So, it’s almost been a week, and I’m doing everything I can to look on the bright side of life (Monty Python style). Here’s what I’ve come up with.
Okay, it’s definitely depressing about the elections, especially because we’re not used to what’s normal. Bush’s first midterm elections were the first in decades that an incumbent president actually had an increase in seats within his own party–normally (like clockwork, actually) a president is elected and two years later his party is not in control of at least one house of Congress. Hell, the only reason it worked for Bush was 9/11. His second midterm election he lost seats. So, this is pretty typical, but to hear Fox News talk about it they just toppled the world.
I think what many are forgetting (including myself at times) is that the Democrats still control the Senate and the Presidency. So I highly highly doubt that the GOP can repeal healthcare. Anything they send up to the Senate will get voted down, and even then, if it somehow miraculously makes it past the Senate, Obama will bust out his veto pen and there’s no way the Cons can pull 2/3 override. Plus, Americans don’t like having benefits taken away from them, and already a majority of Americans do not want healthcare repealed. The best Republicans can do is challenge the funding (and, again, I can’t see Obama letting that get by him). Repealing healthcare is something that gets the base excited but has no realistic shot of being overturned (like abortion).
There was actually a pretty interesting article in the Times about how the Republicans have these huge, ambitious ideas but absolutely no plans to go along with it. The last time that happened? When Gingrich took over the Congress under Clinton, after which the Republican party got ridiculously carried away then were then collectively bitch-slapped by Clinton and the voters. Even Obama’s toughest critics on the liberal side (saying he’s not liberal enough, which I think has merit) have said they’ve noticed a change in the administration in the past six months, suggesting that they’re finally realizing they actually have to play the politics game. So, he’s not unaware of what’s happening (and I’ll take Chicago-style Obama any day).
We have three things going for us right now (besides the majority):
1) The Tea Party. The problem with so many conservatives is that they just know how to fire up their base (Tax and spend! Death panels! BIRTH CERTIFICATE!!11!!1!) but then do whatever the hell they want. The Tea Partiers are believers (like Sarah Palin), which is what makes them so terrifying. However, I could seriously see them gumming up the works for the Republicans, who kind of assumed (like Fox News) that the Tea Partiers were basically Republicans. There are going to be plenty of crazy people with microphones who believe their own press releases.
2) The Republicans have been fighting the easiest fight imaginable–against the idea of the Democrats. It’s like dating a girl and wondering what it would be like to date a different one. In your mind, it’s idealized, until you actually start dating that person and the Kunderan kitsch comes crashing down. Same thing here. The Republicans keep going on and on about what they would do if they were in power, but…now they are. They’re part of the machine and the average Independent voter (who really does determine who is elected) is going to be more wary of what they say (it’s exactly what happened during the last Presidential election). Sure, Republicans love to play the victim card even when they’re holding all the power, but their problem is that they play it so loudly, which leads us to…
3) The economy is improving. It’s moving as slow as fuck, and it doesn’t have the rapid turnaround that all of us were hoping for, but it’s slowly, steadily improving. Obama and the Dems implemented a number of policies, and EACH ONE was bitched about by the conservatives. And not just voted against, but bitched and bitched about. If the economy continues to improve, it will be very difficult for Republicans to point to anything they did as making a difference.
Now, for a bonus, long-term number 4:
Did you see Harry Reid was re-elected? It was actually kind of a shock–he was down between 6 and 7 percent in the most recent polls before the election, and we all assumed he was gone. But you know who was underrepresented in polls and actually turned out strongly for Democrats?
Why did this happen? Because conservatives, who should appeal to Latinos (especially in terms of religion and family values), keep on railing against immigration reform, and so more and more Latinos are growing up hating conservatives (kind of the opposite of the Cuban population, who always saw Republicans as fighting Castro). The conservatives could have taken a different approach, but they reached out to Tea Partiers instead. And what is their stated first order of business when they take office in the spring? Tabling Obama’s immigration reform, which would have (among other things) extended citizenship to undocumented immigrants.
This could get interesting.
While President Obama continues to work toward immigration reform (or talk about it, anyway), a disturbing poll released a few days ago shows that this may be a moot point, at least for the time-being.
Quinnipiac University recently conducted a national poll asking about immigration issues and how it might be impacting Obama’s polling numbers (which, admittedly, are less than impressive). From the look of things, the poll seems to be legit (as opposed to the joke of a polling organization that is Rasmussen). It supports a lot of traditional opinions about immigrants and enforcement of immigration laws, but there were definitely a couple of disturbing trends.
First, the usual suspects. According to the Los Angeles Times, the poll had a “strong anti-immigrant tilt, favoring, by 68% to 24%, stricter enforcement of immigration laws rather than integrating illegal immigrants into society.” This is problematic, but by no means does it stand out. Traditionally, Americans have always favored reducing the number of immigrants entering the country. Seriously, there could be one immigrant entering the country per year, and it would still be two too many.
As if that wasn’t a big enough problem, Americans also will overestimate the number of people of color in this country, along with the number of undocumented immigrants. And I’m not just saying they’re off by one or two. Researchers call it “innumeracy,” and it is evident when Whites are asked to calculate the percentage of the population that is Black, Latino, and Asian. The most recent of these studies was conducted in 2005 by Richard Alba, Ruben G. Rumbaut, and Karen Marotz in their article, “A distorted nation: Perceptions of racial/ethnic group sizes and attitudes toward immigrants and other minorities.” They found that a number of Whites actually estimated that, in the United States, Whites were in the minority (already!) and that the rest of the country was 30% Black, 22% Latino, and 16% Asian. For me, the kicker was that they estimated 12% of the country was American Indian (and all I could think about was the Chris Rock routine–after all, around the time of this study American Indians clocked in around .17% (yes, point one seven percent–I did not mess up the decimal point)). And yes, for those of you keeping track, that number of people of color combined with the estimated number of Whites does add up to 100 percent.
Along the same lines, not only do Americans over-estimate the number of immigrants in the country, but they ridiculously over-estimate the number of undocumented immigrants in the country. In fact, in an extensive survey by the PEW Research Center for the People & the Press, respondents stated that most immigrants were in the United States illegally. (For the full report, click here) Seriously. Even though, according to the census only about 30% of foreign-born immigrants are here illegally, Americans (who already believe there are far more immigrants here than there actually are) think that “most” immigrants are here illegally. It still shocks me.
However, by that reasoning, it’s not terribly surprising that the Quinnipiac University survey revealed that there was so much concern about needing to do something about immigration enforcement. If I’m a citizen and I believe crime is so bad that as soon as I walk out the door I’m going to be gunned down by street thugs a la Death Wish 3, then of course when someone asks me about my concerns, I’m going to say that we need more police and less crime. It’s human nature, however flawed the logic might be.
Now, what really threw me off was this result:
“The poll, carried out during the first week in September, found that, by 48% to 45%, an end to the constitutionally guaranteed practice of granting U.S. citizenship to children born of illegal immigrants.”
This absolutely shocked me. Contemporary U.S. immigration policy has almost always worked to keep families intact and to not punish children from their parents’ actions. The fact that so many people might actually be opposed to allowing children of undocumented immigrants to be citizens is just unbelievably devastating.
I could only come up with two possible suggestions as to how these results came to be:
1) Again, I think it all comes back to estimations. I’m wondering how frequently this happens (undocumented immigrants giving birth so their children can be citizens), and I can’t imagine it’s often. After all, that’s a long, dangerous journey to make, especially if someone is pregnant. It could be that this just doesn’t happen as frequently as people envision.
Along the same lines, I wonder if perceived intent has something to do with it. Are these respondents picturing a pregnant Latina pulling herself onto the U.S. side of the Rio Grande and immediately giving birth? Or are they picturing a husband and wife living in the U.S., deciding to have kids because that’s the next step in their relationship?
2) I also wonder about the wording of the question. It reads:
“As you may know, under our constitution and current laws, all children born in the United States are automatically granted citizenship. Do you think we should continue to grant citizenship to all children born in the US or do you think this should be changed so children of illegal immigrants are not automatically granted citizenship?”
I wonder about the phrasing “automatically granted.” I think most people born in the United States believe that they “deserve” to be here, and I think that they somehow feel that they have earned the right to be citizens. Plus, given the cultural stubbornness of the powerful Horatio Alger mythology, I think the idea of someone just being “automatically granted” anything is bound to be challenged.
I’m not saying the poll was conducted incorrectly–I just wonder how much influence these kinds of factors can have.