There was a certain irony to the timing. Yesterday, the House Republican leadership began a new outreach effort to leaders of the Latino community, trying to repair years of damage. And during their discussions, and assurances about the GOP's sincerity, a far-right rally was underway on the national mall featuring anti-immigrant speeches from one Republican after another.
As Kate Nocera reported, Rep. Steve King's (R-Iowa) "was prepared to talk about immigration for six hours all by himself if he had to," but it didn't come to that.
But King didn't have to talk by himself. Crowds showed up in droves. One member of Congress after another showed up to give speeches. The Heritage Foundation's Robert Rector dropped by to talk about his widely criticized study that the Senate's immigration bill would cost $6 trillion (though there was no criticism from this crowd).
For King the outpouring of support from Tea Party groups and likeminded members of Congress was proof that his efforts to stall, and hopefully kill, the Senate's immigration bill in the House were working. If party leaders had hoped King would sit this fight out, by day's end on Wednesday he had made it abundantly clear he wasn't going anywhere. [...]
"This bill is at its core amnesty," King said to cheers. "We're here to today ... to take this debate outside the halls of Congress. If it's not going to be good enough inside, we'll take it outside!"
To help underscore the larger problem, consider the fact that Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) appeared at the event, spoke briefly in Spanish, and was heckled.
It's true that immigration wasn't the only subject discussed yesterday -- the legion of far-right lawmakers were also eager to talk about the IRS. Imagine that.
But the point of the gathering was to condemn the bipartisan immigration legislation pending in the Senate: "Protesters wore T-shirts emblazoned with American flags and tea party slogans, and they waved homemade signs that read, 'John Boehner: no amnesty, get a backbone,' 'Boehner: go home,' 'exporting illegals = importing jobs for Americans, stop socialism,' and 'if we lose rule of law we become Mexico.'"
And for a moment, if you lost track of the calendar, you might even think it was 2010, which isn't exactly the Republican Party's goal right now.
Indeed, consider yesterday's event in the larger context: what have Republicans shown the nation lately? There was a Tea Party rally this week, which followed a big fight over an anti-abortion bill that can't pass. In the states, we see a focus on culture-war issues, including state-mandated, medically-unnecessary ultrasounds. On Capitol Hill, most Republican lawmakers are running around talking about "amnesty" and "illegals," which is every bit as insulting as their rhetoric about women.
And on the horizon, many in the GOP are already planning another debt-ceiling crisis.
I argued a week ago that the Republican Party's "rebranding" effort had gone off the rails, but in retrospect, I probably understated matters. Party leaders hoped to apply some lessons from 2012 and move the party forward, but half-way through 2013, it's clear Republicans are moving backwards.