One of the oddities of the current political moment is that Republicans have suffered most of the political fallout from the ill-fated bipartisan effort at immigration reform, even though most Republicans’ positions on immigration are much closer to the nation’s mainstream than most Democrats’.
This has, I think, warped the perceptions of the pundit class. The conventional wisdom is that the American public has shifted to the Left. While I think there is some truth to that claim, I think it is also true that the President’s mediocre standing in the polls, and some of his party’s key losses in last November’s elections, are attributable in part to Republicans’ disenchantment with the administration’s position on immigration, and the support of some Republicans in Congress for that position.
All of this will change in 2008. With new Presidential contenders in the field, the parties’ true positions on illegal immigration will come to the fore. This could be a serious problem for the Democrats. Their presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton, supported the Kennedy-McCain bill and has otherwise looked favorably on illegal immigration, e.g. by addressing demonstrations. (YouTube, anyone?) Whoever the Republican candidate turns out to be, barring a McCain resurrection, he will have a far more conservative position on illegal immigration than the Democratic nominee.
And that position will be much more in tune with American voters. Just this morning, Rasmussen Reports released new polling data, indicating that 71% of respondents favor requiring foreign visitors to carry a universal ID card, while, by a 58% to 29% margin, respondents favor cutting off federal aid to “sanctuary” cities. What percentage of Democratic voters do you suppose live in sanctuary cities?
We’ve seen over the last year what a potent issue illegal immigration can be. If, in 2008, that issue is working for the Republicans rather than against them, the edge that most observers now concede to the Democrats could shrink, if not disappear.
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