Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Democrats ignore GOP "immigration" meme at own peril

Yesterday I posted a comment on, a decidedly mainstream Democratic blog, pretty much posting some I'd already posted here that the Republicans had no intention of doing anything about "illegal immigration" but they would keep it around as future wedge issue. A reply to my post said Jonathan Singer's "point seems to be that by not passing a bill they are failing to make the wedge issue out of immigration." To which I can only sigh, "How naive."

So this morning Mr. Singer's back with this observation, in of criticism of a New York Times story by Carl Hulse:
Perhaps more importantly, polling from individual races show that the issue of immigration is not the force many believe it to be. The survey Joel Wright conducted for this site and the Courage Campaign looking into why Francine Busby lost in the special election in California's 50th congressional district found that "contrary to many pundits, both moderates and Independents were far more drawn to progressive immigration messaging of the sort Busby gave rather than the harsh, punitive rhetoric from conservatives in the district."

Given the relatively small number of voters who plan to base their vote this fall on immigration above all issues, the underwhelming track record of the issue and the fact that there are serious questions about the efficacy of the GOP's political strategy on the issue, I am just not sold on this notion that immigration will decide control of the House in the next Congress.
This is the same sort of Democratic hubris that doomed the Democrats in the abortion debate: The Supreme Court has decided, we don't need to address the issue poltically to strenghten the ruling, the opposition is small, weak, on the radical fringe and easily ignored. When Roe v. Wade was handed down by the Burger Court in 1973, essentially legalizing abortion, the so-called pro-life movement limited to a handful of Catholics. How times have changed.

The Republicans plan for the long haul, and just because "illegal immigration" doesn't resonate with your average white voter just yet doesn't necessarily preclude that it won't be back. And back. And back. That is, if the Democrats gain the majority in the US House and Senate and do nothing or appear to do nothing or, worst possible scenario, take the president's plan and run with it. That's a minefield. And Democrats should look at Europe's experience with guest-worker programs, a salient feature of the Bush immigration dereform plan.

An immigrantion reform law that does not address the depressed economic conditions of Mexico and Central America is doomed to failure. This, I am sure, is what Republican strategists are counting on.

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