January 12, 2004
Straws in the wind

This article on President Bush's immigration reform proposal and its possible effects on Hispanic voters contains good news and bad news for both major parties.

Many political analysts who watched the president unveil his immigration reform package said it was clearly aimed at the Hispanic community.

"There is absolutely no doubt that one of the reasons for this is to attract the Latino vote for President Bush," said Jorge Gonzalez, an expert on illegal immigration and chairman of the Economics Department at Trinity University in San Antonio.

"He needs to get about 40 percent of the Latino vote in the next election, and Latinos in general are in favor of a more relaxed immigration policy," he explained.

Gonzalez said that even though Latinos are skeptical that immigration reform can be accomplished, Bush is charting a path in territory once owned by Democrats.

And Democrats should be worried that a portion of its base "is slipping away," Gonzalez said.


Many of the proposals sought by Bush — including a guest worker program that allows undocumented immigrants to remain in this country legally — are strenuously opposed by many lawmakers in the president's party.

"Gradual amnesty for illegal aliens rewards those who have broken the law and encourages more illegal immigration," said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, a member of the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration.


Cecilia Muñoz, vice president for policy at the National Council of La Raza, said Bush might score points with independent swing voters and Latinos without suffering a backlash from social conservatives, who have no where else to go.

"It is smart for the White House to stand up to the xenophobes in the party to impress Latino voters," Muñoz said, "because I don't think the xenophobes are going to vote for Howard Dean."

I dispute the notion that social conservatives have "nowhere else to go". For one thing, as Clarence Page noted in a column about Democrats and black voters, they can always stay home. For another, it's also not out of the question for there to be a far right challenge to Bush, though of course it's hard to say what kind of effect such a thing would have.

The president's step to the middle of the political spectrum will have a backlash only if the independent swing voters and Latinos perceive that Bush's offering is an empty promise, Gonzalez said.

A poll released last week shows more than half of Hispanics nationwide think Bush is doing a good job.

But the poll for the Pew Hispanic Center also found that 47 percent of Latino adults surveyed said they would vote for a Democrat, while only 37 percent preferred Bush.

The pollsters emphasized that the surveyed queried Hispanic adults and not Hispanic probable voters.

"If Bush does not deliver on immigration reform, this could be a good issue for a Democratic candidate to take him on," Gonzalez said.

"It won't be hard for a Democrat to tell Latinos that President Bush promised this in 2000 and didn't deliver. And promised this in 2004 and didn't deliver," Gonzalez said.

In my opinion, Bush will have to put some political capital on the line in order to get any kind of immigration reform passed, something which he has never really done before. I don't think he's willing to take on the Lamar Smiths of his party, even for the brass ring of more Hispanics voting Republican. It's not what he does. He likes to get the accolades for suggesting things like this, then letting someone else work out the details. If he does that here, as I believe he will, no bill will get passed. As such, I'm not particularly worried about this.

Meanwhile, Byron points to articles about voting preferences of Jewish and Muslim citizens. In short: good for Democrats. The swing in opinion of Muslims is astounding:

A 2004 presidential straw poll conducted at [the Muslim Public Affairs Council]'s annual convention showed President George W. Bush trailing four Democratic contenders, led by Howard Dean, largely because of the former Vermont governor's staunch criticism of the war in Iraq.

Dr. Dean polled 67 percent, followed by Rep. Dennis Kucinich with 17 percent, retired Gen. Wesley Clark with 8 percent, and Sen. John Kerry with 4 percent. Mr. Bush garnered a meager 2 percent of the straw ballots cast by the 800 Muslims at the late December convention held in Long Beach, Calif. Not even a convention appearance by the White House's Muslim liaison, Ali Tulbah, appeared to help.

Mr. Bush's dismal showing came less than four years after MPAC joined other leading American Muslim groups in issuing their first-ever presidential endorsement: the Republican Bush. But then came the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, all of which has impacted immensely the political fortunes, and thinking, of American Muslims.

In the current climate, "90 percent of the community is now dead set against the Republican Party, not to mention Bush," said the Los Angeles-based Al-Marayati, who backed Bill Clinton before switching parties in 2000.

Even Muslim Republican activists say Mr. Bush has little hope of repeating his 2000 success among Muslims.

"I hate to say it," said Khalid Saffuri, who runs the Islamic Institute, a Republican support group in Washington, "but right now very few Muslims will vote for George Bush again, or support the Republican Party. They're that angry."

Which ought to make Michigan, a state with a large Muslim population, a lot safer for the Democrats this year, something that Kos has noted several times.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 12, 2004 to Election 2004 | TrackBack

Actually, it pretty much is out of the question that anyone is going to mount a credible challenge to Bush's right. He's learned well the lessons of his father. That, and he's more of a sociocon (and supply-sider, for that matter) than his father ever was anyway. One issue -- a minor one to boot -- isn't going to change that.

Posted by: kevin whited on January 12, 2004 5:17 PM

I agree, but I didn't say anything about a credible challenge. It'd be more of a Naderesque thing, but a percent or two in the right state can make a difference, as we saw last time.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on January 12, 2004 6:47 PM

If the word gets out that the majority of illegal immigrants allowed to stay, will be kicked out after the 3 year reprieve is up, then the chance of bush getting any benifit is reduced noticeably. And the hispanic community is a tightnit group of people, word will get out on the "reality" of bush's proposal vs the type.

food for thought Bb

Posted by: Bb on January 12, 2004 8:22 PM

sorry, that should be hype vs type Bb

Posted by: Bb on January 12, 2004 8:24 PM