I heard it first from “the man who is so tired of being right about everything that he thinks no one should be allowed to have so much fun.” We’re talking about Rush Limbaugh, who put an interesting twist on the Senate’s “Immigration Gang of Eight” proposal, just one day after it was released. Limbaugh asserted that, as Republicans were taking a risk to support substantive immigration reform, President Obama and other Democrats would now hang the Republicans out to dry. He posited that the president views virtually every issue through a political lens, and thus he would sabotage enactment of the bill to deprive the Republicans of the political credit that they would rightfully gain from the passage of a comprehensive bill.
The next morning (Wednesday, January 30, 2013), Mike Allen of Politico opened his daily brief with:
One of Washington’s top parlor games is whether President Obama “wants the accomplishment” or “wants the issue” on immigration: Does he really want to sign a bill? Or does he think that if Republicans are denied the cover that an ambitious immigration package would provide with Hispanics, the GOP could become a minority party for the foreseeable future?
The bottom line is that Republicans feel that President Obama is trying to make political hay out of an issue that clearly benefits millions of Americans. I am rather suspicious of this interpretation. First, it strikes me that what primarily separates Democrats from Republicans is that the Democrats have a much higher “Care Quotient.” They care more about the well-being of men and women who are out of work; more for the women who are facing the dilemma of a choice as to what to do with an unintended pregnancy; more for the children who go to school hungry and need mid-day nourishment to survive the day; more for college students who are anxious to learn, but whose college loan costs have become prohibitively expensive.
It is true that Democrats are aware of the political gains that they could accrue from Republican failures, but I don’t think that they want punishment of needy Americans to be collateral damage from hurting the Republicans.
On the other hand, Republicans have frequently stated their clear position to undermine Democrats. The aforementioned Rush Limbaugh does it every weekday. More inside the Beltway, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky in a 2010 interview with the National Journal’s Major Garrett, candidly acknowledged that he feels his “single most important” job was to defeat President Obama in 2012.
Republicans didn’t mind abandoning their support of a universal health care mandate if it deprived President Obama and the country of major health care reform. It’s worth conjecturing whether Republicans are more comfortable being hypocritical in their policy positions because a large portion of their constituents don’t find that to be a flaw.
Democrats, at least progressive ones, are often seen as “warm fuzzies,” while many Republicans are viewed in the words of linguist George Lakoff as “stern father figures.” To the extent that this is true, it makes sense that the Democrats are less likely than Republicans to sabotage the interests of the American people for political gain. Until a comprehensive immigration bill is passed, you’ll hear a lot of Republicans spouting what Rachel Maddow calls bullpuckey, saying that the only interest of Democrats regarding immigration reform is Machiavellian political gain. Give that about as much credence as Rachel would.