Thursday, November 08, 2007

the great Virginia immigration fizzle

The wave of anti-immigration sentiment that Republicans were planning to ride to victory in this year's state and local elections never quite materialized. Duke from Migra Matters has a couple of follow up posts on the topic here and here.

Rather than repeat Duke, I'll repeat myself with an earlier comment:

Patterning its national strategy after Virginia would be a mistake for the GOP for the simple reason that the country is not Virginia. Treating the country as an extension of the South may have worked for the GOP in the past, but is unlikely to work next year. I think Republicans are grasping at straws, and immigration happens to be the closest straw at hand, but it won't stop the party from the approaching free fall.

Immigration matters most to people already voting for the GOP, an ever-diminishing number. For many of the rest, it is less important than health care, Iraq, wage stagnation, or global warming, for instance. The current media overload on immigration is calculated, not organic. The GOP should understand the risk of putting all its eggs in one basket, especially when the strategy could so easily backfire and destroy Hispanic support for the GOP for the next 50 years. The Virginia strategy is a sign of desperation, not of careful political manoeuvreing.

Given that the “Virginia strategy” didn’t even work in Virginia, its chances for success elsewhere seem limited.

And via Kevin Drum (via Ezra) , Tom Tancredo explains why he’s always going around making ridiculous statements:

Why is Tom Tancredo such a monomaniac on the subject of illegal immigration? In an interview on our radio show with Markos Kounalakis and Peter Laufer, he explains that a lot of it isn't about winning, it's about redefining the playing field:

What happens is, you provide people with some space to get into where they can say, "That guy is a racist xenophobe. That guy is just so crazy that we can take a more moderate stance."

....I have to set the bar as high as I can. I'm being completely candid with you. If I had actually set out to become president, then of course it would be ludicrous for me to do it in the way I'm doing it. I don't have that as my goal; I never have. The only way I can get on that plane and go to Iowa or New Hampshire and spend night after night in hotels in places you've never even heard of is by saying, "Think about why you're doing this, Tom. It is because the issue is important. You are the person that is advancing it." I have the luxury of saying, "I will set the goalposts as far as I can down the field because then I will have a better chance of getting the game played on my side."

So: Politics 101. Stake out an ultra-extreme position so that when the rest of your party endorses a merely extreme position it looks like it's a moderate compromise.

Also, Tancredo notes the effect of leveraging a core of motivated people through talk radio and the internet to flood Senators with calls and push a debate rightward on a subject that most people are ambivalent about. It’s the same pattern as any other interest pressure group—the sugar lobby, the Cuba lobby, agricultural subsidies, for instance—where a small number of people highly invested in an issue can drown out the diffuse interests of the diffident majority.

There is a group of people highly invested in the issue on the other side—immigrants themselves—who can't provide an effective counterweight because they are largely voiceless, either because they are not citizens or are otherwise marginalized, not having learned to navigate the political process as well as long-time residents have. When they try to make their voices heard, the government acts quickly to silence them.

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