Is Hillary the Best Option for Immigration Patriots?
By Mickey Kaus
Mickey’s Single Issue Voter’s Guide: Suppose you were a single issue voter, and your single issue was immigration. Specifically, you were opposed to legislation that combines some form of amnesty (legalization of existing illegal immigrants) with tougher border enforcement. If so, you would probably be pretty depressed right now–three of the four leading presidential candidates explicitly favor such “comprehensive” reform. The fourth, Mitt Romney is the least likely to win. And even he’s suspected of being a closet comprehensivist.
But you still have to vote. Before you did, you’d want to ask: Which of the three pro-legalization candidates is least likely to accomplish their legislative goal? When you think about it this way, a clear and somewhat surprising ranking of top three emerges.
1) Hillary Clinton would probably be the best president for anti-comprehensivists. She’s cautious. She’s been burned by GOP opposition before (to her 1994 health plan). Is she really going attempt both health care reform and immigration reform in her first two years? Remember, Rahm Emmanuel’s swing-state Democratic congressmen typically ran tough-on-illegals campaigns. They’re squeamish about voting for “amnesty.” If Hillary is president (meaning John McCain isn’t president) the Republicans are likely to unite against a Democratic legalization plan. Meanwhile, Hillary’s political adviser James Carville is on record suggesting that legalization, like welfare, is a potential election-loser. Hillary suppporter Paul Krugman seems one of those remaining economists who actually believe in supply and demand–i.e., that an increase in the supply of immigrant labor can drive down unskilled wages. And Hillary herself has made anti-illegals noises in the past, including reversing her endorsement of Gov. Spitzer’s drivers license plan.
2) Barack Obama, on the other hand, may actually believe his standard-left immigration positons. He’s shown an ability to bridge the partisan divide and get things done. All deeply troubling, in this case.. But at least he too would have a hard time getting both a health care plan and immigration legislation through Congress against opposition from Republicans (McCain having lost).
3) President McCain would seem like a replay of George W. Bush. Bush couldn’t get his “comprehensive” immigration plan through, even with a Democratic Congress. What would be different with McCain? Quite a bit. a) McCain’s likely to be more popular, at least if Iraq continues to improve; b) The Democrats are likely to have bigger Congressional majorities; c) McCain might be able to claim voter validation of his long-standing pro-legalization views. Certainly the Republicans wouldn’t be united against a McCain “comprehensive” bill. Unlike Clinton and Obama, McCain doesn’t have ambitious New Dealish health legislation that would compete for his and Congress’ time and energy.
True, it would still be difficult to pass a McCainish immigration plan–you can imagine the Democrats splitting just like Republicans when faced with something that might actually become law. McCain would have campaigned on his pledge to secure the borders–his current plan for a quickie assurance by “border state” governors might be too transparent a ploy (especially if the press was reporting a continuing flow of illegals). Nevertheless,,McCain seems clearly the worst of the three possibilities, from an anti-comprehensivist perspective.
I’m not saying voters should be single-issue voters. I’m not saying I’m going to vote for Hillary. I’m just saying …
P.S.: OK,, I’m not just just saying. If I thought either Clinton or Obama would do a much better job on health care, that would be one thing. But both seem well-positioned to actually pass some big, broad health plan. An immigration plan, on the other hand, seems much iffier. It could pass or fail depending on who’s president. And, unlike a health care plan, an immigration legalization bill is likely to have large, irreversible consequences. Misconceived health plans can be altered or repealed (remember “catastrophic insurance”?). But if a misconceived immigration amnesty attracts millions of new illegal entrants who then have to be given citizenship–on top of the new citizens created by the amnesty itself–it won’t just lower unskilled wages etc. It will profoundly alter the very electorate that will have to consider any future change of course.
In this context, single-issue voting could be a highly responsible course.
Vote Hillary. She won’t get it done!