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The immigration debate is exposing the fissures in the Republican Party more than any other debate has yet, between the Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove faction and the crazy teabagger Rush Limbaugh/Glenn Beck/Michelle Malkin crowd. For them, electoral politics takes second place to hating on brown people, apparently. It parallels, basically, the split between the Senate Republicans, who can't rely on extreme gerrymandering to keep their seats, and House Republicans, who can be crazy as they want to be. The results are, at the very least, fun to watch.
Take this from Limbaugh, at his meglomaniacal best.
In a sign of how divisive the issue has become among conservatives, Limbaugh said Monday that it was “up to me and Fox News” to stop a deal that would provide a path to citizenship to illegal immigrants unless they had been convicted of a major felony. But Limbaugh doubted that even Fox News had the backbone to join him in that crusade. “It’s up to me and Fox News, and I don’t think Fox News is that invested in this. I don’t think there’s any Republican opposition to this of any majority consequence or size,” Limbaugh said on his radio program.
He's not actually on his own, with Beck and Malkin both frothing at the mouth over the very idea of considering immigration reform. Malkin basically is calling for war against the Republican senators involved calling them "suicidal" and "self-deluded." They are, she says, "GOP illegal alien amnesty promoters" and "capitulationist Republicans."
Meanwhile, Rove, whose only job ever has been to try and get a permanent Republican majority, is sounding downright reasonable. He's calling the bipartisan proposal "a huge step forward." Now he's trying to show some distance between "mainstream" Republicans and the crazies, but this is the bed Rove made by appealing to the worst of the extremist base to grow his party. Welcome to your GOP, Karl. So far, Malkin hasn't called for his head on a spike, but that's coming.
Maybe the most entertaining spin on this comes from Peggy Noonan, who's looking really hard for the silver lining. She says that the intraparty fight is just proof that the party is still viable, because "[o]nly things that are alive have battles," then tries a headfake, saying this is really an American fight, and that the Democratic base has "mixed feelings," too. Nice try, Noonan. But she's only slightly less ridiculous than David Brooks, who's arguing that the GOP needs to split into two parties, so the moderates can do their own thing.
The GOP fight might not help us finally get to sane immigration policy in the short term, but it makes for some entertainment. And it might just be the fissure that finally cracks the party.