I’m all about regional pride. As a native of the farmland of Central California, it warms my heart to see one of my peeps break a barrier, achieve a victory or receive an honor.
Thus, I should probably be rooting for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to accomplish his goal of becoming House Speaker in the next session, which could happen if the GOP keeps control of the lower chamber despite being hijacked by President Donald Trump.
Yet, as it stands, I’m ambivalent. That’s because McCarthy recently pulled a fast one and betrayed his roots in the process. He also forgot a basic rule of politics: When you go to the ball, you dance with who brought you. Despite taking bundles of cash from farmers since entering politics in 2002 – first as a state legislator, then a member of Congress – the Republican from Bakersfield stiffed his benefactors by breaking a promise he made to colleagues in June to hold a vote on a new guest worker program for farmers.
Congress adjourned for the summer without that happening. And it’s not likely to happen after Labor Day either, given that most of the members will be home campaigning for re-election.
This is what McCarthy figured out: Americans are in no mood to import foreigners from Latin America. In fact, at the moment, we’re only interested in exporting. We don’t want more of these people. We want to get rid of the ones that are already here.
These days, Uncle Sam is a cold-hearted old man who screams at people to stay off his lawn -- or, in this case, away from his border. Grumpy Sam is so adamant about punishing the desperate souls who come to his front door without permission -- as all refugees do, when you think about it -- that he will snatch their kids and not give them back until the parent signs paperwork clearing the way for their own deportation. And in some cases, as we have learned over the last several weeks, he may never give them back.
Which means this is the wrong time for Republicans in Congress to even toy with the idea of guest workers - which has long been fancied by their benefactors in the business community, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
We’re talking about a few hundred thousand people who would be brought into the United States -- including farm hands to help with the harvest -- and then leave after the work is done.
The concept is simple, but the politics are complicated. Guest workers were a major sticking point in the negotiations over immigration reform that occurred in Congress a decade ago. Everyone gets hung up on “amnesty” for illegal immigrants, but guest workers are the real key to unlocking the stalemate. That’s because the concept delivers the votes of a couple dozen business-friendly Republicans, which could offset the couple dozen votes the immigration reformers can expect to lose from pro-labor Democrats.
You see, organized labor hates the whole idea of guest workers. That hatred is about competition, but it is also about pride. Unions like to argue that foreign labor displaces American workers -- even if it pushes them out of jobs Americans don’t want in the first place. They live in an alternate universe where comfy union members are dying to pick peaches in Georgia or cut grapes in Napa Valley or milk cows in Wisconsin.
And since the Democratic Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the unions that bankroll it, we can always count on some number of Democrats voting against any immigration compromise that includes guest workers. That’s why you need the votes of some Republicans, and the way you get them is with guest workers.
So, McCarthy had a choice to make: Keep his pledge to farmers -- including those back home in Central California who are facing a severe labor shortage -- by holding a vote on a guest worker bill that could splinter the party and cost him support within the Republican caucus; or break the promise, drop the issue and keep the GOP intact.
McCarthy chose the latter. He tried to sell his colleagues a lame excuse about how the votes weren’t there to pass a guest worker bill, but they aren’t buying it. We all know what happened here. McCarthy got sidetracked by his ambition, betrayed his rural roots and proved himself unworthy to lead.
And, whatever region someone hails from, that is nothing to be proud of.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.