21st Century Agenda for America

New Post Iowa Poll - very much worth checking out

If you need your daily dose of Presidential news the Washington Post has offered up both a very interesting new IA poll of Democrats, accompanied by an excellent analysis of the process of the Caucus itself. I strongly recommend it. And while it shows that essentially Iowa is still way too close to call, Obama's lead remains - in their polling - at 4 points.

I recommend the article because it does a very good job at explaining how the arcane Iowa Caucus process works, and all the strategic calculations that go into managing a campaign there. I was part of the Dukakis caucus operation 20 years ago, and know first hand how complicated and unpredictable it is. At this point it sure looks like we will only know the outcome late in the night on January 3rd.

End the Tougher than Thou Approach

The escalated back and forth between GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee has prompted members of the clergy to intervene on how the candidates approach immigration. As Ariel Alexovich notes on The Caucus Blog, several clergy and religious activists have taken note of the current positions of the GOP candidates on immigration:

"Unfortunately, our presidential candidates are allowing themselves to be co-opted into the divisiveness of the debate," said Bishop Thomas Wenski, adding that he doesn’t yet see a leader emerging from the pack.

"Mr. Romney has bet his presidential run on the issue," said Rev. Luis Cortes Jr., president of Latino poverty relief organization Esperanza. That’s led Mr. Huckabee to take "a step to the right."

Rev. Cortes also worried that the country’s rising anti-immigrant sentiment, fueled in part by talk radio, is creating an increase in hate crimes against Hispanics.

"This issue isn’t going away, and it won’t go away with a few ‘Let’s just make the border stronger’ comments," said Rev. Joel Hunter, senior pastor of the Northland parish in Longwood, Fla.

And in the spirit of Christmas, Bishop Wenski pointed out that after the baby Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph took him and fled the oppressive reign of King Herod:

"Certainly, they didn’t have visas to cross into Egypt."

The Catholic Church, which has long been a staunch advocate for comprehensive immigration reform, also weighed in. Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles, wrote a letter to each candidate encouraging them to "show leadership on the issue of immigration" and to "work with your fellow candidates and the American people to find a humane and comprehensive solution to our broken immigration system." A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles said, "The Cardinal understands that some of the candidates have addressed the issue responsibly and courageously, while others have used attacks against immigrants as a campaign tactic,” said Tamberg. “The latter group knows who they are." I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that they're referring to candidates like this:

The Globe and Register endorsements

Here they are:

The Globe on McCain:

CONVENTIONAL wisdom among political handlers used to hold that a candidate needed to capture the political center. The last two presidential campaigns proved that wrong. The Republicans scraped out victories by pressing just enough buttons and mobilizing just enough voters. But such wins breed political polarization and deprive a president of the political capital needed to ask Americans to sacrifice in difficult times.

The antidote to such a toxic political approach is John McCain. The iconoclastic senator from Arizona has earned his reputation for straight talk by actually leveling with voters, even at significant political expense. The Globe endorses his bid in the New Hampshire Republican primary.

The Globe on Obama:

THE FIRST American president of the 21st century has not appreciated the intricate realities of our age. The next president must. The most sobering challenges that face this country - terrorism, climate change, disease pandemics - are global. America needs a president with an intuitive sense of the wider world, with all its perils and opportunities. Senator Barack Obama of Illinois has this understanding at his core. The Globe endorses his candidacy in New Hampshire's Democratic presidential primary Jan. 8.

The Register on McCain:

The leading candidates seeking the Republican nomination for president present an intriguing mix of priorities, personalities and life stories.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani inspired the city and nation with his confident leadership after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister from Arkansas, charms with homespun humor. Mitt Romney, the multimillionaire investment adviser from Massachusetts, exudes
executive discipline. As governors, both worked across the party divide to improve education and health care in their states.

Former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee brings an actor’s ease to his no-nonsense calls for a return to fiscal discipline.

Yet, for all their accomplishments on smaller stages, none can offer the tested leadership, in matters foreign and domestic, of Sen. John McCain of Arizona. McCain is most ready to lead America in a complex and dangerous world and to rebuild trust at home and abroad by inspiring confidence in his leadership.

In an era of instant celebrity, we sometimes forget the real heroes in our midst. The defining chapter of McCain’s life came 40 years ago as a naval aviator, when he was shot down over Vietnam. The crash broke both arms and a leg. When first seeing him, a fellow prisoner recalls thinking he wouldn’t live the night. He was beaten and kept in solitary confinement, held 5 years. He could have talked. He did not. Son of a prominent Navy admiral, he could have gained early release. He refused.

The one-time playboy emerged from prison a changed, more serious man. Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982 and the Senate in 1986, he has built an unconventional political career by taking stands based on principle, not party dogma, and frequently pursuing bipartisanship.

The Register on Clinton:

A deep, talented field in the Democratic caucus race offers both good and difficult choices.

No fewer than three candidates would, by their very identity, usher the nation to the doorstep of history. Should the party offer the nation the chance to choose its first woman president? Or its first black president? Or its first Latino president?

Or should the party place its trust in two senators, Joe Biden or Chris Dodd, who have served their nation with distinction for more than 30 years each? Or should it heed John Edwards’ clarion call to restore opportunity for all Americans?

Beyond their personal appeal, the candidates have outlined ambitious policy proposals on health care, education and rural policy. Yet these proposals do little to help separate the field. Their plans are similar, reflecting a growing consensus in the party about how to approach priority issues.

The choice, then, comes down to preparedness: Who is best prepared to confront the enormous challenges the nation faces — from ending the Iraq war to shoring up America’s middle class to confronting global climate change?

The job requires a president who not only understands the changes needed to move the country forward but also possesses the discipline and skill to navigate the reality of the resistant Washington power structure to get things done.

That candidate is New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Immigration: new laws in AZ, Hispanics in fear

More good reporting, more interesting stories these past few days.

The Pew Center released a 2nd round of research, this batch showing how the immigration debate has impacted Hispanics in the US. One incredible stat - more than half of all Hispanics in the US, legal and undocumented - 47 million people - fear someone close to them will be deported. Some analysts have argued that Hispanics don't really care all that much about the immigration debate. Hopefully the new Pew Center research will put that idea to rest.

The Times continues its strong leadership on the issue, offering insightful stories on new anti-immigrant laws that take effect in Arizona in January, and how a new wave of Hispanic immigrants are being received in rural Iowa. Both stories accurately capture the complexity of the issue, particularly the strong need in our economy for workers to do low wage, low skilled jobs.

And Rudy joins the Republican immigration ad parade, offering up this new one. He tackles the issue in a way consistent with our counsel these last few years - he defines the issue as one of leadership, and whether we have the political will and toughness to tackle tough problems. He never mentions amnesty, and talks openly about citizenship (though that is all a little vague). In general it is a very different approach from the more hysterical arguments coming from the Romney-Tancredo-Huckabee wing of the GOP.

For a deeper analysis of the current state of the immigration debate see this essay I penned earlier this week or visit our the immigration section of our main site.

The Washington Post weighs in with a great editorial on immigration reform

Earlier this week I wrote an essay reflecting on how obsessed - and perhaps crazy - the modern GOP has become with immigrants. Today, the Post explores a similar theme in a wonderful editorial. An excerpt:

It's a fair guess that this cruel campaign of immigrant-bashing will eventually turn toxic for the Republican Party itself, whose own strategists ( Karl Rove, among others) have long grasped the growing electoral clout of Hispanics. Those Hispanic voters, native-born or not, are anxious and angry about the intensifying nativist zeal in political rhetoric, which many are rightly blaming on the Republicans. In a new survey by the Pew Hispanic Center, half of all Hispanics in America reported that the debate on immigration has had a specific negative impact on their lives; 41 percent said that they or someone close to them had suffered discrimination in the past five years -- up from 31 percent in 2002.

The new data undercut the Republicans' frequent protestations that their targets are not legal immigrants but illegal ones. The attacks have become so venomous, and the policy proposals so pernicious, that, predictably, they have caused collateral damage among Spanish-speaking and non-native-born people generally. The anti-illegal-immigrant crowd would have us believe it honors and admires legal immigrants; in fact, it is making America a less hospitable place for them.

The candidates are stepping into a breach left by the colossal failure by Congress in June to enact comprehensive immigration reform, which held out the promise of calming a turbulent national debate. The bill would have tightened security at the borders; cracked down on employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers; established a legal mechanism for immigration for the hundreds of thousands of workers who enter the country each year to fill low-skill jobs; and provided a path to legal status for the illegal immigrants now living in America. It was a sensible response to a problem that will not be fixed by grandiose and far-fetched schemes such as Mr. Huckabee's -- cadged from an anti-illegal-immigrant think tank -- which goes heavy on enforcement and security but suggests no realistic plan to address the economy's appetite for immigrant workers in the future, let alone those here now.

Virtually all the presidential candidates now tip their hats to tougher enforcement of existing laws, with the Democrats generally differentiating themselves by saying or hinting that illegal immigrants might subsequently be offered a shot at legalization. But in Congress, some Democrats, mostly from red or purple states and wary of being attacked as insufficiently fierce on illegal immigration, are also going the enforcement-only route. A bill co-sponsored by freshman Rep. Heath Shuler, a North Carolina Democrat, which seeks to purge undocumented immigrants from the work force, would probably drive millions of them further underground; nonetheless, he has attracted a few dozen sponsors from his own party.

Such measures, in addition to state and local legislation that would deny some benefits and services to illegal immigrants, are a response to understandable and legitimate concerns that the nation's borders are porous; that illegal immigrants are straining government services and budgets; and that neighborhoods are being degraded by flophouses, day laborers and immigrant gangs. But the rhetorical excess that has accompanied the proposals, and the suggestions that millions of people might be expelled or hounded from the country, not only respond to popular disquiet; they also whip it up. According to the latest FBI statistics, from 2006, hate crimes against Hispanics had increased by more than a third since 2003.

America has had its paroxysms of anti-immigrant fervor in the past, also accompanied by spasms of violence and persecution. Today, as in the past, the national atmosphere is subverting the discussion, drowning out reason. Look at the uproar that overwhelmed New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's sensible, safety-minded proposal to make illegal immigrants eligible for driver's licenses, and you will see logic defeated by posturing, political cowardice and the poisonous diatribes of talk radio. Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who championed comprehensive reform, is now chastened by the ferocity of the demagogues who mischaracterized it as an "amnesty"; he says he "got the message" and will now speak only of enforcement in the near term. In such an ugly environment, the best one can hope for is candidates who can appeal to the nation's self-interest as well as its better instincts; who can explain that resolving the immigration mess through a comprehensive approach is not only an economic imperative but also the only realistic way out of a political swamp.

Stop me before I scapegoat again

From McClatchy:

Minuteman founder endorses Huckabee

Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the Minuteman Project, showed up in Iowa today to endorse Republican Mike Huckabee for president, McClatchy's Barb Barrett reports from Council Bluffs.

The group is known for its own policing of the U.S-Mexico border to stop illegal immigration, and the support could help Huckabee shore up support among Republican voters concerned about his record on illegal immigration.

As he's shot up in the polls, Huckabee has come under increasing scrutiny and criticism from rivals. Among the targets is his support as governor of Arkansas for a proposal to let the children of illegal immigrants in Arkansas schools earn the same scholarships as children of citizens.

Just last week Huckabee adopted a new position on immigrants, calling for all undocumenteds to leave the country within 120 days. I guess this new plan earned him this new endorsement.

Can Democrats seize the opportunity the immigration debate offers them?

Yesterday the flailing Mitt Romney launched a new ad against Mike Huckabee for being soft on immigrants. Huckabee responds with an ad, consistent with his new nutty immigration "plan," showing how tough he is. In the special election in OH-5 that concludes today three sets of GOP ads - by the candidate, by the NRCC and now by Freedom's Watch - all focus on immigrants. Last week Tom Tancredo, still at 1 percent in the Republican race for President, launched a new and extraordinary ad that ends with these words "Deport those who don't belong. Make sure they never come back." For the GOP it has become all immigration all the time.

Two new polls help explain what is going on. A new NYTimes poll shows how much the nation has grown disenchanted with the age of Bush, and how disenchanted GOP voters have become with their own party. Our recent Republican era has left the nation weaker and the American people less safe, less prosperous, and less free. Their economic and security policies have failed to deliver. Their ratings are the lowest in a generation. They face an epidemic of retirements. Their Presidential field is the least impressive of modern times. They trail the Democrats in fundraising by hundreds of millions of dollars. Right of center politics in the US is in the midst of a sustained, deep political and ideological collapse. The party of Lincoln and Reagan has become the party of Tancredo and Dobbs.

The 2nd poll is a new LA Times poll that shows 60 percent national support for an earned path to citizenship for the 11-12 million undocumented immigrants in the country. Remarkably, this poll shows 62% support for this earned path with Republican voters. And this poll, like almost every other poll taken in the last few years shows immigration to the be the top issue with just 15 percent of all voters (see this new memo from the National Immigration Forum summarizing dozens of public polls on immigration).

In the Ohio special, and in the GOP Presidential Primary, the ads are not speaking to a general election audience but are trying mightily to get the attention of a very despondent GOP base. They are using extreme and hate-filled messages to break through, and have now adopted scapegoating immigrants as a grand national strategy. And there is simply no evidence at this point that it is working. In the MA Tsongas special recently the Republican candidate lost. In the 2007 elections in VA and NY the GOP investment in immigration did not pay off, and the Dems won key elections in both states. It also did not deliver for them in 2006 in hard fought races across the country. At the Presidential level Romney who has invested the most in the immigration issue is plummeting in Iowa. Tancredo who has bet his whole campaign on the issue is at 1 percent. 1 percent!

Democrats should be viewing this ongoing GOP obsession with immigration not as something to fear but as a powerful sign of the collapse of the modern Republican Party. In 2008 the GOP cannot run on its governing accomplishments. Cannot run on its health care plan. Cannot run on its vision for our security. Cannot run on its strategy to help a struggling middle class. Cannot run on their high moral and ethical standards. Cannot run on fiscal responsibility. So what is left? An issue that nostalgically evokes the racism of their now anachronistic Southern Strategy, that doesn't even have majority support in their own Party, is reinforcing that their Party has become more interested in scoring political points than solving vexing national problems and that is managing to anger the fastest growing part of the American electorate, Hispanics.

Smart Republicans have been sounding the alarms. In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Former Bush speech writer Michael Gerson wrote:

The political effects of conservative opposition to immigration reform have been swift as well. Latino support for GOP candidates dropped back to 30 percent in 2006. According to one poll, Latinos under age 30 now prefer a generic Democrat over a Republican for president by 42 points. A harsh, Tancredo-like image of Republicans has solidified in the mainstream Hispanic media. And all of this regression will be even more obvious in the next few months, because more than half of the Hispanic voters in America live in states that are part of the new lineup of early primaries.

I have never seen an issue where the short-term interests of Republican presidential candidates in the primaries were more starkly at odds with the long-term interests of the party itself. At least five swing states that Bush carried in 2004 are rich in Hispanic voters -- Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and Florida. Bush won Nevada by just over 20,000 votes. A substantial shift of Hispanic voters toward the Democrats in these states could make the national political map unwinnable for Republicans.

There is a moral hazard as well. Surfing on a wave of voter resentment is easier than rowing on the calmer waters of inclusion and charity. But the heroes of America are generally heroes of reconciliation, not division.

In politics, some acts are so emblematic and potent that they cannot be undone for decades -- as when Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Goldwater was no racist; his constitutional objections were sincere. Members of the Republican Party actually voted for the Civil Rights Act in higher percentages than Democrats. But all of this was overwhelmed by the symbolism of the moment. In his autobiography, Colin Powell says that after the Goldwater vote, he went to his car and affixed a Lyndon Johnson bumper sticker, as did many other African Americans. Now Republicans seem to be repeating history with Hispanic Americans. Some in the party seem pleased. They should be terrified.

And in a great new article in the New Yorker, Return of the Nativist, Ryan Lizza reports on this conversation he had with Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, who has been a stalwart champion of immigration reform and is a backer of John McCain:

Graham read me one of the questions that his pollster asked about immigration. The poll tested voters’ opinion of three different proposals to deal with illegal immigrants: “arrest and deport”; “allow them to be temporary workers, as long as they have a job”; “fine them and allow them to become citizens only if they learn English and get to the back of the line.” In two separate polls, the majority supported the third option. The average for the first option was only twenty-six per cent.

“What it tells me is that the emotion of the twenty-six per cent is real, somewhat understandable, but if not contained could destroy our ability to grow the Party,” he said. “And I don’t think you need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that if you’re going to win a general election you have to do well with Hispanic voters as a Republican.” He continued, “My concern is that we’re going to have an honest but overly emotional debate about immigration, and we’ll say things for the moment, in the primary chase, that will make it very difficult for us to win in November. There’s a fine line between being upset about violating the law and appearing to be upset about someone’s last name.”

Graham, who is one of McCain’s staunchest supporters, had not yet seen a new poll by the Pew Hispanic Center, which reported that the gains made among Hispanic voters during the Bush era have now been erased. Nevertheless, he had a warning for Republicans: “Those politicians that are able to craft a message tailored to the moment but understanding of the long-term consequences to the country and to the Party are the ones that are a blessing. And the ones who live for the moment and don’t think about long-term consequences, demographic changes, over time have proven to have been more of a liability than an asset.” He added, “Be careful of chasing the rabbit down a hole here.”

It is simply astonishing that Democrats have not fully grasped the enormity of the opportunity immigration reform presents. Embracing comprehensive immigration reform will allow to draw a bright line distinction with the GOP on an issue where the Democratic position has majority support of the American people; has the support of a deep and broad national coalition that includes prominent religious leaders, labor, business and immigrant rights groups, elected leaders like George Bush, John McCain, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and passed a GOP-controlled Senate with 62 votes; shows they can take on the tough ones, and work to solve vexing national problems; drives a deep wedge in the GOP coalition; and makes a major overture to Hispanics, who are the key to a permanent 21st century progressive governing coalition.

For Democrats embracing comprehensive immigration reform is the right thing to do morally, legislatively and politically. Me-tooing the GOP on this one, as some Democrats have suggested, will deny the Democrats an opportunity to put the Republicans away for a very long time and commit them to a position simply inconsistent with their Party's core values. On this issue the right thing to do is not to duck - but to stand and fight.

Immigration should properly be seen by Democrats as one their greatest political and governing opportunities of this political era, and a true test of whether they have what it takes to lead the emerging America of the 21st century. The Republicans are failing their test. For the good of the country I hope the Democrats pass theirs.

Update: Several of you have rightly pointed out that there are many Democrats who do see this opportunity - they include all the Democratic Presidential candidates, almost all of the Democrats in the Senate and many Democrats in the House. Led by Harry Reid and Ted Kennedy, the Senate Democrats have worked hard these last two years to fix our broken immigration system. They passed a good bill through the Senate in 2006 and waged an intense and spirited campaign to get it done in 2007 but at the end were betrayed by a Republican Party that promised to be there and simply didn't deliver the votes.

Al Gore: "We will act."

 Al Gore gave a very important speech today in Oslo. It may be the most important speech yet given in our new century. You can read the whole thing on his site. I excerpt a portion I found most compelling:

We must abandon the conceit that individual, isolated, private actions are the answer. They can and do help. But they will not take us far enough without collective action. At the same time, we must ensure that in mobilizing globally, we do not invite the establishment of ideological conformity and a new lock-step “ism.”

That means adopting principles, values, laws, and treaties that release creativity and initiative at every level of society in multifold responses originating concurrently and spontaneously.

This new consciousness requires expanding the possibilities inherent in all humanity. The innovators who will devise a new way to harness the sun’s energy for pennies or invent an engine that’s carbon negative may live in Lagos or Mumbai or Montevideo. We must ensure that entrepreneurs and inventors everywhere on the globe have the chance to change the world.

When we unite for a moral purpose that is manifestly good and true, the spiritual energy unleashed can transform us. The generation that defeated fascism throughout the world in the 1940s found, in rising to meet their awesome challenge, that they had gained the moral authority and long-term vision to launch the Marshall Plan, the United Nations, and a new level of global cooperation and foresight that unified Europe and facilitated the emergence of democracy and prosperity in Germany, Japan, Italy and much of the world. One of their visionary leaders said, “It is time we steered by the stars and not by the lights of every passing ship.”

In the last year of that war, you gave the Peace Prize to a man from my hometown of 2000 people, Carthage, Tennessee. Cordell Hull was described by Franklin Roosevelt as the “Father of the United Nations.” He was an inspiration and hero to my own father, who followed Hull in the Congress and the U.S. Senate and in his commitment to world peace and global cooperation.

My parents spoke often of Hull, always in tones of reverence and admiration. Eight weeks ago, when you announced this prize, the deepest emotion I felt was when I saw the headline in my hometown paper that simply noted I had won the same prize that Cordell Hull had won. In that moment, I knew what my father and mother would have felt were they alive.

Just as Hull’s generation found moral authority in rising to solve the world crisis caused by fascism, so too can we find our greatest opportunity in rising to solve the climate crisis. In the Kanji characters used in both Chinese and Japanese, “crisis” is written with two symbols, the first meaning “danger,” the second “opportunity.” By facing and removing the danger of the climate crisis, we have the opportunity to gain the moral authority and vision to vastly increase our own capacity to solve other crises that have been too long ignored.

We must understand the connections between the climate crisis and the afflictions of poverty, hunger, HIV-Aids and other pandemics. As these problems are linked, so too must be their solutions. We must begin by making the common rescue of the global environment the central organizing principle of the world community.

Fifteen years ago, I made that case at the “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro. Ten years ago, I presented it in Kyoto. This week, I will urge the delegates in Bali to adopt a bold mandate for a treaty that establishes a universal global cap on emissions and uses the market in emissions trading to efficiently allocate resources to the most effective opportunities for speedy reductions.

This treaty should be ratified and brought into effect everywhere in the world by the beginning of 2010 – two years sooner than presently contemplated. The pace of our response must be accelerated to match the accelerating pace of the crisis itself.

Heads of state should meet early next year to review what was accomplished in Bali and take personal responsibility for addressing this crisis. It is not unreasonable to ask, given the gravity of our circumstances, that these heads of state meet every three months until the treaty is completed.

We also need a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store carbon dioxide.

And most important of all, we need to put a price on carbon -- with a CO2 tax that is then rebated back to the people, progressively, according to the laws of each nation, in ways that shift the burden of taxation from employment to pollution. This is by far the most effective and simplest way to accelerate solutions to this crisis.

The world needs an alliance – especially of those nations that weigh heaviest in the scales where earth is in the balance. I salute Europe and Japan for the steps they’ve taken in recent years to meet the challenge, and the new government in Australia, which has made solving the climate crisis its first priority.

But the outcome will be decisively influenced by two nations that are now failing to do enough: the United States and China. While India is also growing fast in importance, it should be absolutely clear that it is the two largest CO2 emitters — most of all, my own country –– that will need to make the boldest moves, or stand accountable before history for their failure to act.

Both countries should stop using the other’s behavior as an excuse for stalemate and instead develop an agenda for mutual survival in a shared global environment.

These are the last few years of decision, but they can be the first years of a bright and hopeful future if we do what we must. No one should believe a solution will be found without effort, without cost, without change. Let us acknowledge that if we wish to redeem squandered time and speak again with moral authority, then these are the hard truths:

The way ahead is difficult. The outer boundary of what we currently believe is feasible is still far short of what we actually must do. Moreover, between here and there, across the unknown, falls the shadow.

That is just another way of saying that we have to expand the boundaries of what is possible. In the words of the Spanish poet, Antonio Machado, “Pathwalker, there is no path. You must make the path as you walk.”

We are standing at the most fateful fork in that path. So I want to end as I began, with a vision of two futures – each a palpable possibility – and with a prayer that we will see with vivid clarity the necessity of choosing between those two futures, and the urgency of making the right choice now.

The great Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen, wrote, “One of these days, the younger generation will come knocking at my door.”

The future is knocking at our door right now. Make no mistake, the next generation will ask us one of two questions. Either they will ask: “What were you thinking; why didn’t you act?”

Or they will ask instead: “How did you find the moral courage to rise and successfully resolve a crisis that so many said was impossible to solve?”

We have everything we need to get started, save perhaps political will, but political will is a renewable resource.

So let us renew it, and say together: “We have a purpose. We are many. For this purpose we will rise, and we will act.”

Huckabee calls for all undocumented immigrants to leave in 120 days

In a major reversal, Mike Huckabee announced a new immigration plan that calls for the 11-12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States to leave the country in 120 days. Once back in their home countries they could then apply for legal entry to the country. While this may on the surface sound reasonable, given the numbers waiting to get into the country, it would be years before they could return, even if they wanted to. So no matter how they dress it up it is a call for the immediately expulsion of tens of millions of people living and working here in the United States each day.

No matter how you feel about the morality of the plan, or its practicality, it is amazing that the man who may win the GOP nomination is calling for the forced expulsion of 5 percent of the current American workforce. The economic and societal chaos these kinds of plans would create is almost unimaginable. After his reasonable approach to the issue in the last GOP debate, this new plan is yet more evidence of the incredible inability of today's GOP to put pragmatic progress before politics.

How far the children of Reagan have strayed. The modern conservative movement has become a feckless and irresponsible force in America, offering wild and unproven ideas, unprecedented levels of corruption and a reactionary vision of race and community simply not suited to the emerging America of the 21st century.

Huckabee is not alone of course. Earlier this week Tom Tancredo, still soaring at 1% in his race for President, launched a new TV ad that closes with this uplifting sentiment: "Deport those who don't belong. Make sure they never come back."

As NDN has been arguing for some time, this kind of approach towards immigration has had catastrophic consequences for the GOP. It is shameful that Mike Huckabee has adopted it as his own. I am looking forward to seeing him defend his new plan at the Univision debate tomorrow night.

Update: The National Immigration Forum just released an excellent summary of the immigration debate.

The GOP debate over immigration

In his nationally syndicated column today David Broder reminds us that there is, and has been, an intense debate inside the Republican Party over what to do about our broken immigration system. Up until late 2005 the GOP's position, as defined by the President, was to support the national effort to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform, a process that generated one of the most bi-partisan and broad-based coalitions in the Bush era and a good and thoughtful bill. This more open approach to Hispanics and their concerns doubled the GOP's share of the fast-growing Hispanic vote, and was critical to his two very close election wins in 2000 and 2004.

In 2006 the GOP Senate, prodded by Bush, actually passed Comprehensive Immigration Reform with the votes of all 44 Democratic Senators and 18 Republicans. But this more enlightened Republican strategy was rejected by the crumbling Congressional GOP, and a new strategy - call it the Sensenbrenner-Tancredo-Romney strategy - that demonized immigrants challenged the prevailing Bush approach. In 2006 the House GOP refused to even take up the Senate bill and immigration reform stalled. The President was so determined to fight the rise of this new approach that he appointed an Hispanic immigrant to be the RNC Chair in 2007.

When Senate Democrats reintroduced Comprehensive Immigration Reform earlier this year we saw the same tensions play out in the GOP. Despite its failure the final bill had key Senate Republican leaders backing a version of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, calling for keeping all 11 million undocumenteds in the country.

As Michael Gerson, President Bush's former speechwriter wrote recently in the Washington Post, the anti-immigrant sentiment that has prevailed in today's GOP if unchecked will likely cost the GOP the Presidency in 2008. 5 states with heavily Hispanic populations - AZ, CO, FL, NM and NV - won by Bush in 2004 could very easily now flip to the Democrats. Just adding the 4 Southwestern states to John Kerry's total in 2004 would have given him the Presidency.

As Broder details today there two GOP candidates - McCain and Huckabee - who have come out aggressively for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, recognizing as they do both the moral necessity of fixing our immigration system, and the political necessity for their own possible Presidential race next year. Thus as Democrats look to 2008, and the absolute requirement for them to win over the Hispanic vote - one of the most volatile swing voting blocks in American politics today - it would not be wise to assume that over the next 12 months the nativistic Tancredo strategy continues to trump the more enlightened Bush approach to immigration reform inside the GOP.

For more on immigration and the Hispanic vote read our new report, Hispanics Rising.  On Friday EJ Dionne wrote a hard-hitting column echoing these same themes.  

Update: Of course the Huckabee as enlightened on immigration narrative seemed too good to be true.  Matt Ortega found this story showing that Huckabee wants to revisit the idea that citizenship is a birthright.  As the now leading GOP candidate in Iowa says:

” ‘I would support changing that. I think there is reason to revisit that, just because a person, through sheer chance of geography, happened to be physically here at the point of birth, doesn’t necessarily constitute citizenship,’ he said. ‘I think that’s a very reasonable thing to do, to revisit that.’ “

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