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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Moving The Ball

by digby

The media have been talking up Tom Tancredo's new ad, asking whether it crosses the line. It is a doozy:

There are consequences to open borders beyond the 20 million aliens who have come to take our jobs. Islamic terrorists now freely roam U.S. soil, Jihadists who froth with hate here to do as they have in London, Spain, Russia.

The price we pay for spineless politicians who refuse to defend our borders against those who come to kill.

It is such an extreme ad that you wouldn't think anyone who wanted to make a serious case would create such a thing. But then, making a serious case is not Tancredo's goal at all:

Rep. Tom Tancredo has announced that he will not seek a sixth term in Congress in 2008 but will continue his long-shot campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. His reelection to another term in Congress would have been a slam dunk, whereas he freely admits that he has virtually no chance to actually win his party’s nomination for president.

What’s going on?

The pundits and political analysts who believe Tancredo blundered in choosing an impossible goal — the presidential campaign — while forsaking a slam-dunk reelection to Congress need to follow Ayn Rand’s admonition: “examine your premises.”

Tancredo’s campaigns have never been about winning or holding onto office. Tancredo’s political life is all about “moving the ball forward,” the ball in this instance being the protection of national sovereignty and the struggle to resist and ultimately defeat radical Islamic terrorism. He believes he can do that best by leaving Congress for a larger stage.

From the beginning his presidential campaign has been about influencing the 2008 Republican nominating process and the party platform on immigration control. He knew he did not have a serious shot at winning the party’s nomination, but he could steer the party away from the Bush administration’s disastrous flirtation with amnesty. He has already achieved that goal within the Republican party and even Nancy Pelosi now runs from the amnesty lobby.


The most savvy voices in the Democratic Party are telling the Latino activist groups to “cool it” until 2009, fearing a voter backlash in 2008 if Democrats are perceived as weak on this issue.

Yes indeed. In fact, the allegedly "savviest" Democrats in the party aren't just saying "cool it." This is what they are saying:

A recent memo by one senior Democratic pollster, Stanley Greenberg, warned that voter discontent over immigration is salient among many potential Democratic voters -- specifically among less educated voters, African Americans, and blacks and whites in rural areas who view illegal immigration as an economic issue.


Greenberg's advice echoed arguments offered last year in a strategy memo from a moderate Democratic group, Third Way. It advised the party's candidates to be tough and fair -- but to avoid sounding overly sympathetic to illegal immigrants at the expense of average voters who believe they are paying for benefits and bearing other burdens of a broken system.

"Compassion and justice for illegal immigrants ends when taxpayer interests begin," the group said.

This savvy advice to the savvy Democrats has led them to jettison any further attempt to get a comprehensive immigration bill and instead rush to introduce an entirely punitive "enforcement" boondoggle called the SAVE Act that throws even more police power at Homeland Security, tons of money at police agencies, both militarizes AND privatizes the border (a neat trick), empowers the IRS to share information with other agencies and creates a new federal database that contains information about every American worker.

It's filled with all kinds of neat new requirements for all people who work for a living. If you are a person with two jobs, like a lot of people, I'm sure you'll enjoy this:

Notification of Multiple Uses of Individual Social Security Numbers

Prior to crediting any individual with concurrent earnings from more than one employer, the Commissioner of Social Security shall notify the individual that earnings from two or more employers are being reported under the individual's social security account number. Such notice shall include, at a minimum, the name and location of each employer and shall direct the individual to contact the Social Security Administration to submit proof that the individual is the person to whom the social security account number was issued and, if applicable, to submit, either in person or via electronic transmission, a pay stub or other documentation showing that such individual is employed by both or all employers reporting earnings to that social security account number.

Sound like fun?

The savvy Dems have decided to do this because they believe that by helping Tom Tancredo "move the ball." They can "take the issue off the table." It is the same tried and true Greenberg and Carville tactic that was argued in 2002 when they said to get the Iraq war resolution off the table so the Dems could discuss the issue their focus groups told them people really cared about --- prescription drug coverage. This tactic has really been a big success for Democrats: five long years later, we are arguing that we need to get immigration off the table so we can get down to the issue people really care about ---Iraq.

This (pdf) is a more aggressive memorandum from Greenberg and Carville describing Democratic focus groups which they say show that rural and high school educated black and white voters now blame immigrants for most of their problems. Carville and Greenberg see this in the same light as the welfare issue in the 1980's and since Bill Clinton ended "welfare as we know it" they naturally believe that this should be handled exactly the same way in order to prove to the people who matter that the Democratic party isn't in thrall to Hispanics.

(One of their contentions -- that African Americans are very upset about illegal immigration --- is seriously undercut by a brand new Pew study.)

There are a couple of other little flies in Greenberg and Carville's ointment, however, they fail to explain. First of all, there's this morning after report from the recent off-year election:

The one point on which moderates and conservatives seem to agree is that their party overplayed the illegal immigration issue. "They went for a magic bullet with immigration, and it didn't work," says a conservative strategist who doesn't want his name used because his clients don't agree that immigration is a losing issue. Prince William County board Chairman Corey Stewart, the strategist says, "won last year as the anti-tax and anti-growth candidate, and he ended up in the same place this year. He pushed hard on immigration, but it didn't move his numbers" in his reelection victory Tuesday.

Why, if both the savvy Democrats and the Republicans all agree that this is a major issue, did it have these results?

And how are they planning to deal with this?

I have never seen an issue where the short-term interests of Republican presidential candidates in the primaries were more starkly at odds with the long-term interests of the party itself. At least five swing states that Bush carried in 2004 are rich in Hispanic voters -- Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and Florida. Bush won Nevada by just over 20,000 votes. A substantial shift of Hispanic voters toward the Democrats in these states could make the national political map unwinnable for Republicans.

Obviously,in light of that, there's no rational explanation as to why the Democrats keep pimping this issue. But I think I know why the Republicans are. Check out the prominent "You Can't Make This Up" button on the RNC web site:

Below are some of the most recently published articles pertaining to vote fraud around the country. Find your state to read about the problems in your area, or scroll down to browse the recent news nationwide. If you have a news item related to voting irregularities in your state, e-mail it here.

Before the last election I (prematurely) opined about this serendipitous convergence of issues:

If we allow the Republicans to define this next election, it will be about immigration and voter fraud.

After the blowback from the base around comprehensive immigration reform (and the loss of any hope of splitting the powerful growing Latino voting bloc) they are going back to the tried and true. Vote suppression and bogus accusation of voter fraud. They've been doing it for years and now that they've had access to the DOJ and trained a whole new generation of Monica Goodlings, I have no doubt they've devised some great new techniques. One excellent approach is to have a whole slew of police wearing a dozen different uniforms harassing the Latino community. Why, the SAVE Act even includes a government sponsored media campaign to tell everyone in the Latino communities all about the harsh new penalties they face.

So why in the world do Democrats believe that they'll benefit from a new enforcement only bill so harsh that it even calls for legal family members who help an undocumented worker to get a year in jail for doing it? This isn't like welfare reform at all. There's no "taking it off the table." This is an issue that hits directly at the largest and fastest growing new voting bloc in America.

The report documents how Hispanics have gone from a group trending Republican to a group overwhelmingly Democratic; one whose percentage of the American electorate has increased by 33 percent in the last 4 years; and one poised, because of the structure of the Electoral College, to determine who the next President will be in 2008.

And studies show that when you enact punitive enforcement-only measures designed to intimidate and marginalize undocumented workers, you also intimidate and marginalize legal Latino immigrants and citizens:(pdf)

The study that follows is a heavily carted recitation of recent Latino voting patterns, with the most objective analysis I can muster in an environment fraught with variables. But I will state my subjective conclusion here: Immigration policies that induce mass fear among illegal residents will induce mass anger among the legal residents who share their heritage...Ties of family, culture, and a shared media will communicate the fears of the group directly threatened – the illegals -- to other Latinos who are not. The profiling inevitable with the enforcement of previously flouted immigration laws will intensify the attendant emotions. To the authorities, every Latino becomes a potential criminal. To Latinos, every interaction with the authorities becomes, or symbolizes, an existential threat.

Telling these people to suck it up, as Carville and Greenberg, in their ever more desperate quest to recover the aging "Reagan Democrat" are doing by urging Democrats to pass legislation virtually designed to suppress their vote, is nothing short of political malpractice. It is the equivalent of the Republicans telling the Christian right to stay the hell out of politics back in the 1980's.

Big new voting blocs don't come along every day.

Far be it for the Democratic Congress to look beyond Stan Greenberg's suspect focus groups of the moment and insist on passing comprehensive immigration reform, which is supported by Latinos and virtually everyone else. Instead they tell Democrats to pass harsh, enforcement only legislation that will only help Republicans. If they gave more than five minutes attention to trying to figure out ways to gain new voters, like unmarried women and Latinos, instead of fighting the Republicans over every cranky white guy who left the party in 1980 and never looked back, they could actually "move the ball" down the field in their direction for a change.

Far be it for the Democratic Congress to try to build a real majority for the long term so that there is a chance of enacting a real progressive agenda. Can't have that. Plutocrats don't want that, which is why every single time a populist wave threatens, somebody starts waving a shiny nativist distraction in people's faces.

Tom Tancredo's going home, by the way. Quitting electoral politics.

''I feel my job, my task, has been completed."

He moved the ball down the field and scored. Now he's going to get a nice wingnut welfare sincure.

Update: Here's a very moving letter to Rahm Emmanuel from one conservative supporter of the SAVE bill:


Your colleague Heath Shuler is about to present the SAVE Act on the floor of the House within a week. This bill creates a system in which every employer can identify the status of everyone of their employees,. I think we finally have some sensible legislation with a lot of potential to do some real good in ridding this country of the Cancer of illegal immigration. More than once I believe your party has played politics with this issue rather than looking to make good policy. A couple weeks ago your Senate colleagues voted against making cities like ours, sanctuary cities, illegal. All but one Democrat voting against this bill. That is frankly reprehensible.

I don't know if the Democratic leadership is pandering to the Hispanics, trying to create a new base of current illegals, or simply bowing down to your puppetmaster, George Soros. Either way, your party has shown that it is more interested in compassion for law breakers than it is for the rule of law. I hope that will change with this bill.

This guy's definitely going to vote for the Democrats if they pass this bill, right?

Blue America and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rightshave some questions for Rahm Emmanuel too.

Update II: Ian Welsh had an interesting post the other day about the plutocrat angle that is very illuminating.

Update III: In response to those who accuse me of being a shill for whomever they oppose, I hereby acknowledge that Barack Obama stated that he continues to support giving drivers licenses to undocumented workers even as Elliot Spitzer has changed his mind and Hillary Clinton agreed. (I hadn't heard. Sorry.) Good for him. That's a bold step in this environment. It would be great if all the candidates would came out against the cruel and punitive SAVE act, which presents a far worse problem for Latinos and Democrats than this symbolic driver's license issue. (Hint: illegal immigrants don't purposefully interact with the government, whether it's to get welfare benefits, medicaid or drivers licenses. They're not stupid, they're just poor.)