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Comprehensive Reform!

By Matthew Yglesias

"Comprehensive Reform!"

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One of the ironies of American politics goes a bit like this: Before the midterm elections, the President of the United States was pushing an unpopular plan for “comperehensive immigration reform.” He was also pushing several other unpopular policies. Largely as a result of his habit of pushing unpopular policies, voters delivered a stunning rebuke to his party at the midterm elections. Most of the newly elected Democrats oppose the president’s unpopular plan for comperehensive reform. And yet the upshot of Democrats taking control of congress is to make comprehensive immigration reform . . . much more likely!

Kevin Drum seems to have some doubts as to whether it would make sense for the Democratic leadership to actually move forward with an immigration bill. I think it does. The votes for a comprehensive reform will be there, even if whichever Democrats inclined to take a restrictionist line want to hew to that line. What’s more, Bush is in a weakened state and could really use a good bipartisan compromise. That means the odds are good he can be forced into a liberal-style comprehensive reform — one that’s long on amnesty earned legalization and short on guest workers. A bill like that would be good policies and would also help with Democratic coalition-building since more Latino citizens = more Democratic voters over the long term.

The current vogue for immigration restrictions, meanwhile, is pretty clearly a consequence of the generally weak job market. Said weak job market, meanwhile, is a political asset for Democrats all things considered. So by 2008 either immigration will have lost its salience because the job market improves, or else it’ll still be salient but the negative impact it might have on Democrats would be swamped by general economic factors. What’s more, John McCain is an earned legalization supporter, and putting a reform bill with his name on it through the congress will infuriate the GOP base and weaken his odds of winning the nomination. The only thing I would really say about all of this is that the election result should make Democrats irreconciliably opposed to any guest worker program — that’s too high a price to pay. What’s more, if I may add an idiosyncratic opinion, I think Tom Tancredo’s 2008 primary bid stands a good chance of surprising people with its strength.

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