During the 2008 U.S. presidential Race, Senator John McCain spent no small amount of time climbing down from his previous stance on immigration reform. He repeated many times that he had "gotten the message" from the public's response to a bill that many saw as another amnesty of the type passed in 1986. That message, McCain said, was, "Secure the borders first." His implication was that the nation would perhaps tolerate another amnesty, if their fears of continued lax (or nonexistent) enforcement of current immigration laws were allayed.
His opponent in that election appears to have drawn some other conclusion. He is eyeing a battle over immigration reform as a means of invigorating his party's midterm election efforts. It will likely have the opposite effect.
President Barack Obama has approval ratings below 50%. He has enjoyed none of the promised "bounce" from passing his health insurance reform. Why that surprises is anyone's guess, as it was clear for many months that most Americans did not want to see it passed. Nancy Pelosi may have needed passage to find out what was in it, but the majority of voters were (and remain) pretty sure it was nothing they wanted.
Analysts across the political spectrum anticipate a very rough November for the president's party. Specific arguments for this analysis abound, but they all point to the same basic reality: the Obama agenda is completely out of phase with the current political zeitgeist. This administration is hell-bent on expanding the scope, reach and power of the federal government at a time when large and growing numbers of people have decided that it's already too large, too powerful and too expensive.
ObamaCare is just the beginning. The FDA is planning to mandate lower sodium levels in processed foods. The EPA has declared carbon dioxide a pollutant, which brings its regulation under their purview and enables federal interference in any activity that involves burning fuel. The FDIC, if Democrats get their way, is about to be granted new power over the financial system that will affect millions of businesses, not just banks. And presidential economic advisers have begun public fulmination on the coming necessity of a Value Added Tax - because we have to pay the salaries of all these federal busy bodies somehow.
If anyone is waiting for Barack Obama to stunt the growth of the Leviathan, he has allowed his ballyhooed hope to morph into sheer delusion. Certainly Obama and his advisers can see the growing gulf between their exploits and the preferences of a clear majority of those likely to vote in November. But expanding the power of government is non-negotiable; it is a bedrock principle.
What to do then? The only hope lies in expanding the universe of likely November voters. The campaign strategy must add Democratic voters to this universe in large numbers to have any chance of hanging onto the House of Representatives. That is why Obama issued his two-minute plea, specifically to "young people, African Americans, Latinos and women" whom he says "powered" his victory in 2008.
It should surprise no one that these are the groups Obama would like to motivate. Young people, spellbound by Obama's calls for hope and change, voted overwhelmingly for him in 2008. African-Americans did too, and plenty of polls indicate they continue to support Obama in the range of 90-95%. But the president's targeting of Latinos and women is somewhat more problematic.
With women, President Obama was demographically imprecise. What he truly wants is for single women to get out and vote. Married women will not benefit him much. The gender gap in American politics is actually a matrimony gap - which points up its origin. Single women, especially those with children, are drawn to the promise of security that larger government suggests.
To appeal to Latinos, his allies in Congress have indicated that they will address "comprehensive" immigration reform in the next three weeks. His hope is that he can, by provoking a hyper-partisan political knife-fight over immigration, convince Latinos everywhere that Republicans' resistance to such reform is a form of racism. But the real racism here is the implicit assumption that Latinos, as a bloc, are in favor of amnesty for illegals.
In the real world, many Latinos (or their forebears) entered this country legally - and they resent someone else being rewarded with citizenship for breaking the law. And since very few Republicans are actually racist, painting the party with that brush will be very difficult - especially since nearly all of them would gladly sign onto expanding legal immigration, once the borders are secured.
But here is the greater flaw in this political strategy: Obama, unlike McCain, did not get the message. His "comprehensive" immigration reform fails to comprehend that most of America wants to see our borders sealed. The reasons are legion: economics, culture, sovereignty, rule of law, national security, basic fairness. Here again, the president will find his agenda out of step with the desires of the people.
He would probably do more for his party's electoral prospects if he just forbade all Democrats, until election day, from uttering the word, "comprehensive." The public is tiring of it, of the hubris and power lust that it reveals, and of the intent to expand government that it announces.© RealClearPolitics.com