Rupert Murdoch and Sheldon Adelson are both staunch Republicans. Both are also very practical businessmen — Murdoch owns media companies; Adelson, casinos. They became billionaires by dealing with reality, with hard-learned facts — not soft-headed illusions.
That’s why both have recently written persuasive articles urging their party to support immigration reform. But on this issue, many of their fellow Republicans continue to prefer fantasy to facts and ignore the 11 million undocumented immigrants already living and working here.
When Eric Cantor, the second-ranking Republican in the House, was defeated in a primary by a strong foe of immigration reform, conventional wisdom proclaimed that reform was now dead for this Congress. But Murdoch was correct when he wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “That would be the wrong lesson and an undesirable national consequence of this single, local election result.”
In fact, sidetracking reform would have many “undesirable” results, and Murdoch stresses one of them: economic strangulation. Himself an immigrant from Australia who is now an American citizen, the media mogul insists: “If we are serious about advancing our economic future and about creating job growth here in America, then we must realize it is suicidal to suggest closing our doors to the world’s entrepreneurs, or worse, to continue with large-scale deportations.”
Adelson, a major supporter of hard-right conservatives, headlined his piece in Politico, “Let’s Deal With Reality and Pass Immigration Reform.” He focuses on the moral argument for legalizing undocumented newcomers and laments how sending them home would have a “devastating and heartbreaking effect on countless multigeneration families living here together.”
Other Republicans stress a third “undesirable” and “suicidal” result of opposing reform: political self-destruction. The electorate is changing rapidly. It will be less than 70 percent white by 2016. And fewer than three out of 10 Hispanics and Asians voted Republican in 2012.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who recently survived a primary challenge from the right, echoed Murdoch’s admonition that abandoning immigration reform would be the “wrong lesson” to draw from Cantor’s defeat.
“It would break my heart for my party to go down a road we need not go,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “Embrace rational, comprehensive immigration reform … and we’re back in the ballgame. If we don’t adjust on this issue, our chances of survival as a party are very bleak.”
So why do so many Republicans reject this advice? Why do they refuse to face the facts outlined by Murdoch, Adelson and Graham?
There are many reasons, but one of them is a deep-seated, hard-wired suspicion of anything favored by Democrats in general and President Obama in particular. And this suspiciousness clouds their judgment and impairs their ability to “deal with reality” — or the other party.
A recent survey by the Pew Research Center documents this trend (which also afflicts Democrats, but not quite so broadly). In 1994, 17 percent of Republicans had “very unfavorable” views of the Democrats; today that number has leaped to 43 percent. Among “consistently conservative” Republicans, two out of three believe Democratic policies “jeopardize the nation’s well-being.”
Moreover, Pew adds, “the most politically polarized are more actively involved in politics, amplifying the voices that are the least willing to see the parties meet each other halfway.”
Those “politically polarized” voices gain even greater prominence on media outlets — particularly on cable TV and talk radio — that raise their ratings and their profits by raising the tempers of their audience. A report by the Brookings Institution emphasizes the media’s role, and points out that voters who “trust in Fox News as an accurate news source” are the most likely to oppose an immigration overhaul.
So is immigration reform really dead? Will Republicans insist on learning the “wrong lesson” from Cantor’s defeat? Probably. Except for one more fact.
Cantor’s successor as majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, represents a California district around Bakersfield that is one-third Hispanic. The strip mall where a young McCarthy once ran a deli now houses a Mexican grocery and a restaurant serving papusas, a Salvadoran delicacy.
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Steve and Cokie Roberts can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.