Analysis: The Southwest Has Become A Democratic Stronghold

The Importance of the Heavily Mexican-American Parts of the US to the Democrats– In a lively discussion on Friday December 4th, 2020 with Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego, NDN took a look at one of the more important geographical developments in recent years - the turning of the Southwest and heavily Mexican American parts of the US much more blue.  

You can watch the discussion here, read a Greg Sargent Washington Post story which quotes both Rep. Gallego and Simon, and review some of NDN’s previous work in this space here, here here and here. Simon was also cited in a recent Claire Hansen US News analysis:

"While immigration may not be a top issue in the current debate, it has played a major role in the election – Trump's extremism on the issue has helped push the heavily Mexican American parts of the country even further away from the president and his party, making his Electoral College map far harder, and the Senate far more likely to flip," Rosenberg says.

One remarkable set of stats which Simon shared during the discussion showed just how much ground the GOP have lost in this region since Bush swept it in 2004.  A snapshot of how much has changed from 2004 to 2020 in AZ, CO, NM, NV:

Dem Electoral Votes – 0 in 2004, all 31 (100%) in 2020

Dem Senate Seats – 2 of 8 (25%) in 2004, all 8 (100%) in 2020

Dem House Seats – 6 of 21 (29%) in 2004, 14 of 23 (61%) in 2020

Dem Govs – 0 of 4 in 2004, 3 of 4 (75%) in 2020

In 16 years Dems have picked up 31 Electoral College votes, 6 Senate seats, 8 House seats and 3 governorships in these 4 southwestern states.  When you expand this analysis to include CA and TX, you get: 

Dem Electoral Votes – 55 of 118 (47%) Electoral College votes in 2004, 86 of 124 (69%) in 2020

Dem Senate Seats – 4 of 10 (40%) in 2004, 10 of 12 (83%) in 2020

Dem House Seats – 55 of 106 (52%) in 2004, 69 of 112 (62%) in 2020

Dem Govs – 0 of 6 (0%) in 2004, 4 of 6 (67%) in 2020

If current census projections hold, Biden's 306 Electoral College vote total will shrink to 301, the region will pick up 4 to get to 128, and the # of EC votes coming from the 4 states will grow to 33.  At 301 and 33, this means that Biden is at 268 without AZ, CO, NM, NV, further reinforcing the political significance of the region. 

From this region today comes the next Vice President, the current Speaker, and the next HHS Secretary who will be leading the fight against COVID.  The DCCC Chair in the 2018 cycle was from NM; the current DSCC Chair is from Nevada; the next DGA Chair is from New Mexico.  All four of Dem Senate pick ups over the last 2 election cycles have come from this region – Rosen (NV) and Sinema (AZ) in 2018, Hickenlooper (CO) and Kelly (AZ) in 2020.  

This recent transformation of the heavily Mexican-Americans part of the country, which includes our two largest states, ranks as one of the most important geographic and/or demographic stories of early 21st century American politics.  It is deserving of far more attention.  

Notes On The GOP's Erosion In The Southwest

This analysis was originally published on election night in 2018 and has been updated for release today.

As President Trump and Beto O'Rourke hold dueling political events in El Paso today, it is worth noting just how much the Southwest - an area which for the purposes of this analysis includes AZ, CA, CO, NM, NV and TX - has eroded for the GOP since Trump was nominated in 2016.  This erosion remains one of the most significant recent developments in American politics, as it involves a large region of the country which includes our two largest states. 

As background the three states which saw the biggest movement towards the Democrats in 2016 were, in order, CA (7pts), TX (6.8pts) and AZ (5.5pts). Polling throughout the 2018 cycle showed significant weakness for Trump in the region, and the bottom fell out here on election night 2018.  In Texas, Beto O'Rourke got within 2 1/2 points of Ted Cruz, helped Dems win 2 Congressional seats and many down ballot races, and held 6 GOP reps to 51% or less (TX-10, 21, 22, 23, 24 and 31).  Kyrsten Sinema became the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in Arizona since 1988, and Dems now hold a 5-4 advantage in the AZ Congressional delegation. Democrats had very good/blowout nights in Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, so much so that there are questions about whether these states will remain in the Presidential battleground in 2020.  Democrats picked up 12 House seats previously held by Republicans in the Southwest, including 7 in California alone, a state where the GOP didn’t even have a Senate candidate on the ballot and where voters with no party preference now outnumber Republicans in registration (and the home of the two most significant GOP Presidents in the past 50 years).  We saw intensity too.  AZ, NV and TX saw more people vote early this year than voted in all of 2014, the only 3 states to see that level of increase.  All in all it was just a huge and game changing wipeout in this region for Trump.

Trump has remained extremely unpopular in the region since November 6th. According to Morning Consult's state polling project, Trump's approval was -18, -18, and -13 in Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada in January 2019. Perhaps ever more worrisome for Rs, he was -7 in purple Arizona, and -1 in red Texas. These current ratings represent significant falls in Trump's approval even since his loss in the midterms. Compared to November 2018, his net approval today has fallen by 8 points in each of Colorado, Nevada, and Texas, and by 3 and 5 points in New Mexico and Arizona.

Over the last two years there was always this sense that while the President’s thunderous championing of white nationalist, xenophobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies was hurting him in the heavily Mexican-American parts of the US, it was the key to unlock the Rustbelt and Midwest.  Given the really bad election the GOP had in the northern part of the US in 2018 that no longer appears to be true. Trump may have used the caravan to win in very red and rural places like Indiana, Missouri and Tennessee, but Democrats made significant gains in critical 2020 battlegrounds IA, MI, PA and WI. 

Trump's big play on the border appears to be a very costly failure for him and the GOP - it hasn't locked up the industrial north as they hoped, it has caused what I believe to be a structural shift against Republicans in a big region of the country and his overall poll numbers are far below where he was on his dismal election night in 2018.  Recall that as recently as 2004 Bush won AZ, CO, NM and NV and Senator Kerry didn't even contest CO that year.  Trump has accelerated the movement of the heavily Mexican-American part of the US from lean R to deep blue and purple now.  If CO, NM and NV are now gone for Republicans, and Arizona and Texas have become true 2020 battlegrounds, the political costs to the GOP of Trump's Presidency will have been significant. 

Related Writings:

Backlash To Trumpism Brewing In The Border Region - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 5/7/18 - There is a growing body of evidence Trumpism is hurting the GOP brand in the border region. Big implications for 2018, 2020 too. 

Trump Is Right To Be Worried About Arizona (And Texas Too) - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 8/21/17 - It is instructive that some of the most powerful opposition to Trump's agenda is coming from Arizona. He is right to be worried about it.

The GOP Should Be Worried About Texas - Simon Rosenberg, U.S. News & World Report, 10/27/16 - Texas has a higher percentage of both millennials and Hispanics today than California, suggesting that with a significant investment in the coming years Texas could indeed follow California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and now Arizona from red to blue.

Trump is right to be worried about Arizona (and Texas too)

When Donald Trump returns to Arizona tomorrow, he is returning to a state that is now among the most important Presidential battlegrounds in the country.

Though it was not heavily contested by the Clinton and Trump campaigns in 2016, a combination of Trump’s structural weaknesses with Hispanic and Millennial voters and the growing share of the vote in Arizona of both these groups have made this state far more competitive than it has been in the past. Some background, and data:

Arizona now a large, core Presidential battleground state. Of the 15 expanded 2016 battleground states (AZ, CO, FL, GA, IA, ME, MI, MN, NC, NH, NV, OH, PA, VA, WI), Arizona was Clinton’s 11th best (losing by a margin 3.5% points). Clinton performed worse in NC (3.7), GA (5.2), OH (8.4) and IA (9.1). Arizona has more Electoral College votes (11) than 6 of these battlegrounds – WI (10), CO (9), IA (6), NV (6), ME (4), NH (4) – and almost as many as VA (13) and NC (15).

Arizona is trending Democratic. In an election that swung 1.8 % points from 2012 towards Trump, the GOP margin slipped in AZ from 9.1% points in 2012 to just 3.5 in 2016. This 5.5 point shift was the 3rd largest shift towards the Democrats of any medium to large state in 2016, only outpaced by CA (7.0) and TX (6.8). According to the 2016 exit polls, 18-29 year olds went 53-35 for Clinton and 18-44 overall went 49-39. Non-white voters, making up a quarter of the electorate, and growing rapidly, went 61-31 for Clinton. This number could clearly get much worse for Trump and Rs given Trump’s embrace of a politics seen as anti-immigrant and anti-Latino.

Arizona a sign of continued Democratic gains in the “Latin Belt.” While much attention has been given in recent months to the Rust Belt, it is important to also pay attention to what I call the “Latin Belt” – AZ, CA, CO, FL, NM, NV and TX – states with large, growing Hispanic/Latino populations. The slow migration of these states from Nixon/Reagan Sunbelt Republican states to more competitive and even now Democratic states have been one of the most important demographic stories in American politics in recent years. This region includes the 3 biggest states in the country and has 29% (153) of all the nation’s Electoral College votes. According to 538, it will add another 7 Electoral Votes in 2024 due to reapportionment.

As recently as 1984, all of these states voted Republican. All but California voted Republican in 1988. Florida remains a contested battleground. New Mexico has moved solidly into the Democratic column. Colorado (4.9) and Nevada (2.4) gave Clinton two of her four biggest margins of victory in the battleground. The remaining two – AZ and TX – moved dramatically towards Democrats in 2016.

As I wrote prior to the election, it is possible that Texas joins Arizona as a new Presidential battleground in 2020. Texas has among the highest Millennial and Hispanic share of population of any state in the US, comparable to the shares of each of these fast growing and Democratic-leaning groups in true blue California. Trump did very poorly with both of these groups in 2016 – losing 18-29s 55-36, 18-44s 49-43 and Hispanics 61-34. In a recent Texas Tribune/UTexas poll Trump’s job approval was 43-51, one of the most dramatic drops of approval he has seen in any state (TT/UT poll has similar findings as the Gallup poll referenced here).

While Trump should be comforted that he won Texas by 9 points in 2016, if Texas sees a shift in 2020 comparable to its 2016 shift of 7 points Texas could indeed join Arizona as a new Presidential battleground.

Trump’s Presidency Has Been Hostile To The Southwest/Border Region In Ways Which Are Already Causing Him Problems – While focused like a laser beam on the industrial north, Trump’s Presidency has been hostile to much of the Latin Belt, the southwestern/border region in particular. The demonization of Mexico, the border wall, the renegotiation of NAFTA, the anti-Hispanic/anti-immigrant /intolerant stances are controversial and difficult positions for him in a region of the country with many recent immigrants and which has deep cultural and economic ties with Mexico.  According to the exit polls, 2016 Presidential voters in Arizona choose legal status over deportation by 76-18 (higher than the nation), and opposed a border wall 51-45.  A new poll just released in Arizona has Trump at a dangerously low 42-55 approval, and a clear majority opposing a possible Arpaio pardon. 

I warned the White House about misunderstanding these politics in a recent US News column, "Steve Bannon Meet Russell Pearce." 

It should be instructive that among the most important opposition to Trump in both parties is coming from this region of the country. Senators Flake and McCain have become perhaps Trump’s most important GOP opponents in the US Senate, and Gov. Jerry Brown, Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Ruben Gallego have become nationally recognized leaders of the Democratic opposition.

Whatever Trump does in Arizona tomorrow – pardon Arpaio, endorse Flake’s GOP primary challenger – he returns to a core 2020 battleground state that appears to be slipping away from him and more broadly, the Republican Party. He is right to be concerned.  Whether what he does tomorrow in Arizona helps or hurts him remains to be seen.

Note: Earlier this year Simon did a longish interview with Phoenix's KJZZ 91.5 on Trump, Arizona and immigration.    

Trump and Clinton Look Unstoppable Now; Some Thoughts About the 2016 Map

2016 Overview - Yes, there are scenarios where Clinton and Trump could come up short this summer. But they are increasingly unlikely, even remote. A Trump Clinton match up looks assured now, and what a titanic battle it will be.

Over the next week Democrats will vote in six states, Republicans four. The frontrunners are likely to lose some states in this patch. The nature of the states gives Sanders a bit more of a “comeback” opportunity, so there could be some drama this week. But it is also an opportunity for Trump and Clinton to re-assert their control over their nominating processes.

I spent some time recently looking ahead to a fall Clinton Trump matchup. A lot is unknown at this point but we do know a few important things: Clinton is consistently over 50 percent in the early match ups; Obama’s approval rating is now up in the high 40s, low 50s, a critical development in the race; the Electoral College Map still favors the Democrats; and on the big issue – can Trump flip enough white men to put the Rustbelt in play? - there just isn’t a lot of evidence yet that he can (and more here). For more on the fall, I recommend these good, early pieces from Dan Balz, Ron Brownstein and Greg Sargent.

The 2016 Electoral Map – New House rankings from the Cook Report now suggest that there is at least a mathematical possibility the Democrats could retake the House (they would need to win 30 of 31 targeted races). A bit surprised by this, I spent some time with the 2016 map and Cook’s rankings of all the Federal races. Using the Cook rankings (with one change - I moved AZ Senate into Tossup/Lean GOP), I came up with the following cheat sheet and thoughts about a possible expansion of what has been a very small Presidential map for Democrats:

Presidential 10-15

Dem Hold (10) - CO, FL, IA, NH, MI, NV, OH, PA, VA, WI

Dem PickUp (3) – AZ, GA, NC

Dem Watch (2) – MN, NM

Senate 8-11 (Dems need to pick up 7 seats net for a majority)

Hold (2) – CO, NV

PickUp 1st Tier (8) – AZ, FL, IL, NC, NH, OH, PA, WI

PickUp 2nd Tier (2) – GA, IA

House 37 - (31 Dem PickUps and 6 Holds, 30 net needed for majority)

AZ (2), CO (1), CA (4), FL (5), IL (1), IA (2), ME (1), MI (2), MN (2), NE (1), NH (1), NJ (1), NV (2), NY (6), PA (1), TX (1), UT (1), VA (2), WI (1)

Key Takeaways - In 2016 there is remarkable overlap between the Presidential and Senate target states. 9 of the 10 top tier Presidential states also have priority Senate races (and Dems are trying to make the 10th, Iowa, competitive at the Senate level), whereas only 3 of the Presidential states in 2012 and 2008 also had competitive Senate races. This overlap offers the national Democratic Party coordination opportunities that could produce enough economies of scale to free up resources to expand the national map. Why is this important? It has my belief that in the Obama era the national Party has not taken enough responsibility for winning elections beyond the very small number (10) of states in each of the last two Presidential cycles. Expanding the map as we discuss below will not only help the Democrats win the Senate, but now that the House is mathematically in play, maximize gains in the House (and of course help at the state and local level too).

The counter of course is that it is too risky to spread limited resources too thin. Hunker down, the argument goes, weather the Trumpian storm, win the Presidency, remake the Supreme Court, etc. But this is an unusual electoral map offering unique opportunities this year; Trump as GOP nominee ensures substantial resources allowing Democrats to consider going on offense; and if successful, could allow Democrats to not just win but have a chance of getting some of their agenda through Congress next year. Let’s look at two highly leveraged expansion paths:

Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina– Each of these longer shot Presidential targets also have targeted Senate races, and given where the polling is today in the Senate, it would be wise for the Democrats to put more races in play. There are questions whether any Southern state is open to the Democrats with Trump on the top of the ticket, but more will be known about this soon. Arizona looks particularly attractive this time as early polling has both the Presidential and Senate races as toss ups; there are also two Congressional seats in play; and Hispanics could be motivated by a ballot that may have both Arpaio and Trump. It should be noted that in 2008 team Obama ran a serious well funded campaign targeting Hispanics in nearby states with similar Hispanic populations - CO, NM and NV - turnout increased between 30 and 63%. Given where the polling is now, the first ever well funded and sophisticated Hispanic effort lead by the nominee could turn Arizona into a purple, lean blue state, as we’ve seen in other states with large Hispanic populations where the national party has invested.

Adding these three states would leave only the Illinois Senate race outside the national Democratic Party map and solely up to the DSCC to manage - though Illinois natives Obama and Clinton might have something to say about that.

California and New York - The map also suggests that the national Democratic Party and nominee should consider mounting some kind of coordinated effort in both New York and California. 19 of the 37 targeted House seats fall within the expanded 13 state map. 10 more fall in New York and California. Mounting targeted campaign in NY and CA to drive up turnout – something no national Democratic party has done in decades – could help put 10 more House seats in play. This means 29 of the 37 target House seats would fall under the national coordinated campaign’s reach, leaving only 8 of the 37 House races and solely up to the DCCC. This kind of coordination and leverage would be unprecedented in recent national politics, and could make the difference not only in the Democrats winning the White House, but in flipping the Senate and getting the House very very close.

So the national party strategy could look like:

National Party Coordinated Strategy

Pres/Senate (10) – CO, FL, IA, NH, MI, NV, OH, PA, VA, WI.

Expansion 1/Pres P/U and Senate P/U (3) – AZ, GA, NC. 

Expansion 2/Maximize House Impact – 17 targets in core 10 Presidential states, 19 in expanded map. 10 more in CA, NY.

Expansion 3/Presidential Watch (2) – MN, NM (states closer than expected in 2012).

Will the nominee and national Party expand the national map, taking advantage of unprecedented economies of scale and highly leveraged opportunities specific to this cycle? I hope so.

Oldie But Goodie - “In this election cycle the Republican’s angry war against modernity has escalated and appears to have become institutionalized. It is almost as if the more the world moves away from the simplicity of the Reagan moment the more angry and defiant – and of course wrong – the Republican offering is becoming” - Simon Rosenberg, “Forward, Or Backward?” September, 2012

More on the 2016 Election - Our tally of the Presidential primary debates audiences which finds the GOP far outperforming the Dems; the Democratic bench is stronger than it appears; Clinton should become a champion of political and electoral reform; thoughts on the "children of Reagan;" my in-depth interview with conservative author Matt Lewis on what the GOP can learn from a generation of reform and success on the center-left; my long form magazine piece on the descent of the GOP into a reactionary mess, anticipating the rise of Trump; Rob Shapiro on Trump's economic plan and the crackup of the GOP.  

"Monday Musings" is a new column which looks at the national political landscape and is published most Mondays here on the NDN site. You can find previous columns here. It also appears each week on the London-based progressive site, Left Foot Forward

Full disclosure: I am supporting Hillary Clinton for President, and have given the maximum contribution to her campaign. I am not, however, a consultant to, or paid by, any campaign or party committee.

On Gabby Giffords

I've had a hard time sitting down this weekend and writing about what happened to Representative Gabby Giffords and the good people in that strip mall parking lot on Saturday morning.   I know Representative Giffords.  To me she has always represented the best of what a Member of Congress could be.  Smart, hard-working, in touch with her complicated district, willing to take a stand even on tough ones like immigration reform and SB1070 (just take a look at the bio on her Congressional website to get a sense of her - remarkable stuff).  It is unimaginable that this thoughtful, respectful, serious elected leader was gunned down on Saturday.  In hearing the news my kids saw their daddy cry for the first time in their lives.  Am still strugging to make sense of it all, and am trying awfully hard not to put anything down in writing until I take a bit more time.  

But I also can't see what happened outside the prism of the extraordinarily contentious politics in Arizona these last few years.   NDN and its affiliates have spent millions of dollars in Arizona over the past decade, working to enfranchise and empower a Latino community that has been steamrolled and scapegoated to a degree far worse than other Latino community of size anywhere in the US.  In this past election cycle, NDN ran a major Spanish language media campaign in AZ, CO and NV, in part driven by the coursening of the debate and dialogue in Arizona (so well captured by the courageous Sheriff Dupnik) and ended up spending more money in the Tucson media market than any other.  As EJ Dionne writes about today, Rep. Giffords has been on the receiving of this extra-ordinary threatening  and contentious brand of politics (her opponent held fundraisers on a shooting range) more than perhaps any politician in the US these past several years.   

As we prepare for the Monday Martin Luther King holiday next week, let us reflect on his message, and in particular our own willingness to combat intolerance in our midst.  There is perhaps no greater founding principle of our nation than tolerance for those not like us.  It certainly predates the revolutionary spirit of the Boston Tea Party so very much in vogue these days, and in many ways is much more appropriate to the moment we are in.

Our nation in growing through profound and historic change right now.  We are leaving the security of a post WWII "American Century" culture, and entering a period of our national story much less certain.  We are have seen vast waves of immigration which is changing who we are.  Technology and media have become both liberating but also disruptive forces, literally reshaping the way we do just about everything in our lives.  Rising powers and greater global competition are remaking the world as we know it, forcing us to re-imagine America's role in a new century.  More must be done by our leaders to talk about these changes, help people understand them, and to craft plans and strategies which maximize our national chance for success.  This next great American project will have to be grounded in the value of tolerance and civil discourse, for we, Americans, have become much more diverse, and success in this new more complicated world of the 21st century will require America to inter-act with, and partner with, a vastly more diverse set of global actors than in the past.  Tolerance of people not like us will become a bedrock value of the emerging American ethic of this new century, or this next great American project will not turn out as we all hope it will.  

But i digress. and will certainly have more to add here in the days ahead.  I end by expressing my deepest and most profound hope for Gabby's recovery, and sympathy for those families who lost loved ones in this terrible, terrible tragedy.

Update - NYTimes has a thoughtful take along similar lines here.

NDN Expands Ad Buys in AZ and CO - Help us do more.

Over a month ago, NDN launched a major Spanish-language radio campaign in three southwestern states designed to increase Hispanic participation in the upcoming elections. Our supporters have chipped in more than $350,000 so far for this campaign, and thanks to new donations received this week, we were able to significantly increase our media buys in Arizona and Colorado, and put a new closing ad on the air in each state.

You can listen to or read the scripts of these powerful, creative ads-- featuring Joe Arpaio, Jan Brewer and Tom Tancredo-- here.

But there are more stations to buy in our three states - Arizona, Colorado and Nevada - and more ads we can produce and run.  Can you help us expand our final weekend ad buys with a contribution of $25, $50 or more to our campaign? Every dollar you give will go into buying more time for our powerful ads which are now saturating the airwaves in these three states, but we must receive your donation by 4pm today.

Please support our campaign today and help us make sure that the fastest-growing part of the American electorate turns out strong this November.

And thanks for all that you do.

NDN On The Air Now in AZ, CO, NV - Can You Help Us Expand Our Campaigns?

Earlier this morning, NDN announced that we had purchased a substantial amount of advertising time on Spanish-language radio stations in Arizona, Colorado and Nevada.  The campaign in each of the three states focus on messages encouraging Latino-American to vote in the upcoming 2010 elections.

The campaigns in Colorado and Nevada are designed to increase awareness of the early voting option, which begins Saturday, October 16th, in Nevada and Monday, October 18th in Colorado.  The campaign in Arizona, which has already been on the air for several weeks, makes the case that the only way for Latinos to push back and eventually prevail against scapegoating politicians like Governor Jan Brewer and Sheriff Joe Arpaio is to participate in local civic life and to vote in elections.

Participation of Latino voters in American politics is on the rise.  In recent years the share of the Latino electorate has increased from 5% to 9% in national elections.  In Colorado the Latino share of the electorate has increased from 8% in 2004 to 13% in 2008.  In Nevada the share has increased from 10% in 2004 to 15% in 2008.  With investment this cycle Arizona could start to see the kind of increases neighboring states have seen in recent elections.

You can find the ads and scripts here. We are proud of these campaigns, and feel they will powerfuly supplement the hard work already being done by many groups on the ground.

NDN is still raising money for these aggressive campaigns, and hopes to expand its initial media buys in the coming days.  If you want to support this effort, please consider making a donation to NDN today. While it is still late in the election, these campaigns can use more money to increase our buys and reach - and all new money raised will go directly to putting more ads on the air.

For many years NDN has been a leading national advocate for Hispanic and Latino Americans.   These campaigns are the latest in a series of efforts to speak more directly to Spanish-speaking voters in the United States, and encourage their participation in American politics. I hope you will learn more about this effort and consider supporting it today. 

Thanks for all that you do.

The Evolving Politics of SB1070, Arizona and Immigration Reform

In the last few days I've done a slew of interviews with reporters discussing the politics of SB1070 and the decision by the Department of Justice to declare the law unconstiutional.  The national GOP has gone into big time spin mode on this, declaring from the reporters I've spoken to the DOJ suit is political death for "Democrats in the West."   While that scenerio is possible of course, lets look at what we know about how this debate has played out in recent years. There two things we know for sure:

1) When Latinos are demonized by the GOP there is a backlash.  In California in the 1990s, and in national politics in this past decade, when Republican leaders launch a sustained anti-immigrant, anti-Latino Latinos respond, applying for citizenship in higher numbers, registering in higher numbers, voting in higher numbers, and voting aggressively against the Republican Party.  Given that Latinos now make up 15 percent of the national population, and large percentages of the voting population in major states - CA, FL, TX and key Presidential states - AZ, CO, NM, NV - a big shift in the Hispanic vote can dramatically alter the politics of a community, state and the nation. 

2) The Republicans have not shown that their anti-immigrant position works outside a Republican primary audience.   The polling on immigration has been consistent over the past five years.   About 15-20 percent of the country want the undocumenteds to leave and consider immigration a voting issue.  They are largely base Republican voters.  Hispanics too view immigration as a voting issue.  The rest of the country sees immigration as a second tier issue, trailing way behind more important issues like the bad economy, need for better health and foreign policy matters.  And for most of those who view it as an issue of secondary importance they are comfortable with the solution Congress has been proposing called comprehensive immigration reform (in this recent WaPo poll, for example, 57% support allowing illegal immigrants to stay in the US permanently while also giving majority support to SB1070).

So what this means in campaign terms is that a hard-line anti-immigrant stance can work well in a contested Republican primary - think Jan Brewer - but has not shown the capacity to motivate non-Hispanic general election voters in battleground races.  The Republican Party will have a hard time naming a single race the last several elections where a hard-line anti-immigrant candidate won purely on this issue, and virtually no GOP campaign has spent money on the issue in the last month of any race we've studied. In fact, I've argued before, that the emphasis the GOP has put on immigration has actually been a big negative with swing voters for it reinforces the worst attribute of the GOP of recent years - their willingness to put poliitics over problem solving.  For many their obsession with anti-immigrant politics looks feckless, partisan and helps reinforce their lack of seriousness as a party.  For while immigration matters, of course, it is just not as important as some of the more wild-eyed immigrant haters want to believe it is.  Most Americans are just way too smart for that.

Sometimes ithe anti-immigrant stance doesn't even work in a Republican primary audience.  In the 2008 Presidential election, the most liberal Republican on immigration, John McCain, won his party's nomination.  The anti-immigrant candidate, Tom Tancredo, never received more than 1% in any poll taken during the primary season.  And of course Senator McCain was then beaten by someone much more liberal than he on immigration reform, Barack Obama, who despite his pro-immigration reform stance received the largest vote share a Democratic Presidential candidate had received in 44 years. 

Unfortunately, Politico bought this GOP spin about how the GOP candidates will turn support of SB1070 into a winning regional issue and published this largely unsubstantiated and disapointing piece yesterday. Already, this morning we have a clear repudiation of the national GOP narrative in the largest state in the West, California, where Republican Gubernational candidate Meg Whitman has launched billboards in Spanish proclaiming her opposition to SB1070.  Newsweek has published this thoughtful essay making the case that the DOJ suit is smart politics for Obama. My gut is that this piece is closer to the truth than Politico's slightly hysterical initial take.

Whatever the politics of the DOJ suit are I think the government did the right thing.  Once SB1070 was passed, the federal government had to act.  If SB1070 succeeds we could end up with 50 different immigration policies in the US, not a single federal one.  The President was right last week to challenge Congress to quit kicking the can down the road on immigration reform and step up to build a better immigration system.  The Department of Justice was also right to challenge SB1070, a serious threat to the integrity of our federal immigration system. 

So what do we know about the politics of SB1070? Here is my take:

1) It will make it more likely that there is a large Latino vote against anti-immigrant candidates in the heavily Mexican-American West.

2) Outside of Arizona, I have serious doubts that a hard-line anti-immigrant stance will work for the GOP.  Most anti-immigrant voters in the West have already been motivated by many of the anti-Democratic messages of this cycle, and there just isnt a lot of data or experience to indicate that in this tough economy the GOP will be able to make the issue pop with non-Hispanic audiences beyond their base.  There is evidence and experience, however, which shows that if GOPers continue to talk about the issue deep into the fall it can actually hurt them, as it will help brand the GOPer as one those "more extreme" Republicans, a political brand which has been serially rejected by the American people over the past five years, and a positioning that today remains remarkably unpopular.

3) As the legal, economic and societal costs of SB1070 become better understood, it is very likely that the popularity of SB1070 - an extreme approach to a very real problem - will begin to drop.  From a policy standpoint SB1070 is a bad idea, and overtime I think most folks "in the West" will come to agree. 

4) The way the issue plays in each race in the West will, as Meg Whitman has shown, be determined by how each candidate plays it.   Democrats would be smart to hold firm on demanding a comprehensive national solution and not give into the early politics of this new post SB1070 environment.

That's it for now.  Thoughts welcome of course.  For more on these matters check out my first cut reaction to the DOJ suit and this backgrounder on NDN's work on immigration reform.

Talked Immigration, Arizona and "Anchor Babies" on Fox Today

Given the news that the Department of Justice has filed its suit against the new Arizona immigration laws, it was an interesting day to go on Fox News to talk about immigration. You can watch my segment, which included the well known anti-immigrant crusader Dan Stein from FAIR talking about changing the 14th Amendment and other fun matters, below and here.

In prepping for my segment I found this following passage from the FAIR website about "anchor babies:"

What Does This Mean?

Higher Taxes: The federal government has control over immigration law for the United States. By not correcting this mis-application of the 14th Amendment, the funds that state and local governments must provide to anchor babies amounts to a virtual tax on U.S. citizens to subsidize illegal aliens.

Disrespect for the rule of law: Congress, by failing to act on legislation aimed at correcting the interpretation of citizenship by birth, in effect rewards law-breakers and punishes those who have chosen to follow the rules and immigrate legally.The original intent of the 14th Amendment was clearly not to facilitate illegal aliens defying U.S. law and obtaining citizenship for their offspring, nor obtaining benefits at taxpayer expense. The United States is unusual in its offer to extend citizenship to anyone born on its soil. Other developed countries have changed their citizenship practice to eliminate the problems caused by the practice of birthright citizenship.[1] The anchor baby problem has grown to such large proportions that the United States can no longer afford to ignore it. The logical first step for correcting the problem is for Congress to adopt legislation clarifying the meaning of the 14th amendment.

(we've added the bold face here)

What struck me was how clear FAIR is in this passage that federal law trumps state law when it comes to immigration, and the proper course for those wanting a different immigration system in the US was to pressure Congress to act. This is of course is the same argument the President made last week in his American University immigration speech, and the same argument the Department of Justice made today in bringing suit against other FAIR-inspired laws in Arizona.

I hope those politicians in Arizona are aware of the real game FAIR is playing here. As we saw in the remarkable movie, 9500 Liberty, FAIR views political actors in the states as local chess pieces in a more national game of anti-immigration chess. As the movie details, the local community in Prince William County, VA who tried the FAIR-crafted "probable cause" statute (an ancestor to the current AZ law) saw their economy tank, racial polarization increase, forclosures skyrocket. The movie details how FAIR fed a group of ambitious conservative politicians a legal and political strategy which ended up backfiring on the local community, caused tremendous harm to the residents of the county, cost the local government a lot of money, and was ultimately reversed by the politicians themselves.

In Arizona we are starting to see the same thing play out. The economy and reputation of the state are being harmed. Racial discord is soaring. Local newspapers, police chiefs and businesses are fighting back against the law. And now the federal government is properly inserting itself into the debate, reminding those in Arizona that their law is, simply, illegal. Arizona cannot set its own immigration policy, just as it cannot craft its own foreign policy. Increasingly all this stuff around SB1070 may be, at the end of the day, a massively damaging escapade by a group of ambitious politicians in Arizona led astray in part by the Rasputin-like leaders of FAIR.

But what is so sad to me is that if the leaders of the Arizona effort had actually read FAIR's website they would have understood that even FAIR itself doesn't believe that the law the people of Arizona have passed is legal. Increasingly the nation and the people of Arizona will come see the passage of SB1070 and other legislation begin cooked up now (see the clip of my Fox debate today with FAIR about the legality of the 14th Amendment!) as another chapter in FAIR's grand and so far failed strategy to fundamentally change the immigration debate in America.

It is possible that a local court prevents a stay of SB1070, and it goes into effect on July 29th. But I think the die is cast here now. Eventually we will get a federal law and a new federal immigration system, and the sooner folks like Russell Pearce stop listening to FAIR's crazy and failed ideas and start working with Congress to construct this new law, the better off the nation and the people of Arizona will be. For as in Prince William County, my bet is that pretty soon the people of Arizona are going to want to find a way out of the mess created for them, and will begin to view this law much more negatively than in some of the early "sugar high" polls showing broad initial support.

Update - In the Fox News discussion today I read a portion of the 1st Section of the 14th Amendment. Here is the whole passage:

Section. 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Update 2, More on FAIR - Our friends at 9500 Liberty just released one of the most compelling parts of their remarkable movie. It comes in the latter half of the movie, when all of a sudden our understanding of how the debate around "probable cause" - essentially the same law as SB1070 in Arizona - came to Prince William. It was brought there by FAIR, a national anti-immigrant advocacy group, whose President Dan Stein I debated today on Fox, and who is featured prominently in the video below.

Please watch the video below my friends, for what you learn is that FAIR views counties like Prince William and states like Arizona as "laboratories;" they admit to being the "mad scientists" behind the spread of these strategies across the country; and they admit, on camera, to colluding with Republican politicians to use this issue to help them win elections, a particularly odd goal for a 501 (c) issue advocacy organization.

Why does this matter so much? For I hope the good people of Arizona understand that they are being used as a laboratory by a national anti-immigrant group, a group who has shown very little concern for the communities who've been torn apart by their divisive strategies in the past.

Major Baseball Players Come Out Against Arizona Immigration Law

Talk about a home run...

New York, NY, Friday, April 30, 2010 ... The following statement was issued today by Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Michael Weiner regarding the immigration law recently passed by the state of Arizona.

"The recent passage by Arizona of a new immigration law could have a negative impact on hundreds of Major League players who are citizens of countries other than the United States.  These international players are very much a part of our national pastime and are important members of our Association.  Their contributions to our sport have been invaluable, and their exploits have been witnessed, enjoyed and applauded by millions of Americans.  All of them, as well as the Clubs for whom they play, have gone to great lengths to ensure full compliance with federal immigration law.
"The impact of the bill signed into law in Arizona last Friday is not limited to the players on one team.  The international players on the Diamondbacks work and, with their families, reside in Arizona from April through September or October.  In addition, during the season, hundreds of international players on opposing Major League teams travel to Arizona to play the Diamondbacks.  And, the spring training homes of half of the 30 Major League teams are now in Arizona.  All of these players, as well as their families, could be adversely affected, even though their presence in the United States is legal.   Each of them must be ready to prove, at any time, his identity and the legality of his being in Arizona to any state or local official with suspicion of his immigration status.  This law also may affect players who are U.S. citizens but are suspected by law enforcement of being of foreign descent.  
"The Major League Baseball Players Association opposes this law as written.  We hope that the law is repealed or modified promptly.  If the current law goes into effect, the MLBPA will consider additional steps necessary to protect the rights and interests of our members.

"My statement reflects the institutional position of the Union.  It was arrived at after consultation with our members and after consideration of their various views on this controversial subject."

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