Democrats need to figure out how to be pro immigrant and pro diversity.
Regulating immigration is what saves it. Unregulated immigration creates populist revolt. But currently Democrats are captured by their constituency groups.
|Democrats' progressive base has dug in.|
Democrats are in a dilemma. The government might shut down at midnight. Democrats are supposedly the party of good government, of "government that works to help the people" and yet Democrats are about to risk being blamed for shutting down the government. Trump is unfairly saying it is "all the Democrats' fault."
He may win that argument What every American will see is "government dysfunction" and that is enough to undermine the Democratic message. "Government doesn't work. See, we told you so" is the Republican message. Shutdowns and chaos make their point.
Democrats have made the fatal error of letting their strongest constituency groups dictate policy. (Of course, people inside those groups won't see it as error at all. It will be seen as having principles. That is why this is a dilemma.)
Democrats' urban, educated liberal progressive constituency is saying that enforcing immigration laws is cruel per se, so they complicate Democrats' ability to take an "obey the law" position. This constituency supports sanctuary cities and criticize enforcement that facilitates enforcing a border. They criticize a wall, criticize deportations, criticize border patrols.
|Hispanic base has dug in.|
The Hispanic constituency for Democrats is proving a disappointment. Democrats are attempting to win them--and Trump is openly insults them--yet fully a third voted for Trump and a Zogby poll said 40% are supporting him now. What is wrong? Hispanic citizens live closely enough the problems of immigration that they, too, want order and enforcement. The "leaders" represent activists, not voters.
The two countries that have not seen populist revolt against immigration have been Canada and Australia. Both countries allow immigration, but have strict enforcement of immigration laws that focus immigration on high skilled workers, not on people who take entry level low skilled jobs that compete with the less-skilled native work force. Countries where immigration has appeared out of control have seen the rise of populist authoritarian parties.
America elected Trump. (This blog is fully aware that Hillary won the popular vote. She did. While doing so Trump carried Iowa, Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Those states went for Obama twice. Something happened.)
|Click for the NY Times article|
Would it offend Democratic or progressive principles to adopt a policy similar to Canada's and Australia's? Not to my mind. That was, in fact, the stated policy of Democrats in the recent past, including President Bill Clinton. It was advanced in part as a way to address the concerns of the then-central Democratic constituency group, struggling native born workers of all ethnicities. A progressive Democrat can assert that he or she is defending the protections the law gives to the weak, and a progressive Democrat can assert that regulating immigration is the price one pays for having it at all. Regulated immigration allows immigration. Unregulated immigration causes the backlash that elects a Trump. These are not racist or conservative values. These are liberal values.
What will stop Democrats from adopting immigration policies that will both protect immigration and allow their political survival? Internal division. Activist progressives and activist Hispanic leaders won't stand for it. Democrats who move in that direction will be called sell outs and Trump-lite. They risk losing support on the left, and it will peel off to a third party. In the Virginia governor's election we saw it happen when the Democratic governor "sent soft" on sanctuary cities.
(And yet, against much worry, he won. Possibly there is a message there.)
Democrats looking at a presidential campaign are figuring out their policies and messages. Can they afford progressive and Hispanic activist heat? Possibly the Democrat who can win the primary will have to adopt the very policies that will cause him or her to lose to Trump..
Democrats will either find a candidate with the communication skills to bridge the gap. Someone needs to be able to sell immigration enforcement as an expression of progressive, compassionate inclusion, rather than a denial of it.