Thursday, January 10, 2008

Rumors of demise greatly exaggerated, the wedge won't die

The press, pundits and blogosphere have been abuzz with rumors of the death of the "immigration issue".

Citing the failure of anti-immigrant sentiment to translate into votes at the ballot box in the recent presidential primaries, the chattering classes have been quick to discount the issue's real effectiveness as an electoral wedge.

A stategy that "immigration is a non-issue" has been the de-facto official company-line from the DNC since early December when they released a new set of talking points on the issue after the failure of the wedge to deliver in the key off year races.

But now the Republicans seem to be picking up the mantra as well.

In tonight's debate in S Carolina, Republican Fox News only devoted one round of questions to the topic, this in contrast to previous debates where large blocks of time were spent on the issue.

Arch-Conservative, Robert Novak, commenting on the results from New Hampshire, wrote, "There is a growing body of evidence that making immigration the No. 1 issue is a political mistake."

Clearly, the specter of a presidential election dominated by anti-immigrant rhetoric is beginning to slip off the radar. In fact, if Mitt Romney fails to take Michigan this coming Tuesday the anti-immigrant crowd will be left out in the cold with no viable standard bearer.

How they will react to this abandonment is yet to be seen …But it shouldn't be assumed they will go quietly into the night.

The national media, political strategists and chatterati, fixated on the horserace that will dominate political discourse for the next ten months, are now viewing all things through the prism of presidential politics.

They've been quick to point to the failure of one-trick-pony, Tom Tancredo, and his evil doppelganger, Duncan Hunter, to gain any traction with their rapid anti-immigrant rhetoric, or Romney's failure to deliver, as a sign that immigration is a dead issue.

But this logic has a fatal flaw.

It’s based on the performance of individual candidates and assumes that the "immigration issue" is the sole determining factor for their failure. It discounts the fact that no single issue, no matter what it is, or how compelling, can make a highly flawed candidate electable.

Take Tancredo for example. He was utterly unqualified for the position he was vying for with no real credentials and absolutely no appeal beyond the fringe. He could hardly be considered a viable candidate. He had no more chance then Mike Gravel or Ron Paul from the start and most likely couldn't get elected dog catcher in a national election.

Duncan Hunter ….. who?
He was hardly the most well-know, likable, or charismatic congressmen in the bunch, whose only redeeming quality seemed to be that he looked like a scary, middle-school, Vice-Principal who could make kids eat their vegetables.

And then there's Romney.

Besides having a seemingly bottomless pocketbook and a willingness to flaunt it, all the charms of used-car pitchman on late-night TV, and the demeanor of a reptile, his unique inability to stick to one position, or have consistent principles, makes the previous presidential contender from Massachusetts, once vilified for being a "flop-flopper," look like the Rock of Gibraltar in comparison. Romney's apparent failure has far more to do with Romney himself, than any of the myriad of positions he's taken.

And of course let's not forget Grampa Fred …..zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

But this has not prevented the experts from ringing a death knoll for the "immigration issue."

Romney ran commercials that aired more than 12,000 times, mostly in Iowa and New Hampshire, promising to be rough and tough when it comes to illegal immigration. Romney used the debates and his commercials to blast his challengers, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Huckabee, for being soft on illegal immigrants.
…The results are in. In a state where voters had a clear choice to vote for Romney's tough stance on illegal immigration in the Republican caucuses, they instead turned out in historic numbers to vote Democratic. There they picked Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who has unabashedly advocated an earned path to citizenship for the undocumented.
On the Republican side, Romney, despite his overwhelming funding advantage, came up short.
Chicago Tribune

the anti-immigration card didn't work in New Hampshire. Contrary to expectations, McCain won despite virulent attacks by fellow Republican hopeful Mitt Romney and others that he was being too soft on the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country.
According to exit polls, immigration was not among the three most important issues for Democrats, and was tied for third place among Republicans.
Miami Herald

Yet, what's not being reported or discussed is what's happening on the state and local level.

A quick search of local news reveals that immigration is far from a dead issue. It seems that almost daily some state legislator is offering up a new anti-immigration bill or resolution. This group comes to us from today:

House Republican leaders unveiled an immigration reform plan Monday that would bill the federal government for the cost of detaining illegal immigrants and prevent illegals from attending any public college.
House speaker unveils plan to curb illegal immigration in SC

The 2008 Legislative Session doesn’t begin mid-January, but already the topic of immigration is high on the agenda. In the state of Missouri, eleven bills pertaining to immigration have been pre-filed as of Dec. 26: seven in the House of Representatives and four in the Senate.

Two immigration-related bills are heading to the full Senate Judiciary Committee.

A Senate panel passed bills that would require government paperwork in South Carolina be written only in English and ask Congress to call for a constitutional convention on immigration.

LINCOLN, Neb. — A state lawmaker wants to wave a big stick at companies who may be hiring illegal immigrants, threatening to take away their state-approved tax breaks if they knowingly employ them.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty waded back into the immigration debate Monday, reaffirming his concern with an issue that is heating up his party's presidential nomination contest and drawing complaints that his motives may be political.

Pawlenty outlined measures to crack down on illegal immigration, signing an executive order to allow some Minnesota law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration law for the first time, requiring new state employees and contractors to verify citizenship and ordering the review of millions of driver's license photos for possible duplication.

The governor also proposed -- again -- to reverse the so-called sanctuary laws that prevent local police from inquiring about residents' immigration status.

He said he'd cut state aid to municipalities that refuse.

It took about three minutes for Sen. Jim Barone, D-Frontenac, to talk about illegal immigration at the Legislative Send Off Monday afternoon.

That's about how quickly legislators think it will take to get into the issue when they report for the start of the 2008 session.

"I'm sure we'll probably be talking about that at 2 p.m. next Monday," Barone said.

"I'm not sure that there isn't already something already filed," said Rep. Bob Grant, D-Cherokee. "We may be dealing with that at 8:30 a.m."

Immigration was the top issue discussed by Barone, Grant and Rep. Julie Menghini, D-Pittsburg, at the annual legislative send-off, where local business and city leaders gathered to listen and ask questions about the hot button issues over the next session

So while of the top Republican ticket might end up not reflecting a strong anti-immigrant bent …. down-ticket, it will surly be a major issue. And this demonstrates the real power the wedge might have.

We've seen over the last two years what little power the Whitehouse really has in greater debate. Between congressional obstruction at the national level and action in statehouses and city councils, the anti-immigrant forces have continually moved their agenda forward. And we ignore this fact at our own peril.

Along with a continuation of restrictive and punitive legislation on the local and state level, it's obvious that immigration will play out as a determining factor this coming November not only in Congressional and possibly Senatorial contests, but also in races for state and local legislators. The specter of anti-immigrant ballot initiatives and referendums looms great just as the anti-gay referendums did in 2004.

The Republicans opened a Pandora's Box of hate and ignorance with the formulation of the immigration wedge, and it will be nearly impossible now to force those demons back into the box.

We should not lull ourselves into a false sense of security simply because we don't hear a rapid debate over immigration taking place between the Presidential contenders. As long as candidates down-ticket can use the wedge….it's still viable ….and will not die.


Man Eegee said...

I think it will make a return to center stage during the general election - even sooner if St. McCain continues to do well in the GOP primary.

Duke1676 said...

now that Mittens has picked up MI, it'll stick around for a while as he uses it to bludgeon McCain. Plus the Huck seems to be doing his best to try to reinvent himself as an immigration hawk despite the fact that the real nativist crowd doesn't buy it one bit. ALIPAC absolutely HATES the guy….possibly even more than they hate Big Mac.

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