Hating Immigrants is the Wild Card in the Electoral Deck

immigration_2280507bNew Orleans   Wow! It must have suddenly become hate-on-an-immigrant day and Hallmark didn’t prepare any condolence cards for the rest of us. In one day the lives of immigrant millions of families were cast into limbo with the split, no-decision 4-4 polling of the Supreme Court and the 52-48 so-called Brexit vote for Great Britain to leave the European Union. President Obama called the Supreme Court split decision, “heartbreaking,” and said the upcoming election would determine “what kind of people we are.”

Meanwhile the United Kingdom showed what kind of people they were, and it was a bit brutish and left little doubt that immigration and the attendant freedom of mobility within the European Union was the wedge issue driving them out of the EU. As reported in the Times,

With net migration to Britain of 330,000 people in 2015, more than half of them from the European Union, Mr. Cameron had no effective response to how he could limit the influx. And there was no question that while the immigrants contributed more to the economy and to tax receipts than they cost, parts of Britain felt that its national identity was under assault and that the influx was putting substantial pressure on schools, health care and housing.

The campaign run by one of the loudest proponents of leaving, the U.K. Independence Party, flirted with xenophobia, nativism and what some of its critics considered racism. But the official, more mainstream Leave campaign also invoked immigration as an issue, and its slogan, “Take control,” resonated with voters who feel that the government is failing to regulate the inflow of people from Europe and beyond.

Prime Minister David Cameron will pay for the misjudgment and shortsightedness in calling the vote and the rejection at the polls with his job, offering his resignation after a couple of month’s transition to sort out the mess. There is pulling of hair and rending of clothes throughout Europe in trying to understand the “turning point,” the vote represents, but it is hard to see it as anything other than backwards. Scotland which voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU, is likely to press again for independence from the United Kingdom given this debacle.

Meanwhile in the United States the same mess is brewing. Trump of course said, “good for them,” joining the nativist on both sides of the Atlantic. Speaker Ryan who is becoming expert at the convoluted logic of politics claimed the no-decision was somehow a rejection by the Supreme Court of Obama’s executive authority around immigration, knowing that all of this awaits the appointment of a tie-breaking Justice in the hands of the next President. The Republicans once again proved how quickly tragedy can be converted into farce.

But what about the people, the immigrants themselves? The five million or more who were living on the bubble of this decision who were parents of citizens or children raised here, all of whom were hoping for some security and a path to the future? Advocates promised to mobilize, voter registration efforts were highlighted, but in the meantime, the “kind of people we are” will be the kind of people who break up families and deport record numbers of people from the United States, because our politics lacks both a heart and a backbone willing to make hard political decisions even when they are so clearly morally correct.

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Is There any Silver Lining in Republican Class Divide?

10repubs-JP-01-ALT-master675New Orleans   The talking heads, the pollsters and pundits, and political reporters for the largest national newspapers, and one distinguished contributing editor after another have finally come to a consensus that this Donald Trump – Ted Cruz hater machine resonates with the red meat part of their base, and, worse, and these mad dogs want to be fed, rather than taken for granted by Wall Street, big donors, and the party establishment. They may not agree on what it takes to glue the pieces of their Humpty-Dumpty back together again or if that is even possible, but they at least agree that it’s broken, and there is now a class divide in their largely stale and pale base that they can’t just paper over and ignore.

Trump and Cruz and the fact that they are not fading away, even if they may have capped out on the growth of their base, spells trouble for all of the Republican establishment candidates and could put one of these mean boys in the final vote for President. A former Bush speechwriter and now senior writer for The Atlantic magazine in a recent issue makes the case that the establishment most critically misjudged the depth of antipathy the lower and moderate income part of their base, essential to their success in the West and South, feels about immigration reform. He argues that the megadomes in the wake of their defeat in 2012 thought all they needed to do was soften their hate speech around immigration reform and adopt the Jeb Bush “not soon, but someday” supporting immigrants and a path of legalization. Marco Rubio has recanted any role in immigration reform under the new calculus and Cruz and Trump want to go past security and engage in mass deportations. This is all very bad news and argues poorly for immigration reform in a Republican Congress, even if a Democrat is successful, and, friends and neighbors, not matter what you read, that’s never a sure thing!

On the other hand, the Trump base which is rebelling against the Republican establishment wants to protect Medicare, wants more guarantees that trade doesn’t mean the loss of good jobs, and wants to make more money from the jobs they have. None of this will make Wall Street, the donors, or the corporate chieftains and Old Guard of the GOP happy, but perhaps there is a silver lining that might bring some dividends to the rest of us for a change in a Congressional compromise.

More job protections for trade would win applause across both sides the aisle, if some of the elephants come heavy footing in our direction. There probably isn’t a groundswell for $15 per hour, but after more than an 8-year drought on raising the minimum wage, how can Republicans not deliver a real raise in 2017 for their base and ours? The rebels in their base are also clear that they aren’t crazy enough about their guns to want to fire them up on another war in the Middle East or anywhere else, and we can probably all agree on that as well. Protecting Social Security and Medicare are also issues where we could make progress, and for all of the storm and fury about Obamacare, the working class part of this radical, rebel horde is not willing to die hard without health care.

The radicals in the conservative’s working class base are being clear in the Republican primary finally and are saying they want theirs, too. Some of what they want meshes with some of what we want, and there might be some deals to be made on some issues, even if we have some mountains to climb on others in 2017.

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