Saturday, May 19, 2007
With the immigration * compromise * in the Senate, President Bush and the Senators have detonated the slow-motion trigger on a Republican debacle in 2008. Let's count the ways:
1) The typical (median) American worker has seen his income stagnate under George W. Bush. Immigration is not the only reason for this wage stagnation, but it is certainly one of the reasons. With this immigration bill, the GOP is telling hard-pressed workers: Go look to somebody else to help you.
2) As complicated as this immigration deal is, it rests on a simple compromise: The Democrats get the amnesty they want - in exchange for the Republicans getting the guest-worker program they want. By identifying the guestworker program as the GOP's highest immigration priority, the deal also identifies the GOP as a party that in the crunch puts employers' interests first.
3) Even before the deal, Democrats entered the 2008 cycle unified and energized; Republicans, divided and demoralized. The president and the senators have now managed to divide and demoralize their party even further.
4) The deal scrambles the 2008 race, in ways deeply unhelpful to the party. The deal has wounded all three of the GOP front-runners: McCain because he is deeply implicated in it; Giuliani because he has tacitly endorsed it; Romney because it has added one more flip-flop to his already too lengthy list of reversals. The deal helps the two undeclared Republicans, Gingrich and Thompson - both of whom, alas, are much less electable on a national ticket than the three declared front-runners.
5) The White House/RNC defense of the deal only enrages Republican voters. When Tony Snow delivers a speech to the Council on National Priorities arguing that George W. Bush has been tougher on illegal immigration than any president ever .. well, he invites jeers and derision. Of the 35 million foreign-born people in the United States, some 8 million have arrived since 2001. Of the 12 million estimated illegals in the United States, some 4 million have arrived since 2001.
6) As we have seen in both the Harriet Miers fight and the Dubai ports deal, this White House's first instinct when faced with dissent in the ranks is to insult and abuse its strongest supporters. "Sexist"; "elitist"; "registered bigots" were some of the terms cast during the previous fights. Brace yourselves for much, much worse. This is no way to win friends and influence people. And triggering an internecine party conflict on the eve of a difficult and dangerous election is no way to re-elect a damaged incumbent party.
7) And unfortunately the White House's second instinct when confronted with dissent is to revert to incompetent spin. Unlike the Clinton administration, which lied with a fluency and bravado that will impress PR hacks for decades to come, the Bush administration stumbles, flusters, and eventually disheartens even its staunchest supporters. Or, as my friend Bill Walsh puts it, they cannot even tell the truth convincingly.
8) The deal will worsen Republican prospects among Hispanic voters. Over the years, the Republicans have done not too badly with Hispanics, typically winning about 35%-40% of the Hispanic vote as compared to under 10% of the black vote.
Republicans have done so well because until now, the highly diverse Hispanic population has not voted as an ethnic bloc. Now we ourselves are forcing that to change. It's as if this Republican president and these Republican senators have said, "Hmm. Can we invent an issue that will teach Cuban-American doctors, Honduran day laborers, and Mexican-American army officers to think of themselves as a unified ethnic group? Can we then provoke a fight that all of them (whatever their diverging practical interests) will treat as a symbol of acceptance in American society? And can we then stage-manage this fight to ensure that two-thirds of our party will have no choice but to fall on the wrong side of it?"
Nice work, guys.
05/19 08:09 AM