woody zimmerman 118 2007Pundits more notable than I sometimes call Republicans “The Stupid Party.” My judgment isn’t usually so harsh, but recent events have made me reconsider. Standing on the verge of one of the greatest political triumphs in American history, Republican “leaders” seem determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Why do I say this? I make the case in two parts:

(1) Democrats are in full panic mode over the wreckage of Obamacare. (Even Hottentots in Africa know this.) Their signature program – Obamacare – for which they have contended for a full century, is a disaster. Democrat pols are fleeing the field – some retiring “to spend more time with their families,” and others just getting out before the stuff really hits the fan. No one wants to be seen anywhere near President Obama – he, the Golden Messiah who swept many Dems into office in 2008 on the wings of his soaring promises of Hope, Change and a fundamentally transformed nation. (Nobody knew what that “transformation” would be, but they’ve found out.) None of the wreckage is due to Republican efforts – although Mr. Obama has tried valiantly to blame it all on Republican “obstructionism.” No, the ill-designed and incompetently-executed Affordable Health Care Act – did anyone really read it before passage?!! – collapsed under its own weight, once millions of citizens realized that the whole thing was based on lies about cost, coverage and continuity of medical care. “The president lied to us” – a charge that once brought down Richard Nixon – damaged not only Barack Obama but Congressional Democrats as well. The mid-term elections of 2014 are looming over the donkey-party like the Sword of Damocles. They want to talk about anything besides Obamacare, but Republicans need talk about nothing else in order to ensure a smashing, historic, government-changing victory in November.

(2) Yet Republicans are spurred by an irresistible urge to gild the lily. (It could be a genetic defect or a political form of mental illness.) Needing to do no more than remind voters that Democrats are the ones who made Obamacare happen, while Republicans were solidly opposed to it, GOP poohbahs just can’t leave well enough alone. They act as though they’ve never heard of the first rule of politics: i.e., When your opponent is destroying himself, get out of the way and let him do it. With Democrats running, pell-mell, for the tall grass, GOP National Chairman Reince Priebus insists that now is the time to do “something big” on immigration – i.e., legalization of some 11 million people living in the country illegally. This issue is far down the list of voter-concerns, so there is absolutely no need to address it right now. On the other hand, with the possible exception of endorsing Obamacare, no other issue will so inflame and offend the Republican base as a gratuitous grant of amnesty to illegals. It’s guaranteed to transform a certain Republican win in November into the flop of Luca Brazi’s dead fish. If they legalize 11 million illegals, the GOP will sleep with the fishes for a long, long time.

Like other commentators, I have wondered why Republican leadership would deliberately endanger a sure win in November by tinkering with the explosive issue of illegal immigration. (One wrong move, and Ka-boom!) Some pundits suggest that the GOP’s motivation must be a desire to win praise from the New York Times, the Washington Post, NBC, and other leftist media organs. “A desperate need to show that Republicans aren’t as bad as liberals think they are…” is the verdict of some on this high-risk strategy that Republicans seem intent on pursuing.

Maybe that assessment contains some truth, but there must be more to it than just a pathetic desire for liberal praise. Really, who cares a fig about what liberal editors or Big Media talking heads say? Those lefties are all so fickle. Within mere days their footling praise would be washed away by another freshly contrived outrage in the supposed “GOP War on Women” (or perhaps by Republicans’ refusal to endorse transgender contestants in the Miss America contest). Painful experience has repeatedly shown that it’s impossible for Republicans to stay in the good graces of the Mainstream (i.e., liberal) Media. It ain’t gonna happen.

Since most experienced Republicans surely know this dismal truth, what else could be driving such a counter-intuitive strategy? From here, it looks like new workers and new voters are likely motivations. Business interests want a steady stream of low-wage workers flowing across the borders to drive wages down. Illegal immigrants are already doing this, but employers would prefer to have the threat of legal trouble over hiring those workers removed. Legalizing them would achieve that. It would also generate hordes of new illegals clamoring to get in on future legalization. For many CEOs, it’s a dream scenario. It’s a very cynical ploy, of course, as it hurts workers by depressing their wages. In turn, depressed wages can hurt the country. But – in Tom Hagen’s memorable words – this is business, not personal. (It’s also a question of grass – like, who’s going to cut it if we don’t let more illegals in, man?)

Several senior Republican politicians have gone public with the argument that illegal immigrants will certainly become new Republican voters if they see the GOP giving them legal status and eventual citizenship. GOP leaders note that Hispanics are moral people who hold strong family values, including self-reliance, honesty, faith, and personal responsibility. Thus, they are natural Republicans who will send the GOP over the political rainbow to perpetual majority status.

This is a nice pipe-dream, but it runs counter to economic reality and human nature. Studies have repeatedly shown that illegals overwhelmingly populate the lowest economic quintile (i.e., the bottom 20% slice) of American families and wage-earners. In general, they are not skilled workers, as they suffer from low educational achievement and poor English skills. Legalization will not correct these problems overnight – indeed, not at all for some. In time, some might surmount their educational and lingual problems. Until that time, however, they will continue to act like the third-world people that they are: decent people, by and large, but very needy. They are certain to swamp social welfare programs at the federal, state, and local levels at a time when all government sectors need relief from over-burdened social budgets. Newly legalized illegals will quickly comprehend that Democrats, not Republicans, are the reliable suppliers of the welfare provisions they need and want. The result will be a political disaster for the GOP.

The Heritage Foundation estimates the cost of legalizing the current illegal population at $6.3 trillion over the next 50 years. This works out to $126 billion a year – much of it borne by state and local governments. If there was ever a time to ask W. C. Fields’ famous question – “Who’s paying for all this?” – this is it. A child could see that giving legal status to 11 million of these people will break the public-spending bank.

Democrats never worry about the costs of new entitlements or the addition of new “entitlees.” They think the money will come from “Obama’s stash” (as one woman famously put it), or perhaps from the gold repository at Fort Knox. Democrat pols simply say “Government” will pick up the tab – meaning that the Chinese will lend us what we need. There’s no need for concern. Of course, it’s all rubbish. Obama has no secret stash, there’s no gold at Fort Knox, and the amount of our debt held by the Chinese is becoming a growing economic risk for the country.

Republicans should worry, however, because their base will blame them for this fiasco, if they let it slip through a divided Congress in which they still have a voice and a decisive vote. There will be a time to deal with the problem of 11 million illegal immigrants living among us, but that time is not right before the most important election in a half-century. The GOP needs full participation from their base to throw out the brigands, varlets and poltroons who are spending us into penury.

“Comprehensive solution” has a nice ring to it, but on a problem this big, that solution is certain to be – as my old math teacher liked to say – “simple, elegant and completely wrong.” If Obamacare has taught us anything, it should be that grand political bargains almost always crash disastrously. Furthermore, the wild card with this president is his tendency to ignore parts of laws that he doesn’t like. Who can believe that he would enforce border-tightening requirements in any new legislation? We can’t trust him on these matters.

I realize that these are 11 million people – not potted plants, pawns or statistics. Many have risked a great deal to better the lives and fortunes of their families. Who can blame them? In their place, many of us might do the same.

Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean we can digest the economic and political cost of legalizing all of them at one stroke. Once Republicans have gained full control of the Congress, they can parse the illegals-problem and make a series of intelligent changes that will neither swamp the country’s economy nor cripple their own party for the indefinite future. Doing “something big” on immigration is a cure that will be worse than the disease. It’s a Republican Death Wish.