In the aftermath of Katrina, combined with worries about the economy and increasing impatience with the American venture in Iraq, smart Republicans are going to have to figure out something else to campaign on. The latest AP-Ipsos poll shows just how severe the situation has become for Republicans who are trying to spend their "political capital." The whole poll is striking, but I will excerpt some especially juicy numbers below.
(ASKED OF HALF THE SAMPLE)
A. I'm going to read you a list of EIGHT issues and I'm going to read the list twice. Please tell me which ONE should be the highest priority for President Bush and the U.S. Congress in the next few months:
(Results from late August in parentheses)
The economy and jobs, 25 percent (14)
The situation in Iraq, 19 percent (29)
Energy and gas prices, 17 percent (24)
Terrorism, 11 percent (9)
Health care, 10 percent (7)
Education, 7 percent (5)
Social Security, 5 percent (5)
Taxes, 2 percent (3)
Recovery from Hurricane Katrina (VOLUNTEERED), 1 percent (no trend available)
Other, 1 percent
Not sure, 2 percent
(ASKED OF THE OTHER HALF OF THE SAMPLE)
B. I'm going to read you a list of NINE issues and I'm going to read the list twice. Please tell me which ONE should be the highest priority for President Bush and the U.S. Congress in the next few months:
Recovery from Hurricane Katrina, 29 percent
The situation in Iraq, 19 percent
The economy and jobs, 16 percent
Energy and gas prices, 14 percent
Terrorism, 6 percent
Health care, 5 percent
Social Security, 4 percent
Education, 3 percent
Taxes, 1 percent
Other, 2 percent
Not sure, 1 percent
According to these numbers, less than 10% of the population now believes that terrorism is the most important issues facing Bush and the rest of America. Overwhelmingly, many more people are concerned by Katrina, the economy and the situation in Iraq than are concerned by terrorism--and it will be very difficult to get the American public concerned over terror again, barring another attack, because of how closely Bush has tied terrorism to Iraq--that's blowback for you. Another good indicator? This poll suggests that 2/3 of the nation believes we are spending too much and has no confidence that the money is being spent wisely, and 42% say that we should reduce our spending in Iraq to help pay for Katrina reconstruction.
Even worse for the Republican leadership is that they have completely cast off the mantle of fiscal conservatism. They can't even play up the "tax-and-spend liberal" in forthcoming elections because the hypocrisy would be simply atrocious.
So what does all this have to do with immigration? Everything.
In order to stay in power given everything they have screwed up in the past five years--and who knows what they'll screw up in the next three--Republicans will need to find an issue with which they can scare the voting public into letting them continue their fleecing of the US Treasury while calling the Democrats anti-american sellout traitors--and that issue is immigration. In the upcoming election cycles, the right wing will undoubtedly seek to use this issue to divide the country and scare our citizens.
This strategy is already unfolding--and thanks to a misdirected memo intended for Karl Rove from Rep. Smith that accidentally ended up in an anonymous Democratic congressman's fax machine, we know exactly how they're going to do it:
Enforcement of immigration laws, current and new, should come first to satisfy the increasing public demand for border security. It will not be enough to pass enforcement bills this fall that will take a year or two to produce results. Current laws need to be better enforced so that the American people see results immediately. (Liberals can easily and accurately be portrayed as opposing enforcement).
Only then, as enforcement begins to gain traction, should the twin subjects of guestworkers and long-time illegal residents be addressed...Extensive hearings should be held to evaluate the impact of any new immigration programs on American workers, the economy and taxpayers.
So there you have it. The immigration issue will because the little cousin of the xenophic Republican family of political gamesmanship that brought us the Southern Strategy and the egregious political exploitation of terrorism. And we Democrats need to get this down:
Anyone who runs for a statewide office in 2006 needs to start developing a comprehensive strategy on immigration, have due diligence done to figure out how the Republicans will attack the candidate on this issue, and do opposition research on the Republican candidate in the same way. We cannot be blindsided and concede on this like we conceded on terrorism in 2002--a concession which cost us the 2004 election cycle.
Let's hope we've learned a little something from our mistakes.