Electoral Fallout From Arizona’s Immigration Bill
As the dust settles in Arizona the political fallout from SB 1070 is just becoming apparent. Well sort of. What is apparent is that the bill is a mess, with the political consequences murky at best for most Republicans. Think Progress has stayed on top of the head count, so to speak, providing some fantastic and detailed reporting on the aftermath of the Arizona bill.
So far the usual suspects like Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) have offered a full-throttled support of the measure, while even others like Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) have suggested that the United States deport the U.S. citizen children of undocumented immigrants and repeal the 14th Amendment, just for good measure.
But a trickle of opposition within the Republican party has begun. Not only has the measure forced conservative stalwarts like Marco Rubio, Karl Rove, and Lindsey Graham to come out in opposition to the measure, it has highlighted that not all Republican opposition is grounded in outrage to the bill. A good measure of it is grounded in old-fashioned political survival.
Take former Florida House Speaker and Republican senatorial candidate Marco Rubio. His vocal opposition to the measure is grounded in a concern that it will probably encourage racial profiling by law enforcement in addition to an ideological sense that the bill represents an unfortunate expansion of governmental power, going so far as to say that “[t]hroughout American history and throughout this administration we have seen that when government is given an inch it takes a mile.” This statement actually represents some pretty savvy politics on Rubio’s part insofar as he manages to articulate a libertarian fear of the overreaching police powers of the government and conflate them with a more traditionally republican anti-amnesty dig at the Obama administration.
Contrast Rubio’s approach with Karl Rove who also recently came out in opposition to the Arizona measure, not so much because of a fear of government overreach, but because of a concern that the measure could cost the Republican party seats in the midterm election and succeed in alienating, perhaps permanently, the only growing portion of the Republican electorate–Latino voters. It’s not much of a surprise that Rove would be less concerned with the measure as a means of racial profiling or overreach by law enforcement–it was after all the Bush administration that ramped up immigration raids and pushed for the expansion of the Department of Homeland Security’s 287(g) program which allows local police to enforce immigration laws– efforts attributed largely to Bush’s failed efforts at tackling immigration reform during his presidency and measures which the Arizona law exacerbates.
And then there is Senator Lindsey Graham. His tepid opposition to the measure reflects his own battle for political survival. The Senator has faced attacks from William Gheen, head of the conservative anti-immigration group Americans for Legal Immigration (PAC) who demanded the Senator out himself as gay as a means of attacking Sen. Graham for his immigration positions or forcing a change in that position.
Sensing on the split, and the growing political implications for the Republicans if the split continues to a full-force rift, Democrats announced an outline of proposed immigration changes and appealed to Republicans to pursue comprehensive immigration reform as a bipartisan agenda item.
Among the proposals suggested by the Democrats include enhanced border security, the creation of a new fraud-resistant Social Security card, and for those already in the country illegally, a series of penalties, taxes, and fees, in addition to passing a criminal background check would have to be satisfied before they would qualify for legal residency, and even then the qualification process wouldn’t start for at least eight years.
For Democrats, it may not matter if the proposals find their way into legislation before November so long as they can keep the focus, and the momentum, on the divide the measure is creating amongst their Republican counterparts. If they are successful there then the rumors of their political demise come November 2010 may turn out to be greatly exaggerated.
photo courtesy of hjl via Flickr