GOP stumbles over the border

Commentator David Frum

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

SCOTT JAGOW: Republicans could lose one if not both houses of Congress in next week's midterm elections. At least that's what the polls are suggesting. People are pointing to a few big issues for the change of heart: Iraq, Katrina, gas prices, budget deficits. But Commentator David Frum says there's another, very important issue.


DAVID FRUM: Here's one very important reason for GOP failure that won't be mentioned if the Democrats take Congress: immigration.

Approximately eight million migrants have arrived in the United States since George Bush became President. About half of them illegally.

Americans have ambiguous feelings about this complicated issue, but the Republican rank and file are nearly unanimous: They want the borders controlled.

Republican leaders such as President Bush and Sen. McCain have defied the wishes of their supporters. They've proposed an amnesty in all but name, a substantial increase in permanent legal immigration and a guest worker program.

Anyone who has spent much time around Republican campaigns could feel party enthusiasm plunge as the President pushed his agenda through the summer and early fall.

In a poll conducted just a couple of weeks after the President presented his immigration plan, only 30% of Republicans described themselves as "enthusiastic" about voting in November, as opposed to almost 50% of Democrats.

In the same poll, 54% of Republicans rated their own party's performance as "poor" in standing up for its principles.

It may be true that some of the immigration debate is driven by xenophobia. But it's at least equally true that immigration is the populist face of the debate over inequality.

In the past six years, the top 1% of Americans have done better than the top 5% and the top one-tenth of one percent have done best of all.

Returns on capital are increasing in the United States — just the effect you would expect from a huge increase in the supply of unskilled labor.

Republican voters care intensely about equality and a fair shake in the labor market.

Indeed, the more socio-economically equal a city, county, or state is, the more likely it is to vote Republican. That includes places like the Norfolk-Virginia Beach metropolitan area or St. Charles County Missouri or the whole state of Nebraska.

These Republicans experience the failure to enforce the immigration laws as a monstrous breach of faith by their party leaders. If the polls are right, those party leaders will soon pay a heavy price.

JAGOW: David Frum is a former speechwriter for President Bush and a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

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