-- by Dave
A new study by ImmigrationO8 about Latinos and the November elections confirms what we've been saying here for awhile: Immigration is a winning issue for Democrats if they know how to handle it right, and a losing issue for Republican bigotry-mongers.
Most of all, it's an important opportunity: Progressives can establish that they can solve seemingly intractable policy problems by taking a pragmatic and humane approach, contradistinct from the Republican scapegoating approach that only makes the problem worse.
In introducing the study yesterday at a conference call [audio here], Frank Sharry of America's voice put it best:
Immigration is an issue that works for Democrats who lean into it rather than for Republicans who demagogue it.
Polling maven Celinda Lake joined Sharry on the call, and offered advice to Democrats based on what her group found whenever immigration became a campaign issue: "It's an issue you cannot duck and hide from," she said. Candidates are successful, she said, when they engage voters in what it means to enact comprehensive immigration reform.
The study itself also debunked a lot of the myths about the election that are commonly bandied about among the pundit class, most of which fit into the "Americans aren't eager to end the war" insofar as they have any grounding in reality. For instance, the notion that Latinos are unsure about Obama and like McCain. Bzzzzt! Likewise, ixnay on the "Clinton's Latino supporters voted against Obama"ay.
But this is particularly worth remembering:
Anti-Immigrant Politics Push Latinos Away From the GOP
As with most Americans, Latinos view the Republican Party as being on the "wrong side" of key issues such as immigration, health care, the war, and the economy. In addition, the Republican Party's embrace of harsh anti-immigrant campaign tactics and policies has clearly undermined its ability to attract and retain Latino voters.
George W. Bush received approximately 40% support from Latinos in 2004. This number could become the high-water mark of Latino support for a Republican presidential candidate unless the GOP undergoes a major realignment on their immigration stance.
Since 2004, Republican opposition to immigration reform legislation and support of harsh, anti-immigrant policies has pushed Latinos into the Democratic fold.
- Partisan Gap Grows: 57% of Hispanic registered voters "now call themselves Democrats or say they lean to the Democratic Party, while 23 percent align with the Republican Party-a 34 percentage point gap in partisan affiliation among Latinos. In July, 2006, the same gap was just 21 percent. In 1999, it had been 33 percent." [Pew Hispanic Center, Hispanics and the 2008 Election: A Swing Vote?, 12/6/07]
- Nearly Half of Latino Voters Say Democrats Are More Supportive of Latinos than Republicans. By a 44% to 8% margin, Latinos say the Democratic Party has more concern for them than the GOP [Pew Hispanic Center, Hispanics and the 2008 Election: A Swing Vote?, 12/6/07]
- Nearly Half of Latino Voters Believe Democrats Do a Better Job Handling Illegal Immigration. By 41% to 14% margin, Latino voters say the Democrats are doing the better job of dealing with illegal immigration than the Republicans. Approximately 26% say neither Party is better, nor 12% say they don't know. [Pew Hispanic Center, Hispanics and the 2008 Election: A Swing Vote?, 12/6/07]
When Democratic congressional candidates hit the hustings this summer -- and presidential candidates too -- immigration will finally give them a chance to show they can run against right-wing "conventional wisdom" and win. Most of all, the issue will give them the chance to stand up to the right, to stand for something important, and to speak good common sense -- the kind that voters appreciate.