Monday, April 26, 2010


Yesterday [Lindsey Graham] called the Democrats' renewed calls to advance immigration reform "a cynical political ploy."

--Frank Sharry at the Huffington Post

Sharry argues that it's Graham who's engaged in the cynical political ploy -- that he'd intended to "slow walk" the very immigration bill he has called for, and was working on, in order to spare his pal John McCain a tough vote before the August 24 GOP primary in his state's Senate race ... but now Harry Reid has screwed up that plan. Um, I dunno -- that seems too narrow an explanation. (John "If You Don't Like These Principles, I Have Others" McCain simply has to go wingnut on immigration to protect his right flank, and that's what he's doing. If he survives the primary, I'm sure he's a shoo-in, Hispanic vote or no.)

I see a lot of cynicism here, not all of it smart cynicism. Yeah, the Democrats are reacting to the immigration bill that was just signed into law in Arizona -- but the president has been talking immigration for a while now. To me it's seemed likely for some time that the Democrats would at least launch a big push on this issue this year, regardless of the likelihood of success, because they think inevitable long-term demographic forces favor the party regarded as pro-Hispanic.

Problem is, inevitable long-term demographic forces don't vote in most midterm elections -- angry old white people do. Which is why I find myself wondering if the decision to move immigration to the head of the queue is good for Harry Reid's chances in the short run, and possibly good for the party in the long run, but godawful for the party overall this year.

As Politico notes:

After facing tough votes on cap and trade and the health care bill, centrist House Democrats are wary of yet another one that could prove unpopular at home.

"It's not a tough vote for me at all. I'm not going to vote for amnesty," said Pennsylvania Rep. Jason Altmire, whose Pittsburgh-area district supported McCain over Obama in 2008. "I'm not going to vote for a path to citizenship or whatever you want to call it."

Altmire bucked leadership on cap and trade and on health care reform, and he's got a message for Pelosi on immigration: "She can bring it up, but I’m not going to support it. In my district, that’s not an issue that’s going to get any support at all. When they brought it up in 2007, it took weeks before I heard anything good about the bill."

But as Cokie Roberts pointed out on NPR this morning, Nancy Pelosi doesn't intend to join the push for an immigration bill unless the Senate actually passes something; she know that a lot of sitting Democrats are going to be hurt by this push:

... Speaker Pelosi has said on immigration, basically, look, if the Senate wants to take up an immigration bill, have thmselves a ball. She's not going to do it unless the Senate acts, because she knows that this is something that is very unlikely to get through both houses of Congress.

Hate to say it, but I think that's a smart move. Sure, you can look the nation's overall demographics and talk about the increase in the Hispanic population, but where are those Hispanics? Far too many of them are probably gerrymandered into majority non-Anglo districts. Looking at the national percentages probably leads one to overestimate the number of seats in which seeming pro-Hispanic is shrewd politics, and underestimate the number of seats for which it's a problem.

And, hell, I wouldn't want to be, say, Patty Murray in Washington State running for reelection in a tough fight this year with an immigration bill around my neck. Yeah, the coastal part of her state may be multiculti -- but there are militias further east.


One more thought about cynicism -- why did Lindsey Graham pick this exact moment for his fit? I think one reason is that the GOP wants to change the subject away from financial reform. We know the polls show that voters want a bill. We know the GOP has (at least partly) backed off the Party of No filibuster-to-the-death strategy.

I head over to Fox Nation on a regular basis because I think it gives a really good read on how shrewd Republicans are trying to play to the base (it's run by de facto GOP operatives playing to all-yahoo audience) -- and right now there isn't a single story at the top of the Fox Nation page about financial reform. Republicans don't see a winning strategy here. The GOP, to judge from its top propagandist, really, really wants to change the subject to anything else.

And Graham, cynically, just did that.


UPDATE: Did I say that the GOP wants to change the subject? I guess it's obvious why:

About two-thirds of Americans support stricter regulations on the way banks and other financial institutions conduct their business, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll....

In the poll, ... most Republicans oppose [the three major elements of the reform legislation], echoing the congressional showdown expected this week....

So Republicans can alienate their base or alienate the rest of America. Their choice? To say, "Look! Over there! Mexicans!"

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