Strategic Issue Choice: Splitting the Opposition

Thus far into Obama’s term, Republicans have benefited from a landscape that divides Democrats, splintering the party and permitting Republicans to present a united front. If we’re going to play hardball — which we probably should, starting with pushing a robust public option through reconciliation — we might want to reshape the landscape, going into the midterm elections.

The easy way to do this is to find an issue that splinters Republicans while uniting Democrats, exaggerating the Republican Party’s ongoing civil war, revealing its nastier, more conservative elements, and permitting a semblance of Democratic unity. The natural place to start is immigration reform.

The last time Republicans put immigration reform on the table, from 2004 to 2007 or so, it destroyed what little remained of President Bush’s political capital, turned the right wing against the Republican establishment, and generally caused havoc. Republicans railed against the Bush plan, which would have allowed illegal immigrants to naturalize, by terming it “amnesty,” and equating partial legalization with the complete erasure of American borders. This despite the fact that the public generally supports a path to citizenship.

Re-opening that debate would surely push momentum back in to the “tea party” movement — but, in so doing, it would force the Republicans to embrace or outright spurn the movement. Although “tea party” favorables remain high, with proper messaging, this could become a Catch 22, presenting either a potent reminder that today’s Republican Party represents the very worst of our collective societal impulses, or shattering Republicans’ unity once and for all.

It’s a gamble, but at this point, there’s really little to lose. If Democrats hold the line, we may even get positive reform out of the process.


  1. Please, please, please, please talk the Democrats in Congress into pursuing this. It will make our work in 2010 about a million times easier.

    Here’s some free advice Ames: You all are already going to get your asses kicked in conservative districts next year. There’s no avoiding that. If you want to avoid a similar beating in wildcard districts then you better be focused on one thing and one thing only next year…JOBS. Every morning you should get up and think about how you can blog about job creation. You should send letters to your congressmen about jobs. You should tell your liberal friends to name their kids Job. You should donate money to small businesses so they will hire people. IF you do that you just might keep a majority worth talking about. Take your eyes off of that and you are straight up screwed.

    1. To further make my point, from Ezra Klein:

      “A solid 64 percent of Nebraskans disapprove of health-care reform, and the situation was worsened by Nelson’s polarizing last-minute deal to protect Nebraska from Medicaid costs: Only 17 percent of Nebraskans approve of the free money Nebraska got.

  2. You know, the GOP will have to have a jobs plan to reap the whirlwind. Preferably something other than “cut taxes and see what happens.” because that failed the last three times

    1. The beauty is Ames – no they don’t.

    2. That’s not something to be proud of.

      1. It’s not something to be upset over either. You all wanted power – you got power. Now try to keep it.

      2. You should make this a slogan: “The Republican Party: Hoping to be America’s Rebound Relationship”

        1. I prefer, “You flirted with the popular guy – now you can come back to Mr.Dependable”

        2. Upon what, exactly, is this record of dependability based? The flourishing growth that Republican presidents always preside over?

          1. WH 1950 – 2009:

            GOP: 36 years

            Dems: 21 years

          2. That’s a revealing answer — and not just for its interesting approach to math (is there a two year margin of error?). You seem to equate the fact that the GOP does win elections with the opinion that it should. That really doesn’t follow; if you think that it does, well, that would explain a lot.

            1. I trust the wisdom of the electorate.

            2. But no, you don’t. You admitted above that the GOP has no plan, and that it doesn’t need one. That’s not “trust”; that’s hope that the electorate will gloss over your obvious deficiencies and cast ballots based solely on reactionary sentiment.

              1. I guess it’s like your attitude towards liberalism. You won’t admit you think it’s ideal – you’ll only say it’s better than the alternative.

              2. HAH. That’s still a useless canard.

                1. I don’t want to get into ‘existential’ issues.

        3. Or the huge deficits they create for almost the sole purpose of blaming on the other guy?

  3. Bartlet’s answer still works:


    1. I think every liberal fantasizes about the Obama Whitehouse being just like an episode of West Wing.

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