Wednesday, September 17, 2008

McCain == Major? plus why Obama needs to put immigration reform front and center.

Sullivan picks up on something Ross Douthat mentioned: would McCain be a John Major-like figure if he won this year? I think it might be more accurate than either one realizes. Major had a more moderate reputation than Margaret Thatcher, like McCain, and was considered generally decent and honorable, like McCain (until recently). But the Tories' time had passed by 1992, and aside from rampant corruption the tories had massive and divisive internal disputes over many issues, most notoriously EU membership. Sound familiar? Just sub immigration in for the EU and it maps almost exactly onto the present situation. Mickey Kaus has put the odds of comprehensive reform passing during a first McCain term at about even, and much lower for Obama. I think this is about right, and I also think that this is one of the few domestic policy issues that McCain actually cares about, since he's mentioned it so friggin' many times. But it's a trap that he almost certainly wouldn't be able to extricate from, and the fault lines of the Republican party make it pernicious to try. Hell, Bush couldn't marshal the GOP behind his plan, and they love that guy. They don't even like McCain.

I actually think that Kaus is dead wrong when he says that Obama would be unlikely to pursue immigration reform. I think that he ought to make it his first order of business once elected. There are few issues as divisive to Republicans as immigration reform. Forcing Republicans to side with the business/moderate wing who supports immigration or the sociocon/know-nothing with that hate it. It would be immediately divisive and messy, and permanent divisions might form that Obama could exploit.

Let's put it simply: Obama wants to enact healthcare. He can either do it before or after he tackles immigration. If he does it before, the GOP will be able to circle the wagons and try to filibuster, perhaps successfully. A smaller minority is easier to corral, and "moderate" Republicans generally tend to follow the party leadership, ceteris peribus. However, if Obama were to press for immigration reform first, and if Republican Senators were to be called mean names by grassroot activists on the right, they might be miffed enough to buck the party leadership and sign on to a popular health care bill. It's Nixonian and, dare I say, brilliant. And if Obama is half the politician I suspect he is, he's already thought of this.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.