How Not To Oppose Immigration Reform

Republican congressman Steve King recently said this about undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children:

For [every DREAMer] who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that — they weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert. Those people would be legalized with the same act.

Amy Davidson parses King’s words:

King speaks as though he thinks that if he could just convey the figures and shapes of these young people, their sheer physicality, others would recoil, just as he does, at the idea of letting them be American. What he asks is not that we listen to their stories, or add up their accomplishments, or read the history of this country, but just that we look at them, like he does. At their legs, arms—anywhere, it would seem, but in their eyes, where he’d have to acknowledge their individuality.

Chait notes that rebukes have only caused King to dig himself deeper:

John Boehner dutifully castigated King’s comments as “deeply offensive and wrong.” But if you take a shot at the King, you’d best not miss. And by “miss” I mean “fail to remove his larynx.”

 Because King came back on the House floor [yesterday] to defend himself in an epic, world-historical speech, beginning with the origins of human civilization and continuing on through the Greeks, the Romans, the Founding Fathers, and, finally, the present era of melon-calved Latino drug-smuggling youth

Alex Altman expects for Democrats to raise King’s profile:

Democrats will try to make King a GOP anchor, much like they used Todd Akin to paint the party as hostile to women. Already operatives are pointing to the comment of Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for Virginia governor, that King was one of his “very favorite Congressmen.” Republicans can call King’s comments “hateful” and “ignorant,” as Speaker John Boehner did Thursday. But they can’t shut him up, and they may not be able to erase the perception that he speaks for the rest of the party as well.

And Josh Marshall thinks that King’s views represent a sizable part of the GOP base:

King is speaking for the raw, undomesticated voice of that slice of the electorate for whom these social and population trends spell a basically non-stop state of white panic expressed through Obama conspiracy theories, fears of marauding Mexican hordes, hyper-opposition to primarily Latin American immigration and so much more.

Yes, King is more intemperate, voluable and perhaps more hateful than most. But he does speak for that relatively small slice of the electorate which makes up a pretty big slice of the GOP electorate and keeps the GOP anchored in opposition to immigration reform and to policies which put most of the non-white population off-limits to the party indefinitely. That’s why the whole plan to ‘double down’ on the ‘whites only’ strategy now increasingly favored by Republicans isn’t so much of a strategy as a recognition that it can’t break free or discipline that mammoth part of its voter base.