Former President George W. Bush recently said that "the reason to pass immigration reform is not to bolster" a political party, but "to fix a system that's broken. Good policy yields good politics."
It's too bad that loathed-by-the-left Bush said it and not Bill Clinton. The ultra-influential Clinton could probably make a difference in the run-up to the House vote on immigration by reminding Democrats to try to compromise on their demands for reform rather than focusing on celebrating a Republican defeat they hope will doom the whole GOP.
Both parties need to stop calculating what a win or loss will mean to their election prospects and start figuring out how to not add immigration to a long list of legislative failures that convince Americans their government is incapable of action.
But this would require the kind of down-to-earth thinking that neither side appears prepared to engage in. And while President Barack Obama has spent months insisting no one will get all they want, it's hard to imagine either side compromising much.
From the beginning, everyone involved has known that one of the top points of contention in the House would be the path to citizenship -- primarily because conservative Republicans don't want it and secondarily because of the ridiculous assumptions made about citizenship and future Latino voting potential.
Conventional wisdom posits the GOP must pass a reform that includes citizenship to stand even a slim chance of attracting future Latino voters. And Democrats want the same so they can cash in on perceived automatic support from grateful Latino voters.
Never mind that none of those assertions can actually be counted on. Worse, they ignore public opinion on the issue of citizenship.
In March and May, the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for the People and the Press surveyed adults from various demographic groups about how to handle immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.
Only 60 percent respondents who believed these immigrants should be allowed to stay favored offering citizenship, while 34 percent preferred permanent residency.
This is not far from the Latino-only response -- 59 percent of those who want immigrants to stay preferred a path to citizenship while 40 percent would stop at permanent residency.
But the loudest of the pro-immigration pundits who wield the Latino vote as a weapon would have everyone believe that few Latinos -- much less half of a representative sample -- would consider a legalization-only compromise. And they'd surely never admit almost 10 percent of Latinos said such immigrants should not be allowed to stay legally.
In fact, the voting behavior of Latinos is such a muddle that Republicans are starting to wonder if these low-turnout voters are even worth fighting for. Over the past few weeks there have been multiple news stories about how House Republicans, in their safe, predominantly white districts, may not even need Latino support to keep their majority power intact.
What a shame that stories and data about the diversity of Latino political attitudes don't get the same play.
A recent feature on Pacific Standard magazine's website titled "Hey GOP: Mexican Immigrants Aren't Necessarily Democrats" said it best: "New research suggests Mexican immigrants in the U.S. are all over the political spectrum -- and those on the right are more likely to vote."
Many other resources about the true potential of the "Latino vote" are available for anyone who cares to learn about Latinos' diverse and evolving political views. Unfortunately, few do.
That's why this latest immigration reform is doomed on the basis of misbeliefs about how important citizenship is to Latinos and how they might react at the polls.
And what about the potential backlash from Latinos smart enough to blame those who were unwilling to compromise?
Let's survey the Latinos who'll be hoppin' mad if millions of immigrants are left hanging out to dry once again while Democrats rejoice in the supposed demise of the Republican Party.
Esther Cepeda is a syndicated columnist.