Monday, March 27, 2006

The Wall

The Moose comments on the Republican border dispute.

As has been observed, immigration is to the Republicans what trade is to the Democrats. Both issues deeply divide their respective parties and highlight the conflicting visions of the future.

The Democratic Party used to be the party of free trade and low tariffs. Indeed, the essence of the Republican Party used to be protectionism. Now, there is a role reversal and the Democratic free-traders are struggling against those faux populists who would put up barriers to exchange. On economic issues, the Democrats are roughly divided into the growth and the declinist wings largely in relation to the trade question.

This week, the Senate will address immigration legislation and the GOP divide on this issue will be front and center. In the past, the President has identified with those in the party who take a comprehensive approach to the issue and offer an opportunity for the 11 million or so illegal immigrants with a path to legalization. As Governor of Texas and Presidential candidate, he was a leader of the "inclusionists" which is also strongly supported by the business community.

Increasingly, the energy in the party is with the "exclusionists" who want to build a wall on the Mexican border and make it a felony to be in the US. The House GOP is firmly in this camp and crass and obvious political opportunists such as Senator Frist see the writing on the wall and are enlisting with the exclusionists.

Herein lies the political rub - giving any succor and support to the "exclusionists" risks out-reach efforts to the Latino and Catholic communities. Yet, the White House must appease the exclusionists or jeopardize Republican control over Congress. Say good-bye to realignment.

The interesting "swing" constituency in the GOP on immigration are the social conservatives. From his experience with the religious right, the Moose senses these folks will be leaning toward the inclusionist camp. The truth is that recent immigrants tend to be religious and traditionalist. Liberals may find themselves with unlikely allies on this issue.

And what about the Democrats? They will not enjoy the luxury of being able to just sit back and watch the show. Democratic border Governors such as Richardson and Napolitono recognize that there is severe public dissatisfaction with the influx of illegal immigrants. They are both tough on enforcement.

Similarly, Congressional Democrats should find a way to position themselves as committed to border enforcement without being xenophobic. It is not sufficient merely to threaten to filibuster draconian legislation.

Parenthetically, the Democratic declinist wing on trade and the Republican exclusionist faction on immigration have something significant in common. They are both deeply pessimistic about America's future. The political future belongs to the optimists in both party who project a positive inclusionist vision. The Moose finds a path to citizenship preferable to a guest worker program with a heavy emphasis on political assimilation.

Given the desperation of the elephant, some in the the GOP may very well ditch the inclusionist approach, at least for the short-term. Instead, Republicans are likely to demagogue the issue and attempt to portray the Democrats as the party of the illegals. This may be the domestic law and order issue of '06.

Be prepared.
-- Posted at 8:14 AM | Link to this post | Email this post