Conservative Foes Of Amnesty Should Be Magnanimous In Victory

When it comes to fighting against the amnesty bill in the Senate, I fought it as hard as anybody you’re going to run across. I created the Payback Project and threatened to organize a Googlebomb of Republican senators who voted for the bill if it passed. Additionally, I wrote about the amnesty bill every day, wrote two Townhall columns opposing it, encouraged RWN’s readers to contact their senators several times, and did just about everything I could think of to try to stop the bill. Moreover, I don’t regret any of that and if this bill comes back up again, I’m going to do exactly the same things all over again. In my book, whatever it takes to kill an amnesty bill is worth it.

However, the fight looks to be over and although it’s going to leave some scars, people on both sides of this issue need to start trying to pull together again for 2008.

Now that’s not going to be easy given the non-responsiveness of some of the GOP senators, the way the White House handled this issue, and some of the other things that were said while this fight was going on — but it needs to be done.

Not only do we have House and Senate seats on the line in 2008, it’s a presidential election year and an important one. This election could decide the fate of the war on terror, there will probably be 2-3 Supreme Court retirements over the next two terms, and of course, another immigration bill will be on the agenda for 2009. Although not all of our nominees are in the same place on the immigration bill, 8 of the 10 of them said that they opposed it and only one of them, McCain, voted for the amnesty bill in the Senate in the end.

You’ve also got to keep in mind that although the Senate GOP really handled this bill poorly (I bet they’d love to go back in time and take my advice on how to deal with this bill), in the end 41 out of 48 Republicans voted against cloture. Sure, a lot of them weren’t sincere about it and would have loved to have gotten an amnesty through, but those numbers still turned out to be a lot better than the Democrats put up when it counted.

Furthermore, I think it’s important to take a “carrot and stick” approach with politicians. When they make a mistake, you hammer them with phone calls, emails, faxes, and if necessary, withhold campaign funds and volunteer work. But, if they respond to the stick, you give them a carrot as well. That means, maybe you send a thank you email to people like Jim DeMint, Tom Coburn, Jeff Sessions, John Cornyn, and Elizabeth Dole for doing their part to help kill the bill. Maybe you send the NRSC a small donation or send a few bucks to a favorite candidate.

What it comes down to is that if you’re frustrated with how the GOP behaved during the fight over this amnesty bill, the solution isn’t to pout or drop out, it’s to get more involved so that when crunch time comes, like it did on this bill, you’ll be in a better position to make a difference.

And conservatives did make a difference. I can absolutely guarantee you that a lot of the senators who voted against cloture, no matter what reason they may give for it, did so simply because they were frightened to go against the tidal wave of public opinion on this one. If you contacted your senator, hold your chin up high today, because you did stay in the game, you were part of that wave, and you did help make a difference.

Last but not least, to people on my side of this fight, I would say this: we won a vitally important fight and we would be well served to be as magnanimous in victory as possible to our fellow Republicans who were on the losing side.

I’ll leave it at that for the anti-amnesty crowd, but let me also send a message to the GOP, particularly the Republicans in the Senate and the White House.

The fact that this red on red fight over illegal immigration happened proves without a doubt that there are a lot of Republicans who are not in tune with their biggest supporters. If the GOP wants to change its fortunes in 2008, then that can’t continue. Conservatives need to become confident again that the GOP understands what they want and is looking out for their interests — and not just on illegal immigration, but on a wide variety of issues.

Instead, the general feeling seems to be that the GOP in the Senate and the Bush Administration take conservatives for granted at best and genuinely dislike them at worst. That’s what happens when you have politicians who seem to be more similar in attitude to 17th century French noblemen rather than representatives of the people like Ronald Reagan, Jim DeMint, and John Shadegg. For the sake of the Republican party, don’t keep that up, because the GOP isn’t going to be able to beat the Democrats until the DC pols can get right with the base.

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