Monday, July 12, 2010


The New York Times has this today:

In a private meeting with White House officials this weekend, Democratic governors voiced deep anxiety about the Obama administration's suit against Arizona's new immigration law, worrying that it could cost a vulnerable Democratic Party in the fall elections....

"Universally the governors are saying, 'We've got to talk about jobs,'" Gov. Phil Bredesen of Tennessee, a Democrat, said in an interview. "And all of a sudden we have immigration going on." ...

I think the president and his team sincerely believe that the law is harmful and unconstitutional -- but really, we know why the White House is making such a great show of opposing this law: midterms are coming up and the administration is playing to a large bloc of its voting base. Nothing unusual about that. It's textbook electoral politics.

The GOP and its noise machine are doing the same thing. Why do you think every other story at Fox News right now is about the New Black Panther Party? That has nothing whatsoever to do with jobs -- but it's firing up the base. And more to the point, what about the Republicans' efforts to push the immigration issue, while saying very little about jobs?

According to the polls, whatever Democrats are doing right now doesn't seem to be working, while Republican efforts are working. Anti-Democrat voters are increasing their numbers and maintaining far more voter enthusiasm.

We talk about "IOKIYAR," "it's OK if you're a Republican," as an attitude of Beltway elitists. But here are polled voters apparently saying that it's OK if Republicans use election-year base-rallying distractions, but it's not OK if Democrats do. Why?

There are several reasons. First of all, Republicans and the wingnut noise machine carefully fan the flames of base resentment 24/7/365, not just at election time. That means they know what works.

It also means that Republican base voters and persuadable swing voters are primed to respond to resentment. Voters on our side? Not so much. Even the liberals and Hispanics who are most likely to approve of the administration's immigration moves actually want to see results.

Another problem is that the Obama people don't seem to recognize how small a percentage of Democratic voters will actually respond to this effort. The right has turned most of its voters into self-identified conservatives (that's why Gallup polls show "conservative" as the most popular self-applied label, far ahead of "liberal"). By contrast, a large percentage of Democrats aren't liberals at all (as late as February of this year, Democrats and Democrat-leaners outnumbered Republicans and Republican-leaners in all 50 states, but that was while self-identified conservatives vastly outnumbered self-identified liberals). Apart from Hispanics, it's liberals who'd respond best to the immigration moves -- but there aren't enough of them.

So Republicans can engage in base-rallying because they've cultivated their base and turned them into ideologues. Democrats have a harder time. In this case, it's OK if you're a Republican because Republicans have worked to make it OK.

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