Reviews | Kevin McCarthy’s border stunt reveals a dark truth about the GOP

Placeholder while loading article actions

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will travel to the U.S.-Mexico border on Monday. This is a transparent attempt to distract from the newly released tapes recorded just after the January 6 insurrection, in which McCarthy is heard telling other Republicans that he would advise the then President, Donald Trump to resign.

But McCarthy’s trip is more than just a cheap shot. It’s an admission of a dark truth about the Republican Party.

If McCarthy wanted to center his blow on the politically most powerful issue, he would not choose immigration. In a recent Gallup poll, 17% of voters chose inflation as the most important issue facing the country, followed by the closely related catch-all of “the economy” at 11%. Immigration is down 5%. And while inflation and gas prices didn’t take off before Joe Biden took office, the immigration numbers are murkier for Republicans. The number of border crossings was inflated by covid-era measures such as Title 42 (which dramatically increased repeat encounters), and the increase in fentanyl trafficking began under Trump.

Most Republicans agree that inflation is their strongest argument. “I predict that we will probably have at least 40 [House] seats, because this president has been so unpopular on inflation, on gas prices,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.) told “Fox News Sunday.”

James Hohmann: The Story of Two Republicans: One Brave, the Other Not

On Friday, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) predicted a “huge surge in November…because [Democrats] I don’t want to talk about inflation and the high cost of everything they created. And in last week’s “Fox News Sunday,” McCarthy himself cited “unnecessary and irresponsible spending that has driven up prices and inflation” as the main reason for President Biden’s poor poll results.

Yet McCarthy and his fellow Republicans aren’t performing political stunts outside gas stations or supermarkets. And they barely make any moves to lower the prices. Yet they hammer border policy. Why? Because while immigration may not sway the electorate as a whole, it does inflame the GOP base that McCarthy wants to keep on his side.

In his “Fox News Sunday” interview, McCaul – the former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee – encouraged that anger. “Putin has invaded Ukraine,” he told host Sandra Smith. “We have an invasion in my home country right across the border, every day.” He then referred to the 2.5 million (inflated) migrant encounters that have taken place since Biden’s inauguration.

Note that McCaul did not limit this comparison to traffickers or criminals trying to cross the border. No, every person trying to cross – including the tens of thousands of asylum seekers and the hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied families and children simply seeking a better life – is no different in McCaul’s framework of soldiers invading a sovereign nation.

Karen Tumulty: A President Kevin McCarthy would only mean more debacles like this

This “invasion” language — a favorite of Trump and white supremacists — has already led to bloodshed. In 2019, a gunman killed 23 people at a Walmart in El Paso after he published an anti-Latino manifesto in which he said the attack was a response to “the Hispanic invasion of Texas”. And so that no one doubts the partisan component of this hatred, the shooter also expressed his fear that the demographic evolution could “make us a democratic stronghold”.

Responsible leaders would examine such an outcome and reconsider their rhetoric. After the shooting, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (right) admitted ‘mistakes were made’ in sending out an appeal for funds just the day before to ‘defend’ the Texas border. But Abbott’s assumption of responsibility was short-lived: Last year he again warned that Americans at the border “are overrun.” This year, he shipped migrant buses to Washington and ordered “enhanced” inspections of all commercial trucks crossing the border. The latter found neither drugs nor migrants, but it cost the state $4.2 billion in GDP. Yet despite that dismal failure, Abbott was back on Fox News on Sunday to denounce Biden’s handling of the “national disaster” at the border, without a word about the trucks.

Abbott, McCaul and McCarthy, whether they admit it or not, recognize that the easiest way to protect their standing in the Republican Party is to embrace the hate and stoke the same bigoted fury that drove a man to open fire in a store. Maybe one day the GOP fever will die down. Until he does, the future of this country remains very bleak.

Comments are closed.