Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Why Republicans who agree with a GOP majority betray the GOP

How big is the GOP's "big tent"?

"I've never felt like the sins of the parents should be ascribed to the children, you know. If your children always have to pay the price for adults' decisions they make — how fair is that? For people who have no country to go back to — which are many of the DREAMers — it's ridiculous to think that there shouldn't be some accelerated path to citizenship."

-- Jeb Bush, in an April 2013 appearance

before the Hispanic Leadership Network

And there you have it -- words that will dog Jeb Bush from now until he drops out of the race for president. They will appear in attack ads against him. He will be reminded of them repeatedly in GOP debates:

"It's ridiculous to think that there shouldn't be some accelerated path to citizenship."

In those same remarks, Bush also noted that “it’s not possible in a free country to completely control the border without us losing our freedoms and liberties," which is another common-sense statement bound to horrify. The fact that Bush is correct, that any application of basic human decency should lead someone to the same conclusion about the dreamers, won't help him much. The fact that in polls, some two-thirds to four-fifths of Americans agree with him also won't help him. Amazingly, the fact that a majority of fellow Republicans say they support the policy expressed by Bush also won't help him.

Here's how the question broke down in a Fox News poll taken last year:

Sixty percent of REPUBLICANS in the Fox poll said they support allowing illegal immigrants to qualify for citizenship. Just 19 percent of Republicans say they support a policy of deportation. But because Bush dared to say something that a majority in his own party would support, he has seriously damaged himself as its potential nominee.

After Bush's statements recently reached mainstream attention, CNN asked GOP activists and grassroot leaders what they thought:

".... the universal reaction from conservative operatives was "Wow."

That's the word Hogan Gidley, a South Carolina Republican operative who's advised both Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum's presidential campaigns, used when confronted with the comments....

"Wow" is also what conservative strategist Daniel Horowitz, who edits the site ConservativeReview.com, said when he saw them.

"I'm just reading this stuff — wow," he said. "This is insane. Honestly, I don't take him seriously, because of [comments like] these and because of the Bush name it's very hard to see him getting anywhere in a primary."

And it was the response to the comments from Brent Bozell, chairman of the conservative group ForAmerica.

"That thinking is utterly contrary to what grassroots Republicans believe. He is reflecting the viewpoint of the Chamber of Commerce and big business," he said....

"Watch for his opponents to smack him in the mouth all primary season long with his own words," he said.

But it goes well beyond immigration, and in fact illustrates perfectly why the GOP is so dysfunctional. They have allowed the creation of a very narrow definition of conservatism, and anybody in the party who dares to express an opinion outside that box risks  excommunication as a traitor, even when, as in this case, that opinion is in fact held by a majority of Republicans.

It's crazy.

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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.