What Substitutes for a Republican Agenda

I’m often upbraided for equating the Republican center with the lunatic fringe, but increasingly, one substitutes for the other. That allegation gained credence yesterday, when John McCain (R-AZ), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) all pledged their support to a nativism-inspired partial repeal of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Of course this plan has no real chance of success. Constitutional amendments are notoriously (and deliberately) tough to pass. This holds especially true with repeals of foundational principles: one doesn’t lightly tinker with the Fourteenth Amendment.

What’s more remarkable than the mainstreaming of anticonstitutionalism is that this represents the first sign of life from the Republican Party’s policy wing. Think it over. The Party offered no alternative to Obama’s financial reform bill (Grassley’s bemoaning of the death of strong derivatives reform — an outcome he himself suborned, and made no attempt to avoid — emphatically does not count). They half-heartedly proposed alternatives to the healthcare bill, but abandoned them as quickly. And for all that the tea parties push “repeal and replace,” all party functionaries, formal or otherwise, have much to say on the former, and nothing on the latter.

On all other matters the group has rather studiously hewed to Representative King (R-TX)’s theory that “having ideas” might be more of a liability than an asset. In some ways, this push for repealing birthright citizenship represents no change. No policy will come of it. Like the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, this is just a showy way to make a divisive, nasty point, and sate the bloodlust of an increasingly ascendant periphery. I know (and am told) that there are intelligent, mainstream conservatives out there. But where are their representatives?



  1. Is it an unintelligent move because it won’t work, because it’s clearly politically-motivated or because it’s just bad policy?

    Asking the same questions, what about the administration’s lawsuit against the Arizona immigration law?

  2. I don’t recall saying “unintelligent.” I recall saying it wouldn’t work. Although it is clearly politically motivated and bad policy.

    Not sure what you mean about the SB1070 suit. That’s going pretty well these days.

    1. My understanding is that most people expect it to make it to the SC and to be held up 5-4. I believe the administration probably has the same opinion. In light of that, isn’t the case sort of frivolous and not much more than election-year grandstanding?

    2. Haha “most people”? “Most people on RedState”? “Most people on HotAir”? “Most people” on other right-wing blogs with greater intellectual stature?

      No. First, although the principles to be applied are clear and favor the administration’s position, this is a relatively novel dispute, meaning it’s pretty hard to speculate with any degree of certainty. Second, the entry of a TRO is probably a bigger deal than you think it is. One of the elements that must be proved is likelihood of success on the merits. That means the judge is already disposed to our position. Third, any contrary speculation would be based on your side’s agreement that Roberts just does whatever the hell he wants. If you guys agree with that assessment, well, that’s interesting.

      And, if this is an election year stunt it’s a pretty bad one. Obama ran the polls before he filed, surely.

      1. Ames – you’re the only one out of the two of us that reads RedState and HotAir.

        I don’t hink it’s a mid-term stunt. I think it’s prep for trying to mobilize the Latino vote in 2012.

        1. I always think it’s silly when people claim the immigration stuff is for the Latino vote. Sure, that may work in the long term, and it might might move a percent for Reid or someone in certain areas. Yet, overall, it probably galvanizes just as many conservatives and probably isn’t helpful in the short term.

          Also, the Arizona lawsuit arguments sticks very clearly to established law and the constitution. To say it’s politically motivated, you’d also have to say they have no in interest nor precedent in maintaining federal control over the borders.

          Although, the incident (not a case) I tend to think of when I’m trying to check myself for biases (which I don’t think is similar to this 14th amendment shenanigan), is California’s fight against the Bush administration for stricter emission standards than the national, and how the EPA struck that down.

          1. While I agree with your analysis that this is a long-term win for the Left and a short-term win for the Right, I would also say that I don’t think Obama cares about the midterms. He knows he’s going to lose a lot of seats on his side but he has to focus on keeping the WH in 2012. This will help him on that front.

      2. You see, though, the difference between a suit with a >60% chance of winning, and a constitutional amendment that won’t even get out of the House?

        1. No – both of them are politically motivated and certain to fail.

        2. Judge Bolton for the District of Arizona appears to disagree :). What’s your basis for thinking otherwise?

          1. Maybe she needs to brush up on her case law? She could start with Muehler v. Mena.

  3. You’re confusing the issues. Muehler holds that officers can execute searches and engage in suspicionless inquiries about immigration status. It says nothing about the state’s authority to require them to do as much, and doesn’t affect the fact that immigration rules are preempted by federal law.

    1. The feds have abdicated that power. Someone has to claim it.

    2. That’s a political argument. Not a legal one. And demonstrates rather than dispels the legal problem. The states don’t get to act within the federal sphere just because they think the federal government is managing it poorly.

      1. So it’s okay for state actors (the police) to enforce federal law but not okay for the states to require them to? What if a state insists that police enforce federal drug law? Have they over-stepped?

      2. That construction misstates the federal interest implicated. To see why, you’re as capable of reading the opinion as I am. http://www.azd.uscourts.gov/azd/courtinfo.nsf/983700DFEE44B56B0725776E005D6CCB/$file/10-1413-87.pdf?openelement

        16-21 is your focus.

        1. If that’s the section on resources, isn’t that kind of a crock? All US citizens have a social security number. All non-citizens are required to carry papers. It’s also 2010. Isn’t that what computers are for?

        2. I’m afraid “isn’t that kind of a crock” isn’t really a legal argument either…

          1. Seriously? How about an erroneous claim?

  4. You’re not asking questions that the judge didn’t answer. You should really read the opinion. But, to clarify your point, the issue of resource expenditure isn’t really about money, or the state bankrupting the fed. It’s about the state directing the nontrivial expenditure of resources and therefore setting federal enforcement priorities and directing federal policy.

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