JONATHAN CHAIT OCTOBER 26, 2010
Richard Wolffe reports on how the Obama administration plans to challenge Republicans in the next Congressional term:
The White House plans to test Republicans' unity and political resolve on three controversial issues: repealing the Bush tax cuts, implementing the deficit commission's findings, and pushing immigration reform. Obama's team says that these issues will make for good policy—and good politics, forcing Republicans elected in swing districts to choose between placating Democrats and independents and risking a possible Tea Party challenge in 2012.
The White House believes immigration reform may be the toughest test for the GOP—even tougher than tackling the deficit. "This will separate the reasonable Republicans from the pack running for president," said one senior Obama aide.
Hmm. I'm not following the logic on the deficit commission. If it puts out any plan, it will be an unpopular mix of spending cuts and tax hikes. It's not something you dare the opposition to vote against. Now, maybe you get Republicans on the commission to block any plan, thus exposing the fact that it's the Republicans who don't want to do anything about the problem. But that's not something that hits "Republicans in swing districts." It's just something that helps, slightly, inoculate the national political environment by forcing Republicans to accept responsibility for the deficit.
The Bush tax cuts make sense as an issue. Force Republicans to hold the popular universal portion of the Bush tax cuts hostage to the unpopular $250,000-and-up portion. That's a straightforward wedge between the GOP base/elite and centrist voters. On the other hand, it's not exactly compatible with the deficit commission, which will probably recommend some kind of middle class tax hike. So the politics here seem muddled.
The immigration issue, meanwhile, is interesting. It's not the case that Republicans are on the wrong side of public opinion. Far from it -- the public is pretty hard-line on stopping illegal immigration, and even ending birthright citizenship is basically a 50-50 proposition. On the other hand, it's plausible that the persuadable voters with the strongest intensity on the issue are Latinos. (It's a similar issue to gun control, where moderate restrictions on things like assault weapons poll very well, but the only people who really vote on the issue are opposed.) If Obama can bait Republicans into opposing immigration reform, he can gear up the Latino vote for 2012 and beyond.
And it's not like the Republicans are averse to cooperating with this tactic. Adam Serwer deconstructs the not-very-subtle racial subtext of Sharron Angle's message:
Here's how her she portrays Latinos in her "Best Friend" spot, as they crawl across a "border fence" in plaid shirts and tank tops:
Meanwhile, hardworking white folks can't pay the bills:
Here's how she portrays Latinos in the ad that recycled images from a similar ad from David Vitter I blogged about a few weeks ago:
Contrast those images with the white, happy college students who are presumably going to get their scholarships taken away and given to unauthorized immigrants:
This is an image from the ad she released yesterday, after Angle claimed there was no racial intent to her previous ads and she was merely worried about the Canadian border:
Who is that bandana-clad cholo coming for? A classroom full of nice white children of course:
Angle's closing argument couldn't be any clearer, could it? This is Brown vs. White. Latinos are coming here to take your money, your jobs, and your kids' scholarships, and if you don't vote for Angle, Harry Reid will let them get away with it.