Most GOP Senators Defecting from Trump Backed Amnesty Push

Pro-'Gang of Eight' Republicans disproportionately bailing on their party's nominee

by Jeffrey H. Anderson | Updated 12 Oct 2016 at 8:36 AM

In a 2013 email published a few days ago by WikiLeaks, Hillary Clinton expressed views wildly at odds with those of the American citizenry: “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders.” Most of Donald Trump’s Republican defectors are poised to help her achieve her open-borders dream.

As Republican elites continue to defy Republican voters on the crucial issue of immigration, it’s not surprising that the Senate’s open-borders crowd is refusing to back the man who—largely because of his hawkish immigration position — was chosen by Republican voters to be their party’s nominee. While only 30 percent of Senate Republicans voted for the open-borders “Gang of Eight” legislation (30 percent too many), the percentage was far higher among Trump defectors. Among senators who were in office in 2013, 55 percent (6 of 11) of those who now say that they cannot support Trump voted to support the “Gang of Eight” legislation.

On this issue, as on most issues, the citizenry has a better sense of what’s right than the ruling class does.

Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.) says she “cannot support” and “will not vote for” Trump. Susan Collins (R., Maine) says she “could not support” Trump. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) says Trump “needs to withdraw from the race.” Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) says Trump “should drop out.” John McCain (R., Ariz.) says he “will not vote for” Trump (but will instead “write in the name of some good” Republican, who in McCain’s imagination is running for president). And Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) says she “cannot and will not support” Trump, who has “has forfeited the right to be our party’s nominee.” All six voted for the Gang of Eight bill.

Over in the House, Speaker Paul Ryan has largely withdrawn his support from Trump, saying he’ll no longer campaign for him and will not defend him (although he still endorses him). Now that Marco Rubio has been (partially) chastened, Ryan is perhaps the most prominent and forceful Republican backer of open-borders immigration law.

The Gang of Eight legislation wasn’t voted upon in the House after it passed the Senate, so it’s harder to gauge rank-and-file House members’ views on the matter. The Huffington Post, however, published a list of 121 Republican House members that the Gang of Eight reportedly thought were “persuadable on immigration reform.” That’s only about half of the Republicans in the House at the time, yet most Trump defectors appeared on that list. Of the 17 Republicans who were in the House in 2013 and aren’t currently supporting Trump (according to USA Today’s list), 13 (76 percent) were listed among those who were “persuadable” on immigration. And that doesn’t even include Cory Gardner (R., Colo.), who was on that list as a congressman and is now a Trump defector in the Senate.

In sum, very few Republican officeholders who oppose Trump are losing much sleep over what Hillary Clinton would do on immigration, with Republican assistance, over the next four years. As Margot Anderson put it on Monday at the Federalist, "Republicans’ glee in joining the Trump takedown shows the wheels are already greased for Clinton’s identity-politics agenda if she gets elected."

On this issue, as on most issues, the citizenry has a better sense of what’s right than the ruling class does. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 1970, 4.7 percent of those living in the United States were immigrants. After four-and-a-half decades of rampant illegal immigration, that percentage is now 13.6 percent—higher even than during the great waves of immigration in 1880 or 1920. Within eight years, the Census Bureau says, we will break the all-time mark of 14.8 percent, set in 1890.

Meanwhile, the position held by President Obama and Hillary Clinton is that immigrants shouldn’t be assimilated into the American way of life, but rather "integrated" into an identity-politics regime. As my colleague John Fonte writes, this is the difference between encouraging "new immigrants to think of themselves as Americans first and foremost," and prioritizing "ethnic, racial, and gender identities over a unifying national identity."

These are serious matters — most importantly for the future of the country, but also for the future of the Republican Party. John Kraushaar, writing for National Journal on Monday, observed, "Republican Party leaders have been grappling with an uncomfortable reality: Their most reliable voters are entirely disconnected from the GOP leadership." Nowhere is that truer than on immigration — and the GOP divide over immigration goes a long way toward explaining the GOP divide over Trump.

Anderson co-founded the 2017 Project, to advance a Main Street-oriented policy agenda, and is co-creator of the Anderson & Hester College Football Computer Rankings.

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