On Sunday’s Meet the Press, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) warned that his party was entering a “demographic death spiral” by opposing immigration reform. He was likely referring to the conflict between the GOP’s leadership and its base, which two groups are divided between large employers and nativists, i.e. taskmasters v. crackers. Maybe that’s a little strong. You can get into trouble when you commit to a metaphor, as Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) demonstrated in his own remarks:
I would tell my Republican colleagues, both in the House and the Senate, that the road to the White House comes through a road with a pathway to legalization. Without it, there’ll never be a road to the White House for the Republican Party.
Assiduous unpacking after the jump.
First of all, Menendez et al are talking about a comprehensive immigration bill sponsored by eight senators that recently overcame the procedural hurdles that kept it from floor debate. Here is your 2013 US Congress: it’s news that a significant bill has progressed to the point where one house is willing to debate it. Part of the problem with immigration reform is that the Tea Party hates it. Having made parliamentary gamesmanship such an everyday occurrence that the mere threat of filibuster is enough to kill any bill without 60 likely supporters, GOP leadership is now at the mercy of any senator who wants to curry favor with the party’s ultra-conservative wing.
So it’s the defining battle of contemporary Republican politics: political expedience against ideological purity. Everybody knows that you can’t hate on immigration and court Latino voters, and so the dominant narrative in reform has become the Republican Party’s presidential ambitions in 2016. And so we come to Menendez’s road to the White House, which passes through another road that itself contains a path.
Part of the problem, here, is a proliferation of similar expressions. “Road to the White House” is so commonly used as a phrasal noun that it has lost its prepositional sense and become a sort of destination in itself. In Menendez’s metaphor, Republicans want to get to this road, and so they will have to take a road there. Unfortunately, “pathway to legalization” is also an extremely popular abstract phrasal noun in immigration reform. And so the road that Republicans must follow to reach the road to the White House has a pathway.
Specifically, in Menendez’s formulation, the r to the WH “comes through a road with a pathway.” Here we begin to pity him. He might have said that the road to the road to the White House intersects a pathway to legalization, but that would imply that Republicans would come to that intersection, not take the pathway, and continue along the road toward the presidency. That’s no good. Similarly, he might have said that the road to the White House passes through legalization, but obviously no immigrants are going to make it to the White House. If anything, the road to the White House passes though Southampton, but not if you’re bringing cleaning products with you.
So we have three roads occupying the same space: the road to the White House, which comes through an unnamed road I call the Bullshitevard, which itself is “with” a pathway to legalization. The important thing is that elections, congressional politics and becoming a legal resident of the United States are all roads. Pretty much everything that takes place over a period of time is a road, as are certain legal concepts and political offices. Exercise is the road to health. Talking is the road to expression. Political discourse is the road to perdition.