An inconvenient issue: illegal immigration and the GOP
July 19, 2007

The GOP leadership is waking up to a persistent reality, and it's one that has fundraisers and strategists at the RNC up at night. Conservatives, the core constituency of the Republican Party, are irate. Far from a passing hobbyhorse, the illegal immigration issue has galvanized Republican voters like no single issue in recent memory, and conservatives are refusing to let it go.

The Senate's comprehensive immigration bill, backed by the President and pushed by the GOP establishment, was more than a mere legislative miscalculation, is was the straw that broke the conservatives' back. Moreover, to listen to conservatives, it wasn't merely the legislation itself, but the strategy used by those trying to sell the bill. Conservatives are hopping mad at what they regard as unparalleled arrogance on the part of their Party's own leadership--arrogance that has rank and file Republicans digging in their heels, and vowing to go all the way in their efforts to defeat anyone associated with the bill.

With an election year approaching, the GOP is anxious to patch things up and move on. As in the past, the Republican establishment knows that come what may, when Hillary Clinton steps onto the stage, even conservatives outraged by the comprehensive immigration strategy will come running home. But as they are discovering, moving on may not be as easy as before. "Not this time" say many conservatives, who regard the immigration deal as merely the final insult from a party that has lost its way, and who vow to sit out the 2008 elections rather than compromise on their values.

"Money talks" and many conservatives feel that despite relying overwhelmingly on small money contributions, the Party caters only to big business interests in its policy. As a result, many conservatives are holding back their small contributions, and a grassroots effort to starve the GOP leadership into enforcing the borders has begun.

A favorite tool for angry Republicans is the so called "Bush Peso," that longtime GOP contributors are printing out on their home printers and enclosing in all Party solicitations. It is evidence of a new attitude among many conservatives--give us genuine conservatism, or else.

And slowly but surely, the message is getting through.

The collapse of John McCain's campaign is the most visible sign of conservatives walking away from GOP leaders associated with the comprehensive immigration strategy, but as Senate Republicans gear up for an election year, many are worried about their own reelection prospects.

Conservatives, it seems, are taking names and reminding their Party that they will not allow this issue to die. Rather than contribute to the Party's machinery--the RNC, NRCC, or NRSC--contributors are taking the time to investigate how their Senator voted, or whether their Congressional Representative voiced support for the legislation, and they're contributing accordingly.

Indeed, some analysts have suggested that 2008 could be a banner year for primary challenges to sitting GOP lawmakers. From South Carolina to Nebraska to Alaska, longtime GOP Senators are closely watching the groundswell of support for new conservative leadership.

In the midst of a campaign season in which there is no sitting Republican Vice President, or heir apparent, and an angry base clamoring for government accountability, the stage is set for a conservative revolt...and if you're a pro-amnesty incumbent, beware, your days in office may indeed be numbered.


They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. —Isaiah 40:31