Our Feckless Discourse About Immigration
Just a quick followup on Tod’s post about the debate.
As has been widely reported for several days now, Obama set a new deportation record in the last fiscal year (narrowly edging out the previous record, which also belonged to his administration). This is, no doubt, the latest in his myriad attempts to co-opt the right and burnish his bipartisan credentials heading into the upcoming election.
Given this background, one of the things that really struck me while I was watching the debate (and I only watched about 20 minutes of it) was the bit where Michele Bachmann went after Obama about his “illegal” aunt and uncle being allowed to remain in the country. At the time, I noted on Twitter the irony (I’m not sure it’s really irony – I hate that word) of Obama continuing to try to placate these people and failing so spectacularly. Any time he moves to the right, they are going to move further to the right, and their base is going to move with them. There is nothing Obama can do to alter the political calculus here.
I stewed over this for a couple days, not entirely sure what I wanted to say about it, but then I read this post by Kevin Drum this morning, and I realized that there isn’t much of anything I can say. Obama’s base is as feckless as he is, which is why he expresses no compunctions about the policy choices he makes. What do you say to Joe Klein when he claims that the “most basic fact” about illegal immigration is that it’s “down”? That the real reason we don’t need crocodiles patrolling the border has nothing at all to do with the number of people illegally crossing it? Drum isn’t much better when his response is “I don’t really have a big problem with beefing up the border patrol”. Why not, Kevin? He even links to Adam Serwer without bothering to address Serwer’s last paragraph about the human costs of our immigration regime. (And even I know it’s the opposite of irony that Serwer starts that paragraph with the phrase “what you won’t hear” right before we emphatically don’t hear anything about it.)
Instead of the fine, self-righteous rage I was working up about what a failure Obama’s presidency has been, I’m left mostly with disappointment. I don’t want to imply that there aren’t any voices doing great work on this (Serwer is one of them, most of the time), but more and more it’s becoming clear that Obama is right about what liberals want, and I’m wrong. That’s not infuriating; it’s crushing.
UPDATE: Drum responds.