Friday, September 17, 2010

Immigration and losing

Almost since his inauguration, President Obama has been saying he is committed to immigration reform, while trying to placate advocates of reform who keep noting that he has in fact not done anything about it.  That has become even more of an issue this year because Obama is concerned about getting hammered in midterm elections, and the hammering could be worse if reform advocates and/or Latino voters stay home in frustration.

The administration's current plan is to insert the DREAM Act into a defense spending bill, where it faces very shaky odds.  The idea if that if it passes, then it is a major victory.  If it fails, then Republicans--who will be very vocal about their opposition--will get the blame and people may well even be energized enough to vote against them in November.

The essential problem with this strategy is that it is openly a political ploy.  Can you satisfy constituents by setting up a situation that you and everyone else believes is going to fail just to show you made some effort?  In other words, how much do voters respond to losing as opposed to winning?  These sorts of questions could easily be answered by a poll that probed Obama's commitment to immigration reform and who people blame for the absence of reform.

UPDATE:  There were not enough votes to bring it up for a vote (it sounds even stranger when worded like that).  The finger pointing will now  begin in earnest.


boz 8:00 AM  

I think you're underestimating the chances that this will pass in the Senate.

Hipporage 9:58 AM  

What chances does any reform have with more republicans in government? What is kind of irritating is that the people who Claim thay want to do reform can't with majorities and the White House! What chance does exist? Also what the hell does reform look like?

Greg Weeks 10:14 AM  

The chances for the DREAM Act are not zero, but I think it is fair to say they are very small.

Tambopaxi 10:29 AM  

I agree with Boz.

Call it a ploy, strategem, tactic, whatever, at this point, it puts the Repubs in the position of voting for the entire act (with the defense spending that they always like) and some modicum of immigration reform, or not.

I suspect a lot of pols, Dems and Repubs would like to get something, anything, done on immigration reform before November. This is their chance, and I hope they take advantage of it.

Greg Weeks 10:40 AM  

I hope so too, but I don't think the odds are good. But we'll find out probably on Tuesday.

ConsDemo 12:33 AM  

I suspect a lot of pols, Dems and Repubs would like to get something, anything, done on immigration reform before November.

Judging from the votes taken in 2007, there is probably a silent bipartisan majority for immigration reform in Congress. The problem is the voters. Most Republicans are vitriolically hostile to anything that would grant legal status to those now here illegally and for the party of less government, they invoke a lot of quasi socialist arguments ("greedy employers are firing virtuous native born workers to hire those nasty illegals who they can pay peanuts," etc) in addition to a fair bit of xenophobia. Many non-ethnic moderate and even some left-wing Democrats are at best ambivalent if not hostile to immigration reform, often invoking the "wages are depressed" argument.

I can't see anything happening on immigration this year and if the Republicans take over one or both houses of Congress, forget it for the next two years. Even if people such as Orin Hatch believe deep down that immigration reform makes sense, he and people like him are going to be loath to cross the Republican base that simply isn't interested in hearing arguments for immigration reform. They want a massive effort to drive out illegal immigrants, no matter how impractical or unrealistic.

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