Sean Trende at Real Clear Politics has some unconventional wisdom on Obama’s mini-DREAm Act EO. While other news orgs are busy hailing the president’s actions, or (rather ironically, considering the source) questioning the legality of it, Trende wonders if it will even help him in the way Obama and his campaign team hope it will. Here’s Trende’s run down:
1) Latinos are underrepresented in swing states. While the Latino vote is frequently portrayed as a critical voting bloc, in truth it is concentrated in only a few swing states with just a handful of electoral votes.
So in the end, we’re talking about Colorado and Nevada as the states where this is likely to produce dividends of any size, for a total of 15 electoral votes.
2) There is a trade-off here. Fifteen electoral votes could still be crucial in a close election. But here’s the rub: The analyses that focus only on the potential effect among Latino voters miss half of the equation: The potential effect among white voters.
Yet Brewer ran ahead of both McCain and Bush overall. The key is that her policies played well with white voters. In particular, McCain captured 60 percent of whites without college degrees and 58 percent of whites with college degrees.
Brewer actually ran somewhat behind McCain among whites with college degrees, capturing 55 percent of their vote. But among whites without college degrees, Brewer won 66 percent of the vote. This is where her increased victory margin came from.
This is important, because Obama has ongoing weaknesses with working-class white voters. So weak, in fact, that they threatened his presidential bid during the Democratic perfect storm of 2008.
In other words, we might expect Obama to court these voters carefully. But that hasn’t been the story of 2012 so far, and the deportation decision is at odds with such a strategy. Even more of a head-scratcher: These voters are the critical voting bloc in several must-win states for the president, including Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa and Michigan.
3) Latinos aren’t monolithic. Finally, I think it’s important to remember that Latino voters’ views on immigration aren’t uniform, and that just as there’s a ceiling on the Republican share of this vote, there’s probably something of a floor.
I’d just add that in 2008, only 69 percent of Latino voters described illegal immigration as “very” or “extremely” important to them in exit polls. Of these, nearly one-third voted Republican, suggesting that a near-majority of Latinos either thought that illegal immigration wasn’t an important issue, or thought it was and voted Republican anyway.
I think Trende raises some interesting questions about this decision. This is what happens when one engages in critical thinking. I think he’s deftly handled the first two points, but we still get to see even his susceptibility to the conventional wisdom noise machine on point 3. He assumes that all Latinos and Hispanics support illegal immigration, but some of them choose to vote Republican anyway. What he doesn’t understand is that legal immigrants of Latino or Hispanic heritage often have a bigger problem with illegal immigration that working class whites do. Let me share an example.
One semester in one of my writing classes I had as students a woman who was a legal immigrant (Student A), and another who was a naturalized citizen born in another country to an American parent (Student B). The latter was married to an illegal immigrant and immigration reform was her BIG topic to write about and talk about in class. She wrote two (of four) papers on the subject. The former, the legal immigrant who had qualified for citizenship after going through the arduous process, often fumed at the other student’s rhetoric on immigration reform, though she rarely challenged it. It came to a head one day in the classroom.
Student A unleashed a diatribe against Student B the likes of which I have never seen. She argued that she and her husband has spent years qualifying, years that this other woman’s husband was living in the United States illegally, who only had to find a way to traverse the border to gain entry. And now Student B would have us believe that her husband should receive amnesty for breaking the law and disregarding the rules that she and her family had carefully learned and navigated. Both women ended up in tears that day, and the rest of the students were given an inside view into the divisions within the immigrant community. It was a real eye-opener.
This is what Trende misses in his analysis, though admittedly it’s a small part. Still, it might explain the percentages he presents, which might be a manifestation of this oft neglected reality. Nevertheless, this is an intriguing breakdown.