This discussion on Fox News.com Live the other day caught my attention, mainly because it featured a hopeful discussion by a Latino conservative, the Heritage Foundation's Israel Ortega, who was insisting that Republicans stand a lot to gain in the coming election cycle if they bash President Obama for his manifest failures at passing not just meaningful immigration reform, but even a simple measure like the DREAM Act.
Now, it's certainly true that Obama has abjectly failed on that front. Latinos know it better than anyone. And there's little doubt that pointing that out repeatedly to Latinos will help depress Latino turnout for his re-election.
On the other hand, it's hard to see -- as Ellis Henican gently tried to point out to Ortega -- how Republicans can stand to gain from pointing it out too loudly or too often: After all, it doesn't take much to remind Latinos just why Obama couldn't pass anything: Across-the-board Republican lockstep obstructionism, accompanied by a loud chorus of vicious right-wing Latino-bashing.
I think the Anonymous Radicalized Marginal House Democrat (who is an actual House Democrat) put it about perfectly in his discussion awhile back with the Paranoid Self-Loathing GOP Lobbyist (who is an actual GOP lobbyist) on this very topic:
PSLGOPL asked why "a filibuster proof Senate, bullet proof liberal Majority in the House and a President dedicated to Change" hasn't done anything about "Comprehensive Immigration Reform, or better yet, just the DREAM Act." ARMHD responded:
"Easy: because desperate Republicans two years ago had to swap dog whistles for bull horns to reach their virulent nativist base voters, and now nativism has become a litmus test for Republicans.
"Anti-immigrant groups were building blocks of the Tea Party. Tea Party Republicans foam at the mouth when they have to press one for English.They want to arrest and deport anyone buying Tecate beer with cash at WalMart. It's the culture, stupid.
"Republicans' open bigotry toward Latinos will be more and more of an electoral problem for them, of course, but when their party was in shambles two years ago they weren't thinking about the long run, they had to fire up their base right away, including their crazies...especially their crazies. So the people that Karl Rove tried to keep hidden because he was afraid they would completely creep out soccer moms are front and center.
"The Tea Party has made cowards of Republican politicians who used to hold themselves out as courageous statesmen, or more likely, revealed them to be cowards. The sainted John McCain, who worked with Ted Kennedy on a 'grand bargain' on immigration, beat J.D. Hayworth by making a hard right turn. Remember the 'danged fence' ad?
"Lindsey Graham will be practicing law with Bob Inglis unless he can get way right by 2014. Orrin Hatch and Dick Lugar are in deep trouble. Chuck Grassley is trying to explain that when he called for an 'individual mandate' for health care, he meant an individual mandate to prove citizenship in the emergency room.
"What a bunch of wusses.
"With every Republican opposing reform, whether from conviction or from cowardice, it only took one skittish Democrat to kill anything even in that brief window when Democrats had the 60 votes needed to defeat a filibuster, and Republicans filibustered everything.
"The good news for Democrats is that the electorate will be browner and browner, Latinos see the anti-immigration rhetoric as thinly veiled appeals to bigotry against them, and Asians and other minority groups are watching it all and wondering whether Republicans really like them any better. So enjoy anti-immigration politics now, PSLGOP, anchor babies will be voting soon, and so will their friends."
Republicans may want to wish away all the ugly rhetoric and right-wing lawmaking directed at Latinos (see the new Alabama laws for the most recent example). Lots of moderate Republicans have tried to point this out too. But they know, too, that bigotry pays dividends -- in the short run. That's what they do it.