Obama Administration Defies Public Opinion

A headline I’m sure that you’re likely to encounter many times in the ensuing weeks, although perhaps not as bluntly limned. It turns out that most Americans support the right of states to maintain law and order within their boundaries, absent any federal effort to control our Southern border.

Big surprise:


Most American voters oppose the U.S. Justice Department’s challenge of Arizona’s new immigration law. A slim majority, moreover, favors passage of similar laws in their own states.

A Fox News poll released Thursday finds that by a wide 59-29 percent margin, voters oppose the federal government suing the state of Arizona over its immigration law.

Democrats are more likely to favor the government’s lawsuit by a 12 percentage-point margin (50-38 percent). Independents are more likely to oppose it by a substantial 30-point margin (58-28 percent), while Republicans overwhelmingly oppose the lawsuit by a striking 71-point margin (80-9 percent).

However, there is a certain inexorable logic to President Obama’s and the DOJ’s stance if you believe-as many do-that their intent is not so much to garner favor with American voters, but to replace those voters with future Democrats who are not only amenable to a pro-amnesty agenda, but whose presence in the United States demands its implementation. You can look at it as a political quid-pro-quo. Illegal aliens are granted amnesty, fast-tracked to citizenship, granted the right to vote in federal elections, and reward Democrats-including President Obama-in return.

In terms of short-term political attrition, Obama is willing to let Democrats be sacrificed if the end-goal is his ultimate re-election and the expansion of a governing Democratic majority. But according to John Heilmann, even these projections might be off-base.


Yet the history of immigration politics suggests that Republicans who see Obama’s move as a boon and Democrats who see it as a disaster need to take a pill. “In the past three elections, Republicans have predicted that immigration would be the silver bullet that would kill the Democratic werewolf, but it never works,” says Rosenberg. “Republicans can’t point to a single race where immigration was the issue that allowed one of their candidates to beat a Democrat. In fact, there is much more evidence of moderate Democrats taking out anti-immigrant Republicans in swing districts than there is of the inverse.”

The prime example of this counterintuitive political dynamic-according to the open-borders faction in American politics-is the congressional defeat of Representative J.D. Hayworth, who is now running against Senator John McCain-a recent, if somewhat disingenuous, convert to the “secure the borders” camp. The only problem with the scenario sketched out by the pro-amnesty political analysts is that Hayworth’s Democratic opponent defeated him by emphasizing his strength on border issues. Granted, there was his implicit promise to vote for a “pathway to citizenship” once elected to Congress, but that part of his platform was consigned to the shadows-to borrow a phrase from Presidents Bush and Obama, and Senator Lindsay Graham-while his espousal of many of Hayworth’s long-held positions on immigration matters were pushed to the front of his ultimately successful challenge to the congressional incumbent.

Reporters such as Heilmann like to employ the narrative that any Republican who decries illegal immigration, while initially successful in exploiting the issue for political benefit, ultimately experiences a political backlash due to the increasing disenchantment with the Republican Party label by Hispanic voters. The previous poster-boy for this meme was former California Governor Pete Wilson, who spearheaded Proposition 187,  state initiative that aimed to deny illegal aliens living in the state publicly-funded social services such as non-emergency health care and public eduction.

The dominant view held by elite, open borders opinion-makers is that, while overwhelmingly popular among Californian voters, Proposition 187 ultimately backfired on the state Republican Party, as it energized heretofore unaligned Hispanic voters who would go on to punish the GOP in subsequent elections. Most proponents of this perspective casually neglect to mention the fact that Pete Wilson’s would-be successors in the California Republican Party, who stridently denounced Prop. 187, were lopsidedly defeated by their Democratic counterparts. On the other hand, the man whom they ascribe the GOP’s demise to, i.e. Mr. Wilson, never lost an election during the course of his long political career. In fact, his political protege, Arnold Schwarzeneggar, won election largely on the promise that he would deny driver’s licenses to illegal aliens, a preferred policy of his opponent, then Governor Gray Davis.

A post on Red State provides a link to a fascinating deconstruction of the Pete Wilson/Prop. 187=GOP implosion mythos, which is not born out by any empirical evidence, despite its superficial allure among the pundit class.


According to the presidential exit polls, the Hispanic vote has been fairly stable in California over the last 20 years.  The only exception was in 2004, when George W. Bush managed to carry one out of three Hispanics. This stability in this demographic is even more surprising when you consider that the national vote in this time period ranged from an 8-point GOP win (1988) to an 8-point Democratic win (1996).

California has moved away from the Republicans at the presidential level in the last 20 years, but it is not really because of shifts in the Hispanic vote. Instead, it’s based on two dynamics.  First, the California white vote has moved toward the Democrats. Second, the share of the white vote in California has declined.  In 1988 whites accounted for 82% of California voters.  In 2008, they were just 63% of the electorate.

Moreover, as we can see from the chart below, Prop 187 actually enjoyed a cross-racial voting coalition that even included 30% of Hispanic voters.  Support for Prop 209, which barred affirmative action, was also cross-racial. While we don’t have official exit poll results available for Prop 227, there are contemporaneous accounts that state that the CNN/LA Times exit poll suggested that 37% of Latinos supported the English-only initiative, as did a near-majority of blacks. Whites supported these conservative ballot initiatives in all three instances, yet still continued moving toward the Democrats on the presidential level.

In conclusion,

1. The backlash against initiatives/laws that target illegal aliens is exaggerated, and often used as shorthand for underlying political movements that are much more complicated, and often unrelated to, the immigration debate.

2. Many Hispanics are not monolithically pro-illegal alien, and to assume that the Latino community will give its blanket to support to those parties/candidates who reflexively denounce laws such as SB 1070 is foolish and shortsighted.

3. A large part of the political projections that foretell the demise of the Arizona state Republican Party-predictions that are based to a large extent on the faulty analysis of the post-Prop. 187 political environment in California-assumes that the illegal aliens being targeted by the law will eventually be granted amnesty, and subsequently vote against the current political establishment. The fact is, if SB 1070 is effectively implemented this will be a moot point, since those individuals will not be able to exact political revenge on their alleged tormentors.

Overall, I think we need to sit back and re-examine some of the core assumptions at the heart of this debate, many of which have been implanted in our collective consciousness by people who, to be frank, don’t know what they’re talking about.

This entry was posted in amnesty, Arizona, Barack Obama, Immigration, Pete Wilson, politicians, Prop. 187, SB1070. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Obama Administration Defies Public Opinion

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