I ran as a Democrat. I am a (moderate) Democrat.
But many Republicans—although they applauded my immigration stance—recoiled in disgust.
I was immediately lumped in with the "crazy tax and spend liberals."
To which I repeatedly replied, "Maybe yes and maybe no. We only know for a fact that Bush is terrible."
I'm no wild-eyed liberal. I like to keep my money as much as the next fellow. And my affiliation with the Democratic Party can best be described as loose—and local.
I voted for Bill Clinton once. When he ran for re-election against Bob Dole, I voted for an independent whose name I forget. (I didn't want to waste my vote.)
But since my experiences in the California governor's race, I've spent considerable time thinking about Democrats and immigration reform.
Other high profile Democrats well known to VDARE.COM readers are solidly on our side. Among them are former Colorado Governor and FAIR Advisory Board Chairman Richard Lamm, Eugene McCarthy, one-time Minnesota Senator, 1968 presidential candidate and member of the FAIR Advisory Board, and radio talk-show host George Putnam (who describes himself as a "conservative" Democrat).
Among grassroots Democrats, positive signs of immigration realism abound. According to a study titled "Evenly Divided and Increasingly Polarized: 2004 Political Landscape" and released in November by the Pew Research Center for The People and The Press:
"About eight-in-ten Republicans (82%) and somewhat fewer independents and Democrats (76% each) [Joecomment:!!] agree with the statement 'We should restrict and control people coming into our country to live more than we do now.'"
Whatever disagreements rank and file Republicans and Democrats may have, everyone concurs that the need for immigration reform is urgent.
According to Americans for Better Immigration, the United States Senate has 12 Democrats with career grades of C or better on immigration reduction. Only 17 Republican Senators get C or better.
Chambliss is joined by Senators Robert Byrd of West Virginia (A+); Zell Miller, Georgia, Ernest Hollings, South Carolina and Harry Reid, Nevada (all with B); Blanche Lincoln, Arkansas and Tim Johnson, South Dakota (B- for both), Bill Nelson, Florida and John Breaux, Louisiana (C+) and Dianne Feinstein; California, Kent Conrad; North Dakota and Mark Dayton; Minnesota (each with C).
A recent hopeful sign: There was no Democratic opposition when The Basic Pilot Extension Act of 2003, to prevent the hiring of illegal aliens, passed both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate on voice votes. Bush signed the bill into law on December 4th.
But opinions differ on the wisdom of that strategy. I asked two astute political observers, Governor Richard Lamm and NumbersUSA.com Executive Director Roy Beck, to share their views.
"I am not sure that the Democrats are doing the wrong thing for them in the short term….Politics is about where the new constituencies are, and who has the energy and enthusiasm, the new money. The Christian Right and Neo-Conservatives are bringing this to the Republican Party and the only new energy into the Democratic Party is the Gays.
"The old Democratic constituencies of women, environmentalists, Blacks, Hispanics, is seen as the group to build upon. The Democratic Party thinks they pay no price for immigration and want to out-demagogue the Republicans on the issue. Having lost a lot of the Southern Whites, and the Ethnic blocks, they see immigration as bringing them new voters. The fact that it is against the long term well being of the country doesn't seem to count….The organized passionate minority will almost always beat the distracted majority."
But NumbersUSA.com's Roy Beck sees the Democrats as shooting themselves in the foot over their failure to respond to America's demand for immigration reduction. According to Beck:
"Democrats may guarantee their minority party status for the next decade or so if the national party leaders continue to convey the sense that they side with extremely narrow special interests that favor open borders over the broad public interest of controlled borders. Recent polls finding that around three-quarters of Democrats, Independents and Republicans want less immigration shows just how out of touch Democratic presidential candidates and House and Senate leaders are.
"Their pro-amnesty, pro-high-importation-of-foreign-workers stance drives off the independent voters they have to have to win and is accelerating erosion among core, culturally conservative blue-collar Democrats who already are becoming swing voters. The latter group's desertion of the Democrats was one of the reasons why Gray Davis was booted from office and why Cruz Bustamante couldn't come close to carrying the Democratic banner to victory.
"Democratic leaders' embrace of immigration policies that drive massive urban sprawl, threaten the environment and depress wages particularly of the working class and minorities is a violation of core Democratic principles.
"And what constituency of votes does the open-borders position appeal to? Polling of Hispanics, for example, has shown that immigration stances play very little role in how Hispanics vote. Of the few Hispanics who are inclined to vote based on a candidate's immigration position, more are likely to vote against an open-borders candidate than for one."
Sadly for the common sense crowd, none of the dozen enlightened Senate Democrats listed above is currently a candidate for President of the United States.
So with November 2004 looming, an ugly choice may await us—George W. "Family Values Don't Stop at the Rio Grande" Bush or one of the nine Democratic candidates/traitors.
But politics is an unpredictable game. The immigration issue may well surface anyway. I continue to think, and hope, that a Democrat might do it.
But right now the message that the party bosses are sending is very clear: if you want immigration reform, you will have to forget traditional party loyalties.
As a beneficiary of the last great party realignment said in his 1862 State of the Union Address, "As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew."
Dispossessed Democrats and Rejected Republicans unite!—you have nothing to lose but the contempt of your leaders.
Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.