Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is raising his profile and emphasizing the difference between dysfunction in Washington and pragmatic GOP governance in the states. This morning he was on Fox and Friends:
He was not speaking about immigration or any specific policy when he said, “Great policy is good politics. I put policy first. I think people are hungry for leadership, they want people to step up. I think that’s why, even though the president got reelected by a significant margin, particularly in key swing states, almost every one of those swing states we talked about last year is now, today, governed by a Republican governor.” Nevertheless his admonition about smart policy goes to the heart of the immigration debate.
In the GOP there are two types of pols — ideological and transactional. The former see statements of principle (“the rule of law”) as the highest calling for elected officials and efforts to reach consensus as “giving in.” Transactional pols, on the other hand, may have strong beliefs but they deliver the goods — tax reform, entitlement reform, etc. That requires compromise and willingness to deviate from ideal legislation. Walker? Transactional. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.)? Ideological.
It is these two perspectives that are at odds in the internal scrum over immigration reform within the GOP. Coincidentally, the American Action Network (AAN), a key center-right group advocating immigration reform released a study. A press release explains:
The American Action Network released district-by-district estimates today of the amount of jobs that would be created by immigration reform. The findings . . . show that each district would gain at least 7,000 jobs by 2023, with many districts standing to gain significantly more. The average per district was 13,922 jobs. The new estimates were calculated from a previous study by Regional Economic Models Inc. (REMI) and data from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
Immigration brings jobs. That is the personification of transactional politics. “Rule of law!” holler the anti-immigration forces. The pragmatic reply is that immigrants will pay back taxes, a fine and learn English. For AAN, the present set of facts and objectives of immigration reform trump an overgeneralization about fidelity to rule of law. (By the way, rules get changed all the time. President Obama did it extra-legally while immigration reformers want a duly passed statute.)
Transactional politicians can be charismatic and high-minded. President Reagan was a red-bloodied conservative but delivered on everything from tax reform to arms agreements. The challenge for transactional politicians is to show that their policy results are generally consistent with their espoused perspective (pro-free market, pro-defense). The challenge for ideological pols is to justify making the perfect the enemy of the good. The public, at least the general -election electorate, largely doesn’t like that but that won’t stop the all-or-nothing crowd from trying to sell their wares in 2014 and 2016.