The Obama administration will sue Arizona for the way the state enforces federal immigration laws.
For a moment I figured this was political madness — Arizona’s law is popular both within the state and nationwide – but I suspect there is a political method to this madness. If you’re the kind of person who is worried about illegal immigration and supports Arizona’s law, you’re probably already fired up about voting in November and know who you’re voting for. If you’re one of those folks, you’re probably also the kind of person who’s appalled by the health-care bill. You’re probably also angry about runaway spending, and any one of many other issues driving independents towards Republicans: economic happy talk as unemployment remains near record levels, the treatment of Israel, the proliferation of czars, worldwide apology tours, etc.
But if you’re the kind of person who is glad the Obama administration is fighting Arizona’s law, you may or may not have been all that motivated to vote in November. You probably expected a new era of hope and change to dawn on January 21, 2009, and life has been pretty disappointing in the 17 months or so since then. In New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts, a lot of these folks stayed home. Obama taking on Arizona might get you a little more fired up and likely to get active.
It’s a similar dynamic with “don’t ask, don’t tell,” talk of another push for “cap and trade,” and other ideas that poll badly but are beloved by Democratic base voters.
In other words, there’s little additional harm for the administration in making moves that enrage conservatives, because the conservatives are already enraged, and no matter how enraged they get, they can only vote once. (You’re thinking, “shame there’s no ACORN on our side,” huh?) The independents are probably a lost cause. The only way to mitigate a rough year is to energize the base, and so for all extents and purposes, policy decisions for the next four months will be driven by the need to motivate disappointed liberal voters.