Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Minor Flaw

For the good of the country, we should only hope that Michael Lind is prescient when he writes

Whatever becomes of his bid for the presidency, Mr. Trump exposed the gap between what orthodox conservative Republicans offer and what today’s dominant Republican voters actually want — middle-class entitlements plus crackdowns on illegal immigrants, Muslims, foreign trade rivals and free-riding allies. Other candidates less flawed than Mr. Trump and more acceptable to the Republican establishment, like Ted Cruz, are likely to bring Republican policy positions and Republican voter preferences more closely into alignment, by moving somewhat to the left on middle-class entitlements and somewhat to the right on immigration and trade.

Skepticism of "free" trade is usually considered on the left, but Lind views it as "right." No matter, because as Steve M. explains here, Lind (regrettably) probably has it all wrong. Unfortunately, he is accurate when he emphasizes the centrality of identity politics in the Democratic Party and, more arguably, that the youthful supporters of Bernie Sanders will grow up and remain "socially liberal, but with new concerns about government spending, now that they were paying taxes and mortgages."

"Socially liberal" (which should be culturally liberal) typically includes support for illegal immigrants (or as required, the "undocumented").  And so Lind, arguing that Mrs. Clinton has dragged Sanders to the left on criminal justice and immigration, remarks "Having told Ezra Klein of Vox last July that open borders is 'a Koch brothers proposal” that 'would make everybody in America poorer,' Mr. Sanders recently criticized Mrs. Clinton for opposing drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants in 2007. "

It is pushed by the Koch brothers, but never mind. Perhaps Hillary Clinton opposed drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants sometime in 2007 but not when it counted, at least to her campaign.  Consider the following transcript from the Democratic presidential debate held- appropriately- on Mischief Night, October 40, 2007. The mischief, fairly, was brought by Senator Chris Dodd, aided by moderator Tim Russert:

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, Governor of New York Eliot Spitzerhas proposed giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. You told the Nashua, N.H., editorial board it makes a lot of sense. Why does it make a lot of sense to give an illegal immigrant a driver’s license?

MRS. CLINTON: Well, what Governor Spitzer is trying to do is fill the vacuum left by the failure of this administration to bring about comprehensive immigration reform.

We know in New York we have several million at any one time who are in New York illegally. They are undocumented workers. They are driving on our roads. The possibility of them having an accident that harms themselves or others is just a matter of the odds. It’s probability. So what Governor Spitzer is trying to do is to fill the vacuum.

I believe we need to get back to comprehensive immigration reform because no state, no matter how well intentioned, can fill this gap. There needs to be federal action on immigration reform. ...

After an exchange between Mr. Russert and Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, Mrs. Clinton jumped in:

MRS. CLINTON: I just want to add, I did not say that it should be done, but I certainly recognize why Governor Spitzer is trying to do it. And we have failed——

MR. DODD: Wait a minute. No, no, no. You said, yes, you thought it made sense to do it.

MRS. CLINTON: No, I didn’t, Chris. But the point is, what are we going to do with all these illegal immigrants who are driving?

MR. DODD: Well, that’s a legitimate issue. But driver’s license goes too far, in my view.

MRS. CLINTON: Well, you may say that, but what is the identification if somebody runs into you today who is an undocumented worker——

MR. DODD: There’s ways of dealing with that.

MRS. CLINTON: Well, but——

MR. DODD: This is a privilege, not a right.

MRS. CLINTON: Well, what Governor Spitzer has agreed to do is to have three different licenses — one that provides identification for actually going onto airplanes and other kinds of security issues, another which is an ordinary driver’s license and then a special card that identifies the people who would be on the road.

MR. DODD: That’s a bureaucratic nightmare.

MRS. CLINTON: So it’s not the full privilege.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, I just want to make sure what I heard. Do you, the New York Senator Hillary Clinton, support the New York governor’s plan to give illegal immigrants a driver’s license? You told the Nashua, N.H., paper it made a lot of sense.


MR. RUSSERT: Do you support his plan?

MRS. CLINTON: You know, Tim, this is where everybody plays gotcha. It makes a lot of sense. What is the governor supposed to do? He is dealing with a serious problem. We have failed, and George Bush has failed.

Do I think this is the best thing for any governor to do? No. But do I understand the sense of real desperation, trying to get a handle on this? Remember, in New York we want to know who’s in New York. We want people to come out of the shadows. He’s making an honest effort to do it. We should have passed immigration reform  

As Russert pointed out, Clinton initially was in favor of drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants. In this debate alone, however, she defended the decision to grant them, then equivocated on her support, then opposed it, supported it, finally defending it while saying it is not "the best thing."

If Mrs. Clinton had done this in a general election, it would have made John Kerry's infamous "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it" an example of resolve worthy of Winston Churchill.

Before that debate, Hillary Clinton was the prohibitive favorite to be the Party's presidential nominee; after it, she still was the favorite but her armor had been pierced and doubts crept in. Conventional belief notwithstanding, Clinton's indecision in debate played as great a role in her failure to capture the Democratic nomination as Kerry's remark had played in his loss in the general election four years earlier.

Lind accurately notes "on the social and racial issues that are important to today’s Democratic base, it is Mr. Sanders, not Mrs. Clinton, who has had to modify his message," though it is far less his views than emphasis.    The contention that Clinton opposed drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants is arguable, but Micheal Lind has identified the Democrats' priorities, simultaneously responsible for much of the Party's strength at the national level and weakness at the state level.

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