12:55 PM EDIT: Business Insider is now retracting their quote from Priebus. They originally reported that Preibus said “when someone makes those comments” about self-deportation, “obviously, it’s racist.” Their correction now has his quote reading “obviously, it hurts us.”
For too long, the Republican Party has been controlled by its harsh anti-immigrant wing. That crowd adopted the ugly rhetoric of the nativist John Tanton network and spent a lot of time and energy beating up on immigrants, particularly Latinos. And it’s leading the GOP off an electoral demographic cliff.
But one small sign that the GOP is moving into the modern ages came this week when Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus finally and decisively smacked down a central plank of the Republican stance on immigration—self-deportation.
Speaking at an event on Thursday, Priebus said that the term is “horrific” and “hurts us”:
Using the word ‘self-deportation’ — it’s a horrific comment to make. I don’t think it has anything to do with our party. When someone makes those comments, obviously, it hurts us.
Trust us, that view is widely shared by immigrants and immigration advocates.
The Preibus comment only comes about a year late, after Mitt Romney’s 2012 shellacking by Latino and immigrant voters was widely blamed on his extremist positions on immigration, especially self-deportation. The policy has long been championed by restrictionists like Mark Krikorian and the Center for Immigration Studies, and was inserted into the 2012 GOP platform by another adherent, Kris Kobach (currently the Kansas Secretary of State). It’s also the wrongheaded and hugely punitive philosophy behind state anti-immigrant laws like Arizona’s SB 1070 and Alabama’s HB 56. And now we may have reached the end of its era, with Preibus’ disowning of the idea at the national level.
The comment is just the latest in a series of developments that are rocking Steve King’s world. He and his ilk have–with John Boehner’s tacit permission–been setting the House GOP’s anti-immigrant agenda. But as Greg Sargent put it yesterday, the Republican mood on immigration has changed so much since the 2012 election that Steve King’s unceasing anti-immigrant word vomit—this week alone, he’s said that Latino immigrants come from violent civilizations and refused to answer a question about whether he likes Latinos—is just basically “an expression of shock and horror at the shifting ground beneath his feet.”
As the failure of a rally that King tried to hold on Monday demonstrates, King has cause for worry. The rally, set in Eric Cantor’s backyard (figuratively speaking) in Richmond, Virginia, was supposed to be King and NumbersUSA’s response to a slate of successful pro-immigration events that have been happening all this month. Except nobody came.
That seems to be a wider-problem with the anti-immigrant crowd. Yesterday, Paul Arnold, an organizer with the Black American Leadership Alliance—the front group that hosted last month’s anti-immigrant march in DC and participated in Steve King’s Richmond rally—told his Facebook followers that a lack of interest was leading the group to cancel at least half the rallies they had planned for this August recess. He’s apparently deleted the post since then, luckily we grabbed a screenshot. As he wrote:
Dear friends; It is with deep regret that I must inform you all that we had to drop several rallies. We were unable to get organizers for the following.. Miami, FL.. Chicago, IL.. Roanoke, VA.., and Wisconsin. The Ohio rally is still going to happen , but not under the “Tour” title. FAIR is leading that rally.
That leaves us with 4 rallies. Phoenix, AZ. Richmond, VA. And rallies in Houston, and Dallas, TX. Even the rallies in Houston, and Richmond, VA are not completely confirmed at this time.
Others have noted the weakness of the Tea Party crowd on immigration reform this summer, including Greg Sargent and none other than the right-wing outlet The Daily Caller. Writing in a post this week, the Caller’s senior editor Jamie Weinstein took note of “the immigration bill revolt that wasn’t” and wrote about the general lack of angry Tea Partiers storming town halls this August in an attempt to kill immigration reform. Rather, the exact opposite has happened—peaceful pro-immigration advocates have been pressuring House GOPers to support reform, and every week more and more Republicans are agreeing to do so, announcing their support for immigration reform and citizenship.