In El Paso, it was right maybe twice — a sign of improvement!
President Obama was better than usual, but not as good as he should have been, during a speech about immigration policy reform he gave in El Paso on Tuesday afternoon. (Text of speech .)
He correctly noted that the current immigration system is broken, that we train our own competition, break up families, and generally do ourselves no favors with the status quo. He also said — and I agree — that immigration reform is “an economic imperative.”
He gave better lip service than usual to the important point that illegals are illegal, and that people who broke the law to come here or stay here should not be rewarded, not least because of how unfair it is to people who wait years to do it the right way.
Being who he is, Obama couldn’t help but toss in a couple of jabs against the Republicans, stupidly making it far too transparent that his push on this issue is at least as much due to electoral politics as to actually caring about policy. Like the scorpion in the fable, it’s just his nature.
So why the big push now? Because Obama knows his support among white voters — at least outside of college-educated white women — has cratered (but not because of their color, mind you) and because he believes with good reason that even blacks won’t be as motivated to vote as they were in the “historic” 2008 election. After all, black turnout dropped from about 13% of voters in 2006, the last non-presidential election, to 10% in 2010 while overall voter turnout rose about 1%.
The president has also lost traction among Hispanics, not least due to the election of a few high-profile Hispanic Republicans such as Marco Rubio and New Mexico Governor Susan Martinez who while receiving a minority of the Hispanic vote nevertheless garnered far more support from that part of the electorate than had been predicted. Still, Hispanics are the biggest group that Barack Obama thinks he can and must work on when it comes to getting re-elected. After all, a recent Pew Hispanic Center report suggested that the nation’s fastest-growing minority group is lagging in election participation: “In 2010, 31.2% of Latino eligible voters say they voted, while nearly half (48.6%) of white eligible voters and 44.0% of black eligible voters said the same.”
Courting Hispanics is not a new idea for President Obama who in classic Progressive us-versus-them style encouraged Hispanics to vote in the 2010 elections by suggesting they think in terms of “We’re gonna punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends.” It didn’t work then, and doesn’t seem much more likely to work now, but you can’t blame Obama for trying since he has few other places to turn for support.
THE ISSUE OF IMMIGRATION is a tough one for Republicans. Obama has a strong case to make when he suggests that many Republicans who claim to be for “comprehensive immigration reform” demanded “enforcement first” or “borders first.” With a raft of statistics about how enforcement is much stronger, how the border fence is “nearly complete,” how we now have 20,000 border patrol agents, Obama worried aloud about Republicans “mov(ing) the goal posts one more time.”
It’s a strong political argument, even if transparently cynical, and does pose some political risk to Republicans whose persistent “gender gap” (even now, women support Democrats by about 7 points more than men do) is due in part to appearing (and being characterized in the liberal media) as “mean” or “heartless.”
On the one hand, Republicans do not want to give Barack Obama a political victory on an issue as big as immigration going into the 2012 campaign. On the other hand, they don’t want to be accurately portrayed as the “party of ‘no’” on this issue, or as xenophobic.
Immigration has been a divisive issue within the GOP for more than a decade with the libertarian and free-market wing of the party supporting increasing immigration while nativists and economic know-nothings opposed it. A 1996 article by Steve Moore and Aaron Harris nicely summarizes the Republican Party’s historic schizophrenia over immigration but noting that since World War II the GOP “returned to its pro-legal immigration, anti-illegal immigration stance.”
The Republican Party Platform of 1960 should be a touchstone for today’s GOP on the issue of immigration, not least for its moral component:
Immigration has historically been a great factor in the growth of the United States, not only in numbers but in the enrichment of ideas that immigrants have brought with them. This Republican Administration has given refuge to over 32,000 victims of Communist tyranny from Hungary, ended needless delay in processing applications for naturalization, and has urged other enlightened legislation to liberalize existing restrictions.
Immigration has been reduced to the point where it does not provide the stimulus to growth that it should, nor are we fulfilling our obligation as a haven for the oppressed. Republican conscience and Republican policy require that:
The annual number of immigrants we accept be at least doubled.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?