Tuesday, May 4, 2010
The National Journal tackles the politics of immigration.
As Franklin D. Roosevelt moved to the left during his second term as president, one Southern Democrat declared, "The Roosevelt of 1938 does not appear to be related by blood or marriage to the Roosevelt of 1933." The same could be said about John McCain on immigration since 2006 — and indeed about the GOP overall. Bush's vision of courting Hispanics with a balanced approach that acknowledges the impracticality of deporting millions of people has surrendered to an insular enforcement-first strategy. Although some allies in the Bush effort have criticized Arizona's harsh law, other Republicans, including two gubernatorial candidates in neighboring Nevada, have already pledged to replicate it. They probably won't be the last.
Amid drug violence in Mexico and high unemployment in the U.S., concern about controlling the borders is understandable. But the hardening GOP position also shows how the party is being tugged toward nativism as its coalition grows more monochromatic: In a nation that is more than one-third minority, nearly 90 percent of McCain's votes in the 2008 presidential election came from whites. That exclusionary posture could expose the GOP to long-term political danger. Although Hispanics are now one-sixth of the U.S. population, they constitute one-fifth of all 10-year-olds and one-fourth of 1-year-olds. The larger threat is to America's social cohesion. Democrats, with their own divisions, can't reform the immigration system alone. Either both parties will accept that responsibility or the nation will likely suffer through years of sharpening social division symbolized by the escalating battle over Arizona.