Does it challenge itself to build a new political majority? Or does it seize the opportunities the American political system offers to compact and purposeful minorities? When its old answers fail, will it think anew? Or will it simply repeat louder the dogmas that enthralled supporters in the past? Americans love the crush of competition, the hard-fought struggle, the long-slogging race. But much more than the pundit’s “Who will win?,” it is these deeper questions from the election of 2016 that will shape the future of American politics.

For more information, go to:  www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Marco Rubio is now the GOP’s most progressive presidential candidate on immigration reform.

The New Republic (Opinion)
By Megan Murphy
December 21, 2015

Marco Rubio is now the GOP’s most progressive presidential candidate on immigration reform. Lindsey Graham has dropped out of the race and with him will go a certain willingness to compromise on the contentious issue. Unlike his colleague Marco Rubio, Graham touted his record on the campaign trail, at times emphasizing his efforts to push for comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate as a member of the infamous Gang of Eight. Graham also criticized both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in the media, telling Bloomberg Politics that Cruz “has been very intolerable” on immigration, and Donald Trump’s rhetoric and proposed policies are “killing the Republican Party.”

On this issue, Graham’s absence will be felt. Hillary Clinton’s senior spokesperson Jesse Ferguson tweeted:

But there’s still Marco Rubio who, in the middle of a spat with Ted Cruz at last Thursday’s debate, outlined his policy position very clearly: registration, fines, heightened border security, lots of waiting, legal status, and then after some more waiting, the possibility of citizenship.

For more information, go to:  www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Harsh, Hidden Immigration Legislation

Huffington Post (Op-Ed)
By Ryan Campbell
December 21, 2015

There's no question the presidential race has become pretty ugly: with Trump turning it into a reality show, the policies being discussed would hurt the immigrant community, our standing in the global community and our national security.

All of this showmanship has also allowed legislation to slip beneath the radar. To paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson, most of the political show we see is just to distract us from what is really going on.

While the country has been focused on Hillary's emails, Ben Carson's brand of crazy and pretty much everything that Donald Trump says or does, Congress has been able to do whatever it wants with little to no notice. The result has been pretty harsh, and not good for either the immigrant community or national security.

For starters, in a turn away from empathy, HR 4197 would allow governors to refuse refugee resettlement. These are the same guys who have been trying to turn away refugees for years, whether from Syria or from the border children crisis of a few summers ago. HR 4218 goes further to halt refugee resettlement until certain conditions are met, such as an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office of costs which the President would then be required to offset.

This is despite the fact that these refugees are some of the most vetted immigration candidates on the planet in a process that takes years and requires background checks by several different US agencies. In addition, the terrorism that we're so afraid of isn't refugees, it comes from radicalized citizens of the countries that they attack. Often, they're radicalized by the narrative of Islam vs. the West that this ban on the refugees trying to escape ISIS so strongly feeds into.

In a surprising turn against a fairly loyal Cuban base, a Florida Republican sponsored legislation that would make Cuban immigrants ineligible for certain refugee benefits. This happens at a time when Cubans are panicking that the generous status the US affords people like Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio's (R-FL) families will be withdrawn with the normalization of relations between the two nations.

Ted Cruz, essentially a human political branding campaign (and quite genius at it), introduced S 2394 that would add extra requirements for the H-1B visa program. More relevantly, this bill would also eliminate the diversity visa lottery program. Another Republican bill, HR 4274, would end the fiancé, or K-1, visa program until Congress votes to resume it. This would make it much more difficult for immigrants to bring over a fiancé that they want to marry in the country.

John McCain (R-AZ) introduced S 2395, reauthorizing the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program until 2020. This would provide funding to states that incarcerate undocumented immigrants. These immigrants are incarcerated in private detention centers that make the regular prisons that most Americans consider a national shame look like country clubs. This would also encourage programs that utilize local police in enforcing federal immigration law, which undermines community safety and is especially difficult for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault in mixed-status families.

Finally, in the omnibus spending bill HR 2029 that is currently awaiting Obama's signature, there are a host of anti-immigrant measures. This includes restricting the visa waiver program to anyone who has even traveled to Syria, Iraq or certain other countries, losing tax credits depending on your immigration status (including those with DACA and status relating to being a domestic violence survivor) and restrictions on ITNs (individual tax numbers) that make it more difficult to pay taxes.

Most of these policies are the kind that make primary voters feel a little better but do nothing to address the very real problems we face, kinda like 90% of what Trump has said so far.

Quite frankly, these bills are furthering my conviction that the GOP is a party that is completely controlled by primary-related marketing and polls, and cares nothing for the addressing of serious problems with serious legislation; their solution to having more than one mass shooting a day is continuing to allow everyone who is so inclined to arm themselves, and then praying for the victims whenever one of the millions of military-grade weapons is predictably used on people just trying to watch a movie. Their approach to immigration is not much different, and we all live with the consequences of this lack of seriousness from our legislators: there's no longer an adult in the room for the GOP, and we desperately need one.

For more information, go to:  www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Trump dominates in final CNN poll of 2015

By Nick Gass
December 23, 2015

Donald Trump holds a commanding, double-digit lead over Ted Cruz and the rest of the GOP presidential field heading into 2016, according to the results of the latest CNN/ORC national poll released Wednesday.

Earning the same shares they received in last week's Fox News poll, Trump picked up 39 percent, while Cruz took 18 percent. Behind them, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tied with 10 percent, slight decreases for both from the same survey conducted in late November and early December. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie grabbed 5 percent, followed by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul at 4 percent, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 3 percent, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Ohio Gov. John Kasich at 2 percent each, and all other candidates earning 1 percent or less. Just 1 percent said they had no opinion.

Compared to late July, when just 48 percent said they would rather see one or two candidates win rather than everyone else, this time, 60 percent said they would, a notion reflected in the one-two finish of Trump and Cruz, who has gained on the Manhattan businessman in other recent state and national polling. Based on the Republican voters who said they watched the Dec. 15 debate, 33 percent said Trump won the night, while 28 percent said Cruz was the victor.

Trump also held double-digit advantages over Cruz when it came to how Republican voters saw each candidate's ability to handle some of the race's top issues: the economy (up 48 points over the Texas senator), illegal immigration (up 40 points), and the Islamic State (up 26 points).

Asked whether Republicans have a better shot of recapturing the White House with Trump or with someone else, voters were split, with 46 percent thinking the businessman had a better chance and 50 percent with another candidate. But it's another sign of strength for Trump: In the same poll conducted in mid-August, just 38 percent said he was the party's best chance, compared to 58 percent who said they would have a better chance with another candidate.

On whether Trump has the right experience to be president, 67 percent to 33 of all voters said he did not, while 57 percent to 42 percent of registered Republicans said he did. Asked whether they would be proud to have him as president, 65 percent to 34 percent of all surveyed said they would not, while 60 percent to 39 percent of Republicans said they would. And while 63 percent to 36 percent of registered Republicans said he shares their values, 62 percent to 37 percent of all voters said he did not. Voters, overall, were slightly more receptive to Cruz in expressing that he has the right experience to be president.

Rubio leads the field in terms of overall net positive favorability among all voters, up 12 points (46 percent to 34 percent), followed by Cruz, up 6 points (45 percent to 39 percent) and Carson, up 3 points (43 percent to 40 percent). Trump, meanwhile, stands at 18 points underwater among all voters, with 39 percent favorable and 57 percent unfavorable. Those numbers still represent an improvement from September and mark his lowest overall unfavorable numbers in the survey since the first time the question was asked in 2011.

The poll was conducted Dec. 17-21 via landlines and cellphones, surveying 927 voters who said they have or will register to vote, with an overall margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.The sample also includes 438 registered voters who described themselves as Republicans or as independents who lean Republican. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

For more information, go to:  www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

Rubio puts his biggest weakness in the spotlight

By Steve Benen
December 22, 2015

The traditional model of campaigning says candidates should focus on their strengths and downplay their areas of weakness. Karl Rove, however, helped introduce a very different kind of approach to GOP politics: shine a light on your vulnerability, inoculate yourself on the issue, and leave your rival with nothing.

It’s why, for example, we saw a draft-dodging Republican attack the military service of a Democratic war hero in 2004.

Marco Rubio appears to be reading from the same playbook. The biggest hurdle between the Florida senator and his party’s presidential nomination is his co-authorship of President Obama’s bipartisan immigration bill two years ago – legislation that Republican base hates like poison. So, Rubio is going after his primary rival, Ted Cruz, over the one issue Rubio would seemingly prefer to ignore.

Writing in Salon the other day, Digby questioned the merits of Rubio’s strategy to deal with his principle problem.

Apparently he’s decided that the best way to make people forget his immigration apostasy, when he joined with Democrats on the notorious Gang of 8 to hammer out a Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill, is to draw as much attention to it as possible by picking a losing fight with Ted Cruz. He seems to think that aggressively accusing his rival of abandoning his conservative principles in the same way he did will somehow make his own betrayal go away.

All it’s accomplished is to make every conservative in the land think even less of him than they did before.

The Washington Examiner’s Byron York wrote a brutal, matter-of-fact-style piece yesterday, laying out the undisputed details of the 2013 immigration fight, and the role Rubio and Cruz played during the ideological battle. Rubio desperately wants voters to believe, as he put it on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, that “there isn’t that big a difference between [Cruz] and I on how to approach immigration.” York’s piece makes it unambiguously clear that the claim is a rather brazen lie: Rubio partnered with Democrats in trying to pass the bill; Cruz partnered with conservatives in trying to kill it. The dynamic really is that simple.

But just as important on a tactical level is that the bogus claim has the effect of reminding Republicans what it is about Rubio they dislike so much.

Why isn’t the ol’ Rovian special working?

Part of the problem is that it’s tougher to pull off in a primary, as opposed to a general election, but just as important is the fact that Rubio is asking people to believe that Ted Cruz, even while trying to kill the bipartisan immigration bill in the last Congress, wasn’t particularly conservative when it came to immigration.

And that, by any sensible measure, is simply impossible to believe. It’s why Rubio appears to be making his problem worse, not better, by shining a spotlight on his most potent vulnerability.

What’s more, even as much as the Republican establishment, like much of the Beltway media, fawns over the Florida senator, Rubio has reopened wounds he hoped were already healed. The New York Times reported the other day:

Senator Marco Rubio made a big bet on an immigration overhaul that failed – and he has been running away from it since. Now his past is catching up with him, stoking old grievances from conservative rivals who are reopening one of the most vulnerable episodes in his past.

The anger toward Mr. Rubio on the right has only grown in recent days as he has taken to aggressively questioning Senator Ted Cruz’s toughness on illegal immigration, a line of attack that some Republicans say they find disingenuous.

The piece noted that Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a fierce opponent of immigration reform, recently said on a conservative radio show, “I think Senator Rubio has to answer for things that were in that bill…. This presidential election is going to decide who runs the White House: the crowd that pushed this legislation or the crowd that opposed it.”

Maybe Rubio should have picked the fight in July, at which point this would be old news, instead of waiting for December?

For more information, go to:  www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

U.S. Discloses Drop in Deportations

December 22, 2015

The Obama administration formally disclosed Tuesday that in the 2015 budget year, the U.S. deported the fewest immigrants since 2006.

The Homeland Security Department oversaw the deportation of about 235,413 people between October 2014 and September 2015. Over the same period, 337,117 people were arrested trying to cross the border illegally.

DHS has previously said the drop in deportations overseen by ICE is largely due to the decline in arrests at the border. Border arrests dropped about 30 percent from 2014 to 2015. The 2015 border arrests included roughly 79,800 people traveling as families and children traveling alone, mostly from Central America.

The overall total of deportations generally does not include Mexicans caught at the border and quickly returned home by the Border Patrol.

“Last year’s removal numbers reflect this department’s increased focus on prioritizing convicted criminals and threats to public safety, border security and national security,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement.

Roughly 136,700 convicted criminals were deported in the 2015 budget year. The share of criminal immigrants deported rose slightly from about 56 percent to roughly 59 percent from 2014 to 2015.

Mr. Obama’s immigration policies have been alternately criticized as too harsh and too weak.

Immigrant advocates derisively dubbed the president the “Deporter-In-Chief” after ICE removed a record of more than 409,000 immigrants in 2012.

Meanwhile, Republicans have decried his policies as “back-door amnesty.”

The questions of what to do with the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally and how to enforce immigration laws have been major topics in the 2016 presidential race. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has pledged to be “less harsh and aggressive” than Mr. Obama, while Republican Donald Trump has pledged to deport millions of people in the country illegally and build a wall along the Mexican border to stop future illegal immigration.

For more information, go to:  www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

More Questions Arise About San Bernardino Shooters After Immigration File Released

December 22, 2015

San Bernardino shooter Tashfeen Malik denied having any militant sympathies or intentions when she was asked in an application form for a U.S. visa two years ago, documents described to Reuters on Tuesday showed.

Information in the documents could bolster complaints of critics in Congress who said flaws in the immigration system meant Malik was not thoroughly investigated. The papers also showed that statements by Malik and her husband and fellow shooter Syed Rizwan Farook did not raise any alarms among authorities that they were potential Islamic State militants.

U.S.-born Farook said they first met in person and became engaged during the October 2013 Haj pilgrimage to Mecca with their respective families, according to other documents released by a congressman on Tuesday.

They showed precisely what Malik and Farook stated to immigration officials when Malik went to the United States in December 2013, two years before their deadly shooting rampage in California that killed 14 people and wounded 21 at a municipal holiday party.

Discrepancies in the application raise questions about whether the two could have met in Mecca, Saudi Arabia on the date stated in Malik's visa application. Farook stated the couple met in person, as required under U.S. visa policy for a K-1 fiancée visa, on Oct. 3, 2013 in Mecca.

Information on the documents also shows Pakistan-born Malik did not receive her visa to enter Saudi Arabia until Oct. 5, 2013, however, two days after Farook claimed the two met. Farook held a Haj visa, dated Sept. 16, which allowed him to enter the Muslim holy city during the annual pilgrimage. But Malik did not hold a Haj visa, meaning she would have been barred from entering Mecca during the time claimed in the U.S. visa application.

A review of Malik's U.S. visa application by the Congressional Research Service, made at the request of the House Judiciary Committee, raised different questions. According to a CRS translation, the entry stamp on Malik's passport shows she entered Saudi Arabia on June 4, 2013. Her 60-day visa would have required Malik to leave Saudi Arabia nearly two months before Farook's passport shows he arrived, on Oct. 1, 2013.

A congressional aide familiar with the documents stated some confusion about dates could have arisen because Saudi Arabia and some other Muslim countries use the Islamic calendar, while the Gregorian calendar is in wide use elsewhere in the world.

U.S. Representative Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, in a statement said Malik's application needed a more careful review than it received. "Visa security is critical to national security, and it's unacceptable that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services did not fully vet Malik's application and instead sloppily approved her visa," Goodlatte said.

In other parts of Malik's immigration file, described to Reuters by congressional sources, she denied anything in her background and activities that might have raised suspicions, including answering no when asked if she ever had used or sold weapons or engaged in "terrorist activity."

The questions were included as part of a permanent residence application, a Form I-485 used by the Department of Homeland Security's immigration unit. The process began in January 2014 and it was approved on July 27 the same year.

Officials familiar with the investigation have said that it was discovered after the Dec. 2 shootings that Malik began sending private messages by social media expressing sympathy for Islamist militancy before her U.S. visa was granted. Farook, 28, and Malik, 29, parents of a six-month-old child, were killed in a shootout with police after their attack.

Malik's initial visa application, posted on the Internet by Goodlatte on Tuesday, was part of a form Malik submitted to U.S. authorities to obtain a K-1 visa allowing her to enter the country as Farook's fiancée. The administration of President Barack Obama has not made the documents public.

In the application Malik said the couple first met over the Internet on a "a matrimonial website."

According to an accompanying statement Farook filed, the couple first communicated online and then agreed to meet in person, along with their families, during the October 2013 Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.

The initial visa application released by Goodlatte includes a two-paragraph narrative "Intention to Marry Statement" in which Farook claims that he, a U.S. native, and Malik, a native of Pakistan, first met in Mecca during the haj in 2013.

"My fiancée's parents reside in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and she was visiting them during the month of October (2013). During the same month, my parents and I decided to perform the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca Saudi Arabia," he wrote.

"We decided to have both of our families meet on Thursday October 3, 2013 at the house of my fiancée's relative who lives not too far from the Ajyad Hotel in Mecca. My fiancée and her family drove from Riyadh to Mecca so we could meet and it is on this day that we got engaged," Farook added.

To support this narrative, Farook told U.S. authorities that he had included a copy of his Haj visa to show that he was in Saudi Arabia in October 2013 and that he also included copies of his fiancée's passport pages to show she was also there that month. He makes no mention of Malik's visa, which also is included, and does not appear to be the Haj visa required for visits to Mecca during the Haj.

"My fiancée and I intend to marry within the first month of her arriving in the United states," Farook's statement said.

The file, described to Reuters but not made public by Goodlatte, contains a marriage license issued to Farook and Malik in Riverside, California, dated Sept. 8, 2014.

Reuters reported last week that U.S. consular authorities in Pakistan could have sought, but did not seek, a more thorough background investigation of Malik before granting her an initial visa to enter the United States as Farook's fiancée.

Also in the material made available to Reuters was a standard questionnaire completed by Malik, which asked her numerous potentially revealing questions about her background and intentions. Asked what organizations she belonged to, Malik replied, "none."

Malik also answered "no" on the form when asked if she had ever belonged to a military unit or rebel or vigilante group, or whether she had ever used or sold weapons, and whether she had ever undergone paramilitary training. Altogether, Malik answered "no" to more than a dozen additional questions about her background, including whether she sought to overthrow the U.S. government. (Reporting by Mark Hosenball; additional reporting by Idrees Ali; editing by David Greising, Howard Goller and Grant McCool)

For more information, go to:  www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com