The Corner

Immigration and The American Public, Continued

John, you persist in missing the point. You argued that there was not public anger at current immigration levels and supported this argument by making the loss or gain of an election the test of it. You claim now–contra my argument–that this is a reasonable test. But none of your examples stand up. Health care was a major issue in the Pennsylvania election, but it was not the sole issue, being wrapped up with the economy under the Clintonian slogan of “fundamental change.” We know from what happened in the following year that Pennsylvania was an early sign of a growing general discontent with the first President Bush sparked off by, but not confined to, his reversal of “No new taxes.” (If national security were an election-winner, incidentally, the GOP would have won Pennsylvania since that occurred in the Fall of the year in which Bush won the Gulf War.) You then cite California’s 1994 results to argue that racial preferences are an election winner. In fact the 1994 California referendum victory was won by Proposition 187 that prohibited the provision of non-emergency state services for illegal aliens. It was the 1996 California results that you presumably mean when Proposition 209 banning racial preferences was passed. (Both initiatives won 59 per cent of the vote.) But the 1996 results make my case almost perfectly. An initiative, separating racial preferences from all other issues, won 59 per cent of votes cast; Bob Dole who embraced Proposition 209 won only 38 per cent of votes cast, presumably because 21 per cent of voters agreed with him on preferences but disagreed with him on other issues. If referenda rather than elections are the test, then, immigration shares equal billing with racial preferences as an election-winner. On the overall results of polling, Mark has made my case. I will add only that a three per cent vote for the notion that immigration is the most important problem facing America is perfectly compatible with 100 per cent of Americans believing that immigration is nonetheless a serious problem for the country. All these difficulties arise, John, because you seem to be denying the plain fact that there is serious public opposition to very high and largely uncontrolled immigration. Wouldn’t it be simpler to argue that there is such concern but that it can be overcome by reasonable argument over time?

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