Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Immigration Wars

Barack Obama and John McCain are going at it over immigration reform. On the list of all the things the pundits got wrong about the 2008 presidential race, immigration reform will rank high. It was supposed to be a central issue in the Republican race. It never was. It was supposed to kill McCain’s candidacy. It didn’t.

McCain, during the primary and even today, has walked a tightrope: expressing a recognition of the political reality that his party and the country want to see border control first, but vowing that ultimately we will have to deal in a responsible way with the illegal immigrants who do not through “attrition by enforcement” disappear from the country on their own. Obama by and large played the Democratic party line through the primaries — expressing skepticism over a border fence, excoriating the Republicans for anti-immigrant sentiments, voting with organized labor to help kill off immigration reform (some enterprising reporter should ask Ted Kennedy about that one) and avoiding obvious gaffes (although his answer on drivers licenses for illegal immigrants was as convoluted as Hillary Clinton’s).

Will this issue be any more salient in the general election than it was in the primaries? It is hard to see how, unless McCain can convert this into another issue in which he can claim to have done heavy lifting despite political risks while Obama hid in the weeds. The problem here however is obvious: the more McCain talks about his political heresy, the more he highlights a key point of disagreement with his base, which is has barely forgotten their outrage over his efforts on comprehensive immigration reform.

So the bottom line: I expect to hear even less about this issue in the general election than in the primaries. And once again, whoever wins the White House will have absolutely no mandate on an issue which has significant national security and economic implications and, for better or worse, arouses enormous political passion.


Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »





Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.