Immigration and Politics
by Tom Donelson on May 7, 2010 at 5:08 PM
The Immigration issue brings out the worst in the political process and choices before us are difficult and fraught with political risk for all. The Arizona passage of SB 1070 has put the issue front and center. I won’t go into the bill since that has already been dissected by others, but instead view the issue from both a political and foreign policy aspect.
Mexico is engaged in Civil War with Narco Terrorists trying to undermine the present government while protecting their own profitable turf. Colonial Ralph Peters' most recent column on the danger of Mexico's possible collapse signals that we may be dealing with worst of all, a leftist government supported by Narco terrorist drug cartels after the next Mexican election. We can even add the possibility of a leftist government supported by Narco terrorist drug cartels aligned with Hugo Chavez, who is challenging the United States throughout Central and South America while aligning his government with Iran and Russia. For the people of Arizona, the Civil war at its border is now intertwined with illegal immigration.
The political side is the Immigration issue, which is now front and center for the 2010 election, especially now that Obama has all but declared immigration legislation dead for this congressional year, but the Democrats are still hoping to seize upon the issue as a campaign wedge.
With impending doom facing the Democratic Party in the upcoming congressional election and independent voters joining Republicans in deserting the Democratic agenda in droves, the Democrats have only one choice for victory while staving off a political tsunami. That choice is to play the race card and hope that minority voters are able to overwhelm independent voters turning against the Democrats.
In many elections, the Democratic Party has attempted a spike strategy among minorities by installing the fear of a Republican victory to increase participation among minority voters. Republican incompetence in attracting minority voters has always given the Democrats opportunity to produce decisive get out the vote campaigns among African-Americans (who give Democrats 90% of their vote) and now Hispanics voters.
A most recent survey by Resurgent Republic among Hispanic voters showed that while Hispanics are registered Democrats by a wide margin, their view on past Democratic economic polices mirror positions taken by Tea Partiers, Republicans, and Independents. Whether it is supporting budget cuts or opposing Obama health care, Hispanics don’t like higher taxes, government control of health care, and bigger government any more than other Americans. Certainly, this makes Hispanics a logical target for any Republican surge in the 2010 elections. There is one issue that Hispanics are united on regardless of party allegiances; they support comprehensive immigration reform that combines border security and legal status for illegals in the United States.
While Hispanics view immigration reform low on their priorities, this could change as the general election approaches. Past election results over the past two election cycles have shown, immigration may be a wedge issue, but not one that works in the benefit of Republicans or conservatives. Even if Hispanic voters view immigration as lower than economic issues, for those Hispanics who view immigration as important are more likely to vote against Republicans than for them. The flip side is that many others view this as a law and order in which their very life and property are at stake. Denver Post David Harsanyi wrote, “Americans value immigration. They recoil from lawlessness. And frustration over the impotent border enforcement has manifested itself in a flailing overreach. Arizona's law isn't a referendum on Latinos or even immigration itself. It's an unambiguous rebuke of Washington.” As a friend of mine told me, “I have no problems with immigration; I just want them to come in the front door and not sneak in the back.” For many Americans, they have no trust in the Washington political class and view the failure on border security as the federal government failing in one of their primary roles, protecting the border. They are not racists but they do see the violence on Mexico border spilling over in their communities. Their response was Arizona bill SB 1070 and their rebellion is against the governing class.
For the Democrats, stroking fear of the Hispanic communities means more votes for them and these additional votes could be the difference in Harry Reid being the Senator majority leader or a retired politician. Nevada and Colorado are within the grasp of the Republican Party but Democrats are gambling that they can carry this issue to reduce the political damage that the voters can inflict on them.
The other side is that the Republicans run the risk of maybe winning the battle but losing the war. The 2010 election is one of those elections that will be hard for Republicans to lose, but a political strategy that demonizes illegal immigrants, mostly Hispanics, could drive Hispanics into Democratic hands for a generation or longer. African-Americans essentially give their votes to the Democratic Party and the Hispanics hold the key for Florida, Texas and the Southwest. In 2004, Bush managed to grab 52% of the vote with the aid of Hispanic votes, showing that GOP could attract significant Hispanic votes, but it also showed that GOP margin of error was thin since John Kerry attracted 48% of the vote. Bush had to wait late in the evening until Ohio was declared for him before being declaring victory.
Over the past two decades, percentage of white voters has declined and minorities have increased. Barack Obama was aided by the highest percentage of minorities plus young voters in his victory and Democratic strategists are counting on increasing number minorities to change America from a red nation to a blue nation for a generation or longer. The corner stone of the Democratic strategist is to increase government size to create a dependency state, increasing the number of government jobs (more union members are public sector union) and cementing Hispanics into Democratic voters.
Many Republican strategists have used restrictionist policy as a mean to reduce the number of future Hispanic voters (and future Democratic voters.) The danger in this strategy is that Republicans risk alienation of today's Hispanic voters. There is no reason to suggest Hispanics are doomed to vote Democratic. Hispanic voters are socially conservative but tend to be more liberal in their economic opinions. But looking beneath the surface, Hispanics are entrepreneurs and Hispanic owned business have grown in the past decade, thus giving Republicans openings. Competitive Enterprise Institute Alex Nowrasteh observed, “They tend to be socially conservative and hostile to confiscatory taxes and regulation. They are generally poor but hard-working and entrepreneurial. Most of them have recent bad memories of confiscatory left-wing Latin American governments. They sound and act like conservatives and a reasonable Republican position on immigration could politically capture them.”
The key to future Republican successes is to find compromise between those who want comprehensive immigrations with those who want border security first. Those of us who support a more comprehensive plan have one thing against us, no one trusts the governing class. After the bruising battle over health care in which the majority of Americans saw their desire shunted aside by Chicago tactics and vote buying have broken the trust between the American voters and the governing class. When you add the approaching trillion dollars of debt and government takeover of selected industries, it will be difficult to convince the average voters that the present government is capable of producing a sane immigration policy. The reason for the push on border security first is based on the premise that Governor Mike Huckabee observed, “Government needs to work on one thing first and that first thing is securing the border.”
The key to any immigration reforms begin with establishing trust with the American voters. Not an easy task.