As demonstrated in the presidential exit polls and rehashed in countless articles and blogs since the election, Barack Obama’s decisive reelection victory over Mitt Romney was a triumph for a still-emerging, majority Democratic Obama coalition, which we said in a pair of preelection articles would define a new civic ethos, or consensus on the role of government, for the nation.
The president even more forcefully reiterated his civic ethos vision–that America and its individual citizens advance only when “We, the People” work “together”–in his Inaugural Address. He is sure to return to that formulation in his State of the Union speech given how popular his policy preferences are on his side of America’s two new 21st-century political party coalitions.
The Democratic coalition is centered on the millennial generation (young voters 18 to 30), women (especially single women), minorities, and the highly educated, and is geographically focused in the Northeast and West.
All of these groups gave at least 55 percent of their 2012 presidential votes to the president. In fact, without the support of 60 percent of millennials, Obama would have lost the election. For some parts of the coalition, support for the president’s reelection verged on unanimity.
More than nine in 10 African-Americans voted for him, as did about seven in 10 Asians, Hispanics, Jews, and single women.
On the other side, the groups in the Republican coalition were equally loyal to Mitt Romney. Solid majorities of men, whites, seniors–especially those living in the South and Great Plains and Rocky Mountain states–voted for the GOP candidate.
For instance, the majority of women, millennials, African-Americans, Hispanics and college graduates, as well as those living in urban and suburban areas and those in the Northeast, all support controlling gun ownership over protecting gun owners' rights. The president enters the fray with the full support of his coalition on this issue and many others such as immigration reform, climate change and gay rights.
Futhermore, his economic prescriptions focused on investing in infrastructure and research and making all forms of eduction from pre-school through college more accessible and affordable, speak directly to the most important issues for Millennials.
The president seems intent on mobilizing his coalition to enact his policy agenda. If he is successful, the nation will see the enactment of an array of domestic policies as sweeping in its scope as Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, but aligned this time with the ideas and beliefs of another president and his winning 21st-century coalition.
President Obama’s comprehensive proposal for preventing gun violence in America is to be commended. The focus for policy makers shouldn’t be to try and sort out which of his ideas are politically feasible but rather which ones will work to accomplish the goal of preventing gun violence of all types, while preserving the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. Linking the ideal outcome to a focus on the pragmatic steps we can take now to make progress toward the ultimate goal is how the Millennial Generation (born 1982-2003) approaches this type of challenge and, in this case, it holds great promise for actually fixing one of the most intractable problems facing the United States.
As with many other social issues, Millennials have a much more liberal perspective on solutions to gun violence than their older siblings--members of Generation X, who grew up when Ronald Reagan was president. By a 55% to 36% margin, Millennials favor taking steps to control gun ownership over protecting the right to own guns. Only seniors, normally more conservative on these types of issues, approach this level of support for government action to make our cities and neighborhoods safer. By contrast, Generation X, born 1965 to 1981, is the one generation which , even after Newtown, believes it is more important to protect gun ownership rights than to control the use of firearms (by a 48% to 42% margin).
A recent report from the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force sponsored by the Roosevelt Institute’s Campus Network (RICN), underlines both Millennials’ support for taking on the issue and their focus on pragmatic steps to do so. Starting with its title, “Young People’s Concrete Policy Recommendations to Address Gun Violence Prevention in America,” the report analyzes each side of the debate solely in terms of what solutions are likely to work. The recommendations correctly focus on steps to decrease access to semiautomatic weapons and any ammunition clip with more than ten rounds. It strongly endorses the creation of comprehensive databases that would have to be accessed for any gun transaction to take place, with a special emphasis on ensuring the names of those with serious mental illness are included in the database. With special insight, the report, by a group of progressive Millennials, properly dismisses the distracting idea of making the current debate about culture or media coverage, as opposed to taking action.
There is plenty of evidence in the nation’s successful efforts to reduce crime to suggest that this Millennial approach to the problem will work. As Simon Rosenberg, has pointed out, violent crime, with the sole exception of gun violence, particularly in country’s largest cities, has dropped dramatically since 1993. The principle reason for that decline was the introduction of the CompStats process by Bill Bratton as police chief of New York City, which led to a 77% decline in crime in that city alone since then. Vice President Al Gore’s reinventing government initiative, recognized the efficacy of this program and spread knowledge of Bratton’s approach to police chiefs across the country. This is one of the key reasons why there has been a continued decline since then in the nation’s crime rates. Despite economic hard times, major increases in our juvenile population as Millennials became teen agers, and a series of other societal developments that traditional sociologists and criminologists had predicted would cause an increase in crime, the progress continues.
CompStats uses current, accurate information to analyze where crimes are being committed and by whom. The goal is to get bad guys off the streets and to flood high crime areas with police resources. The gun violence analogy to this simple and effective approach would be to keep people who lack the intention or ability to use guns responsibly from buying firearms and to heavily penalize those who use them irresponsibly. A comprehensive assault weapon and ammunition clip ban of the type the RICN advocates has proven to be effective in other countries in limiting access to guns, and a fully developed and federally mandated background check for all gun transactions should be instituted to keep the wrong people from being able to buy guns.
This still leaves the problem of existing weaponry, but buy-back programs both in the US, and elsewhere, have been effective in further reducing gun violence. The attempts of NRA supporters to short circuit such efforts by trying to buy the guns being offered instead of letting the police destroy them testifies to the ultimate effectiveness of this approach to reducing the nation’s stockpile of unnecessary weapons. And the success of the state of Virginia, a gun lover’s and seller’s paradise, in reducing gun violence by making it clear that criminals who use guns will be prosecuted to the maximum extent of the law has proven its value as the right public policy approach to go after those who should never be allowed to use a gun.
CompStats and the RICN report provide one further valuable lesson to keep in mind as the debate over President Obama’s proposals heats up. When Bratton first introduced the concept to his leadership team, its members told him he could never accomplish his initial goal of reducing crime in NYC by 40% within three years. Their argument was that since the police had no control over the causes of crime—poverty, ethnic and racial tensions, or educational levels--it was not possible or even fair to hold the police accountable for its reduction. But Bratton made it clear that it was not necessary to address the underlying causes of bad behavior to reduce it substantially by simply focusing on the individuals committing crimes and eliminating places where they might be tempted to do so.
Similarly, it can and probably will be argued ad infinitum whether or not violent entertainment creates a fascination with guns that leads to gun violence. And an equally unproductive debate can be held over the media’s role in glorifying those who commit such acts. But no matter who is right, there is no reason to have that debate delay the country from doing something to keep guns out of the hands of those who would use them improperly. With technologies much less sophisticated than what is available today to sift and sort big databases, Bratton’s CompStats process was still able to pinpoint where to direct efforts to take bad guys off the street and dramatically change the safety of our cities.
The nation’s consciousness has been stirred by the slaughter of innocent children in Newtown, Connecticut. But as Newark Mayor Cory Booker correctly points out, gun violence takes the lives of more than thirty people, about as many who died at Virginia Tech, every single day. Now that Newtown and the President’s proposals have focused the nation’s attention on the problem of how to end such senseless slaughter, attention must be paid to the Millennial Generation’s ideas on how to meet this challenge. More than any other generation, it is their future that is at risk if we fail to do so.
This Post Originally Appeared in the National Journal
In 1964, Jack Weinberger, a leader of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement that kicked off a decade of student protests, famously proclaimed that his age cohort should “never trust anyone over 30.” A recent survey by communications research and consulting firm Frank N. Magid Associates suggests that a gap just as deep exists today between younger and older generations. While the gap may not be as visible as in the 1960s, it still has the potential to be every bit as divisive.
Magid asked a national sample of 3,150 Americans, ages 16 to 66, if they were “least likely to get along with someone of the opposite sex, a different racial background, or a different generation (much older or younger).”
Overall, 53 percent say that they are least likely to get along with someone of a different generation. By contrast, only about a third believed that they would have the most difficulty interacting with someone of a different race, and one in five mentioned a person of the opposite sex as least likely to get along with.
While Magid’s question focused on interpersonal relationships, there is already evidence that the generational divisions it uncovered will be of increasingly broad societal importance in the years ahead.
In the 2008 presidential election, for example, millennials supported Barack Obama over John McCain by greater than 2-to-1 (66 percent to 32 percent), while the next two older cohorts (Generation X and boomers) divided their votes about evenly between the two candidates; a majority of senior citizens supported McCain.
According to the latest polls, millennials support Obama by about the same 2-to-1 margin as in 2008, while Gen-X’ers and boomers are evenly split. Seniors prefer the Republican candidate by an even greater margin than they did four years ago.
Indeed, Pew’s latest American Values Survey attributes much of the increasing polarization of U.S. politics to the “strong generational characteristics of the millennial generation compared with” older generations. This makes it likely that the same large generational split will occur again this November.
But the political differences are only one example of a large-scale division in attitudes and behavior between millennials and their elders. From the country’s houses of worship to its major-league ballparks and from its homes to its workplaces, millennials have a very different outlook on society than older Americans.
So far this generational division has not had the acrimony of the generation gap from the 1960s. In large part that’s because millennials, unlike the boomers of 50 years ago, are not rebellious by nature. If anything, millennials are unfailingly polite. Their parents, whom they actually like, have taught them to seek win-win solutions to controversial issues.
However, as demographer Joel Kotkin indicates, many current public policies work to the benefit of older generations at the expense of younger ones. Kotkin points out that U.S. politicians of both the right and left promote “governmental policies [that] continue to favor boomers and seniors over the young.”
In Great Britain, young people have formed an organization, the Intergenerational Foundation, to publicize and begin to redress their grievances. The IF website features postings such as “Intergenerational Practice vs. Intergenerational Justice” and “Sharing the cake—an Intergenerational Dilemma” that clearly express the organization’s concerns.
Perhaps American millennials will not form groups that are so explicitly focused on their own cohort or take to the streets as boomers did five decades ago. But that does not mean that they will do nothing.
Unlike many European countries with small youth populations, millennials have the numbers to produce more equitable public policies. At 95 million, millennials are the largest American generation ever.
By 2020 they will comprise more than one in three eligible voters. Sooner or later, those numbers, and the unity of belief that the millennial generation has so far brought to politics, will allow the generation to reshape the United States, first as voters and then as the nation’s leaders.
The way in which boomers and seniors react to the growing presence of millennials, and the younger generation’s distinctive beliefs, will determine how difficult the transition from the old to the new America will be.
Full disclosure: Michael D. Hais retired in 2006 as vice president of entertainment research from Frank N. Magid Associates after a 22-year career with Magid and continues to do occasional work for the firm.
Both the Real Clear Politics Congressional Generic average and the new Gallup track show similar national trend lines - Dems gaining ground, GOP dropping. Similarly, the Gallup track has Obama's approval rating improving by 10 net percentage points in the past month, from 42/51 to 47/46 (RCP has shown movement despite 2 clear outlier Rasmussen and AP polls).
If these trend lines are true, no one should be suprised. The underlining favorability of the Republican Party is still far below that of the Dems and Obama. This election has never been like 1994 where at this point there had been both a fall of the Dems and a rise in the GOP. The memory of the disasterous GOP reign in the last decade is still too fresh, their leaders still to unreformed, their candidates far too wacky, and their ideas still to reckless for the current GOP to have fully taken advantage of the Democratic underpeformance this past cycle. This election, like all elections, is not like any other election. It has its own contours, its own set of dynamics. Like all elections it is sui generis.
As NDN has been arguing for most of 2010, the real questions in the election were 1) could the Democrats get their huge base to come home and vote 2) could the Dems do a better job at engaging on the main issue of the election, the economy, and better define the GOP as a reckless party? The late movement in this election, despite the truly silly "baked in the cake" arguments we've heard on TV of late, was always likely to be towards the Democrats. This current Congress had done too much right for the summer perceptions of Democratic performance to continue to be as bad as it was. And the underlying strength of the Democratic and Obama brands were just too great for their standing not to improve with some focused recalibration, which has happened now. We dont really now exactly why these things have happened, but I for one believe its because the President has begun to make the choice on the economy much more clear.
Remember that in the last two elections, the Democrats garnered 52 and 53 percent of the national vote. The last time they received such numbers two elections in a row was in the 1930s, meaning that for those covering politics there had not been an environment so Democratic since prior to Reagan's rehabilitation of the GOP, and maybe even all the way back to the 1960s or 1930s. The Democrats started this cycle in a position where if got those who already voted from them in the last two elections to vote for them again they could win a smashing 1934 like victory, bucking historical mid-term trends of parties in historically weaker shape than the 2010 Democrats.
I hope given these polls that the comparisons to 1994 will come to an end. For the GOP this polls should be very worrying. They are now dropping as a national political party 6 weeks before an election. They have no argument where they want to take the country. They have unattractive leaders and far too many fringe candidates. Led by a re-energized President, the Democrats have begun to find their voice, and their numbers are improving.
Underneath all the noise the political terrain of 2010 is changing, and so far this new terrain is far more favorable to the Dems than the Rs. My sense is that Democrats have reclaimed ground they never should have lost in the first place. The real question now is what happens next, how does this election close? If I were a Republican I would not like the charts on Gallup and RCP showing sharp downward movement this close to an election, as they have very few tools now to reverse what could be a significant drop in their standing. For Democrats there is muted but renewed hope.
Update - A new poll by John Zogby released today shows similar movement in both Obama's approval and the Congressional generic. More evidence that these trends are real.
The foundation of the Republicans' "return to power" argument is a promise to reduce the federal budget deficit and rein in government spending. But in a major speech last week, the Republican House leader John Boehner made clear that this promise is at best a false one, and perhaps even qualifies as the "big lie" of campaign 2010.
In an updated new analysis, first reported by Sam Stein in the Huffington Post last week, NDN has shown that the plan Rep. Boehner outlined in his speech would increase the deficit by more than $4 trillion over ten years. Not only does his plan explode the deficit, but it only identifies $67 billion in cost savings over ten years, an amount less than the new interest on the debt his budget would generate. Billed as a major address by the man who would be Speaker, Rep. Boehner's speech, taken at face value, shows that the entire argument the Republicans are making this year is built upon a huge set of lies.
That the Republicans have no real plan to deal with the most difficult economic circumstances the US has faced in 70 years should come as no surprise. When the GOP was last in power, wages and incomes for everyday people dropped, surpluses became historic deficits, global support for economic liberalization weakened, the world experienced a true global financial collapse, US automakers failed and the US entered into its worst recession since the Great Depression. By any measure the Republican's stewardship of the US economy in this past decade was among the worst performances by a party in power in all of US history.
The new Boehner plan is a direct challenge to those who care about the future of the United States. It makes clear that those who did so much damage to the US economy and the US national interest have not learned from their mistakes, and are approaching our difficult economic challenges with an appalling lack of seriousness and the same reckless approach which did so much to contribute to our current economic troubles. In an essay published earlier this week, the renowned economist Jeff Sachs wrote:
The Republican strategy, if it can be dignified by that word, offers us a complete collapse of the federal government (and state governments supported by federal taxes) and of course even more explosive deficits.
Friends, the Boehner plan is a call to action. But what can an average American do? I have a simple idea. In September, work with allied groups and other friends to get every Republican candidate running for federal office to answer a simple question:
"If the federal budget deficit is such a threat to our economy and our future, can you produce an economic plan which reduces the federal budget deficit at all, even by a penny, over the next ten years?"
The answer, remarkably, is no. Despite their very public commitment to fiscal prudence, not a single GOP candidate running for federal office in 2010 can produce such a plan. By campaigning to extend the Bush tax cuts as Rep. Boehner proposed last week, they are guaranteeing to explode the federal deficit in the coming decade, not shrink it. These very same Republicans have warned that doing so would slow economic growth and lessen the life prospects of Americans to come.
There is little doubt that the GOP will gain additional power this fall. But before they do, the nation needs to know more about their plans, and the big lie that is at the very heart of their irresponsible pitch. You can do your part today by sending this post on to others, and doing all that you can to confront our potential representatives, and get them to answer this simple question. The American people deserve to hear every Republican's effort to explain away this little inconsistency, for it does so much to expose the ideological and moral rot at the very foundation of their 2010 election argument.
If you had asked me in 2008 whether I thought it possible that there would be a sustained, orchestrated effort in the first two years of the first term of the first African-American President to undermine and question the integrity of the 14th Amendment I would have answered "no way." The 14th Amendment of course being one of the three major Reconstruction Amendments to the Constitution designed to correct the "three-fifths" of a person clause of the original Constitution and the entire racist body of law which grew up after its adoption.
The recent news of the attacks on "birthright citizenship" promised in the 14th Amendment is not the first orchestrated attack we've seen on this influential Amendment, one which not just helped ended the institutional racism of the pre-Civil War United States, but which was used to dismantle 20th century segregation in the recent Civil Rights era. Last year NDN led a national effort to push back against an effort by Senators Vitter and Bennett to knock undocumented immigrants out of the reapportionment process, something we and many others believed was a direct assault on this clause of the 14th Amendment
Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State
Like the decision to grant people born here in the US citizenship, this clause was designed to prevent the institutional racism the practice of slavery created in the US from every reoccuring. In the case of birthright citizenship, our nation made a decision to prevent any future group of American politicians from determing that any one group would be something less than the rest of us, as it had in the era of the "three-fifths" of a person clause. Given our history, this seems, in hindsight, to have a particularly wise and thoughtful decision.
While in each case the target group of these recent radical assaults on the 14th Amendment were not African-Americans but recent Hispanic immigrants, is it really possible that in the early days of this new age of racial conciliation promised by the election of Barack Obama, that we are seeing a sustained set of attacks on the Constititional Amendment that has done more to promote equailty among the races in the US than other? It is in some ways shocking, in some ways, perhaps, predictable. Race has a tortured history in our proud nation, and it shouldn't be suprising that for some the experience of a non-white President might cause a particularly powerful reaction.
It is at moments like these that we need to stop using the word Republican or conservative to describe this type of approach to our politics. Radical or reactionary is more apt. And I am proud of Senator Harry Reid last year for standing up to the first sustained assault on the 14th Amendment, and staring it down, defeating it. The question is - when are other political leaders, including our President, going to show the kind of courage Harry Reid showed last year and mount a sustained defense of the 14th Amendment and the politics that it ushered in the face of these reactionary attacks?
Update - I weigh in on this debate in an article in the the upcoming edition of the The Economist, now online here.
Update, 7pm - In a Washington Post Op-Ed, former Attorney General Gonzales comes out against the efforts to roll back the 14th Amendment. It includes this powerful graph:
As the nation's former chief law enforcement officer and a citizen who believes in the rule of law, I cannot condone anyone coming into this country illegally. However, as a father who wants the best for my own children, I understand why these parents risk coming to America -- especially when there is little fear of prosecution. If we want to stop this practice, we should pass and enforce comprehensive immigration legislation rather than amend our Constitution.
What will the Republicans have to do in order to win in 2012? Simon has pointed out a few times that with the right presidential ticket, the Republicans could be unexpectedly competitive in the Latino Belt. Demographics are on the Democrats' side, but two leaders who shouldn't be underestimated are Jeb Bush...
Bush is part of a Republican dynasty that has long been known for its skill at courting Latino voters; Bush himself is married to a Mexican woman and speaks fluent Spanish. Whitman has come out against Arizona's SB1070 law. The media is picking up on both these points and recently, Simon has been getting mentioned as one thinker who is urging Democrats to take these candidates seriously. Yesterday, Sam Stein's lead piece in the Huffington Post looked at how the Bush brand shouldn't be counted out just yet:
Simon Rosenberg is the most bullish of Democratic strategists. The former Clinton administration official and head of the young non-profit group NDN has been the chief proponent of the belief that Barack Obama's election produced the opportunity for a "30-to-40-year era of Democratic dominance." A specialist in the political habits of different demographic groups (specifically Hispanics), he insists that, absent a drastic makeover, the GOP risks cementing itself "as irrelevant to the 21st century."
Sagging poll numbers and policy setbacks have done little to dissuade these rosy prognostications. There's only one thing that makes Rosenberg nervous: another Bush.
"Jeb [Bush] is married to a Latina, is fluent in Spanish, speaks on Univision as a commentator, his Spanish is that good," Rosenberg said of the former Florida governor and brother to the 43rd president during a lunch at NDN headquarters last week. "And if you look at the electoral map in 2012, you have to assume that Obama is going to have a very hard time in holding North Carolina and Virginia. The industrial Midwest, where the auto decline has been huge, has weakened Obama's numbers... a great deal. So Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin become a bit more wobbly. So if you're Barack Obama, the firewall is the Latin belt from Florida to southwestern California. And there is only one Republican who can break through that firewall. And it is Jeb."
Such a sentiment, Rosenberg admits, carries a slight hint of hysteria. After all, there is a good chunk of the country that recoils at the idea of another pol with the Bush surname. But that chunk has begun narrowing. And even within Democratic circles, there is an emerging belief that in a Republican Party filled with base-pleasing dramatizers or bland conservatives, Jeb stands out.
And Simon's insights were also mentioned today on Fox News:
In the last few days I've done a slew of interviews with reporters discussing the politics of SB1070 and the decision by the Department of Justice to declare the law unconstiutional. The national GOP has gone into big time spin mode on this, declaring from the reporters I've spoken to the DOJ suit is political death for "Democrats in the West." While that scenerio is possible of course, lets look at what we know about how this debate has played out in recent years. There two things we know for sure:
1) When Latinos are demonized by the GOP there is a backlash. In California in the 1990s, and in national politics in this past decade, when Republican leaders launch a sustained anti-immigrant, anti-Latino Latinos respond, applying for citizenship in higher numbers, registering in higher numbers, voting in higher numbers, and voting aggressively against the Republican Party. Given that Latinos now make up 15 percent of the national population, and large percentages of the voting population in major states - CA, FL, TX and key Presidential states - AZ, CO, NM, NV - a big shift in the Hispanic vote can dramatically alter the politics of a community, state and the nation.
2) The Republicans have not shown that their anti-immigrant position works outside a Republican primary audience. The polling on immigration has been consistent over the past five years. About 15-20 percent of the country want the undocumenteds to leave and consider immigration a voting issue. They are largely base Republican voters. Hispanics too view immigration as a voting issue. The rest of the country sees immigration as a second tier issue, trailing way behind more important issues like the bad economy, need for better health and foreign policy matters. And for most of those who view it as an issue of secondary importance they are comfortable with the solution Congress has been proposing called comprehensive immigration reform (in this recent WaPo poll, for example, 57% support allowing illegal immigrants to stay in the US permanently while also giving majority support to SB1070).
So what this means in campaign terms is that a hard-line anti-immigrant stance can work well in a contested Republican primary - think Jan Brewer - but has not shown the capacity to motivate non-Hispanic general election voters in battleground races. The Republican Party will have a hard time naming a single race the last several elections where a hard-line anti-immigrant candidate won purely on this issue, and virtually no GOP campaign has spent money on the issue in the last month of any race we've studied. In fact, I've argued before, that the emphasis the GOP has put on immigration has actually been a big negative with swing voters for it reinforces the worst attribute of the GOP of recent years - their willingness to put poliitics over problem solving. For many their obsession with anti-immigrant politics looks feckless, partisan and helps reinforce their lack of seriousness as a party. For while immigration matters, of course, it is just not as important as some of the more wild-eyed immigrant haters want to believe it is. Most Americans are just way too smart for that.
Sometimes ithe anti-immigrant stance doesn't even work in a Republican primary audience. In the 2008 Presidential election, the most liberal Republican on immigration, John McCain, won his party's nomination. The anti-immigrant candidate, Tom Tancredo, never received more than 1% in any poll taken during the primary season. And of course Senator McCain was then beaten by someone much more liberal than he on immigration reform, Barack Obama, who despite his pro-immigration reform stance received the largest vote share a Democratic Presidential candidate had received in 44 years.
Unfortunately, Politico bought this GOP spin about how the GOP candidates will turn support of SB1070 into a winning regional issue and published this largely unsubstantiated and disapointing piece yesterday. Already, this morning we have a clear repudiation of the national GOP narrative in the largest state in the West, California, where Republican Gubernational candidate Meg Whitman has launched billboards in Spanish proclaiming her opposition to SB1070. Newsweek has published this thoughtful essay making the case that the DOJ suit is smart politics for Obama. My gut is that this piece is closer to the truth than Politico's slightly hysterical initial take.
Whatever the politics of the DOJ suit are I think the government did the right thing. Once SB1070 was passed, the federal government had to act. If SB1070 succeeds we could end up with 50 different immigration policies in the US, not a single federal one. The President was right last week to challenge Congress to quit kicking the can down the road on immigration reform and step up to build a better immigration system. The Department of Justice was also right to challenge SB1070, a serious threat to the integrity of our federal immigration system.
So what do we know about the politics of SB1070? Here is my take:
1) It will make it more likely that there is a large Latino vote against anti-immigrant candidates in the heavily Mexican-American West.
2) Outside of Arizona, I have serious doubts that a hard-line anti-immigrant stance will work for the GOP. Most anti-immigrant voters in the West have already been motivated by many of the anti-Democratic messages of this cycle, and there just isnt a lot of data or experience to indicate that in this tough economy the GOP will be able to make the issue pop with non-Hispanic audiences beyond their base. There is evidence and experience, however, which shows that if GOPers continue to talk about the issue deep into the fall it can actually hurt them, as it will help brand the GOPer as one those "more extreme" Republicans, a political brand which has been serially rejected by the American people over the past five years, and a positioning that today remains remarkably unpopular.
3) As the legal, economic and societal costs of SB1070 become better understood, it is very likely that the popularity of SB1070 - an extreme approach to a very real problem - will begin to drop. From a policy standpoint SB1070 is a bad idea, and overtime I think most folks "in the West" will come to agree.
4) The way the issue plays in each race in the West will, as Meg Whitman has shown, be determined by how each candidate plays it. Democrats would be smart to hold firm on demanding a comprehensive national solution and not give into the early politics of this new post SB1070 environment.
That's it for now. Thoughts welcome of course. For more on these matters check out my first cut reaction to the DOJ suit and this backgrounder on NDN's work on immigration reform.
The highly regarded Field Poll has a new poll out this morning which takes an indepth look at the California Governor's race. It is a must read for any student of politics, particularly the complicated politics of California.
I have come to believe that this race may be the single most important race in the entire country. If Whitman wins she would be an instant leader to be the Republican Vice Presidential nominee in 2012, or she may even decide to run for President. If she is on the ticket in 2012 she could help bring a disgruntled national business community firmly into the GOP camp, and potentially put California into play in 2012, a move that could cost the Democrats tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars.
This poll makes it clear that Whitman has a very real shot of winning this race, not just because of her appeal, argument and money but in how she is building her coalition, a strategy that could be replicated by the national GOP with the right ticket in 2012. In this poll she is, amazingly, winning among young people (the largest demographic age group in the poll) and trails with Latinos - 20 percent of the statewide electorate - by only 50-39. She has at that magic 40 percent mark today with Latinos, a percentage often cited by Republican strategists as the threshold number GOPers must win if they are to win national and California elections. In contrast, Democrats received 70% of the Latino vote in the 2006 midterms, and President Obama received 67 percent in 2008. They received similar numbers with young people in each of the last two elections.
For Jerry Brown getting his numbers up to the recent Democratic performance with these two huge parts of the CA electorate - 67 percent plus in each of the last 2 national elections - appears to be now, perhaps, the single most important strategic goal of his campaign in the months ahead.
If Whitman wins this race in the way she is attempting to win it she will become a powerful leader of a modern, 21st century GOP. Her victory would signal that the national GOP has begun to figure out to pick the lock of the very 21st century Obama electoral majority, built to a great degree on the enthusiastic support of young people and Hispanics.
As I wrote a few weeks ago Whitman would be a perfect VP candidate for Jeb Bush if he were to run and win the GOP nomination. This ticket, led by the governor and former governor of California and Florida, two of the largest states in the nation, could credible attack the Obama electoral map, whose firewall today is the heavily Latin parts of the country (CA-SW-FL). With the new found weakness of the President in the rustbelt and with VA and NC likely to be unwinnable in 2012, the President and his team will have to mount a very fierce defense of this Latin belt. If they hold it they can hold the Presidency. And for the GOP, it is looking like they could actually field a ticket in 2012 which could - emphasize could - win enough of the midwest and the Latin belt to mount a very credible challenge to the President next time around.
So, it is time now to take Meg Whitman, and her modern campaign, seriously.
Update Thursday AM - Whitman has gone up with billboards in Spanish announcing her opposition to SB1070. Further evidence of a smart and modern campaign. And the always sharp Christina Bellantoni of TPM also takes a look at the innovative Whitman effort in CA this morning.
Given the news that the Department of Justice has filed its suit against the new Arizona immigration laws, it was an interesting day to go on Fox News to talk about immigration. You can watch my segment, which included the well known anti-immigrant crusader Dan Stein from FAIR talking about changing the 14th Amendment and other fun matters, below and here.
In prepping for my segment I found this following passage from the FAIR website about "anchor babies:"
What Does This Mean?
Higher Taxes: The federal government has control over immigration law for the United States. By not correcting this mis-application of the 14th Amendment, the funds that state and local governments must provide to anchor babies amounts to a virtual tax on U.S. citizens to subsidize illegal aliens.
Disrespect for the rule of law: Congress, by failing to act on legislation aimed at correcting the interpretation of citizenship by birth, in effect rewards law-breakers and punishes those who have chosen to follow the rules and immigrate legally.The original intent of the 14th Amendment was clearly not to facilitate illegal aliens defying U.S. law and obtaining citizenship for their offspring, nor obtaining benefits at taxpayer expense. The United States is unusual in its offer to extend citizenship to anyone born on its soil. Other developed countries have changed their citizenship practice to eliminate the problems caused by the practice of birthright citizenship.The anchor baby problem has grown to such large proportions that the United States can no longer afford to ignore it. The logical first step for correcting the problem is for Congress to adopt legislation clarifying the meaning of the 14th amendment.
(we've added the bold face here)
What struck me was how clear FAIR is in this passage that federal law trumps state law when it comes to immigration, and the proper course for those wanting a different immigration system in the US was to pressure Congress to act. This is of course is the same argument the President made last week in his American University immigration speech, and the same argument the Department of Justice made today in bringing suit against other FAIR-inspired laws in Arizona.
I hope those politicians in Arizona are aware of the real game FAIR is playing here. As we saw in the remarkable movie, 9500 Liberty, FAIR views political actors in the states as local chess pieces in a more national game of anti-immigration chess. As the movie details, the local community in Prince William County, VA who tried the FAIR-crafted "probable cause" statute (an ancestor to the current AZ law) saw their economy tank, racial polarization increase, forclosures skyrocket. The movie details how FAIR fed a group of ambitious conservative politicians a legal and political strategy which ended up backfiring on the local community, caused tremendous harm to the residents of the county, cost the local government a lot of money, and was ultimately reversed by the politicians themselves.
In Arizona we are starting to see the same thing play out. The economy and reputation of the state are being harmed. Racial discord is soaring. Local newspapers, police chiefs and businesses are fighting back against the law. And now the federal government is properly inserting itself into the debate, reminding those in Arizona that their law is, simply, illegal. Arizona cannot set its own immigration policy, just as it cannot craft its own foreign policy. Increasingly all this stuff around SB1070 may be, at the end of the day, a massively damaging escapade by a group of ambitious politicians in Arizona led astray in part by the Rasputin-like leaders of FAIR.
But what is so sad to me is that if the leaders of the Arizona effort had actually read FAIR's website they would have understood that even FAIR itself doesn't believe that the law the people of Arizona have passed is legal. Increasingly the nation and the people of Arizona will come see the passage of SB1070 and other legislation begin cooked up now (see the clip of my Fox debate today with FAIR about the legality of the 14th Amendment!) as another chapter in FAIR's grand and so far failed strategy to fundamentally change the immigration debate in America.
It is possible that a local court prevents a stay of SB1070, and it goes into effect on July 29th. But I think the die is cast here now. Eventually we will get a federal law and a new federal immigration system, and the sooner folks like Russell Pearce stop listening to FAIR's crazy and failed ideas and start working with Congress to construct this new law, the better off the nation and the people of Arizona will be. For as in Prince William County, my bet is that pretty soon the people of Arizona are going to want to find a way out of the mess created for them, and will begin to view this law much more negatively than in some of the early "sugar high" polls showing broad initial support.
Update - In the Fox News discussion today I read a portion of the 1st Section of the 14th Amendment. Here is the whole passage:
Section. 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Update 2, More on FAIR - Our friends at 9500 Liberty just released one of the most compelling parts of their remarkable movie. It comes in the latter half of the movie, when all of a sudden our understanding of how the debate around "probable cause" - essentially the same law as SB1070 in Arizona - came to Prince William. It was brought there by FAIR, a national anti-immigrant advocacy group, whose President Dan Stein I debated today on Fox, and who is featured prominently in the video below.
Please watch the video below my friends, for what you learn is that FAIR views counties like Prince William and states like Arizona as "laboratories;" they admit to being the "mad scientists" behind the spread of these strategies across the country; and they admit, on camera, to colluding with Republican politicians to use this issue to help them win elections, a particularly odd goal for a 501 (c) issue advocacy organization.
Why does this matter so much? For I hope the good people of Arizona understand that they are being used as a laboratory by a national anti-immigrant group, a group who has shown very little concern for the communities who've been torn apart by their divisive strategies in the past.