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Obama’s immigration jiu jitsu

The New York Times‘ Julia Preston, who reports today on Barack Obama’s plan to start pushing for immigration reform as early as May, seems to doubt the political wisdom of the U.S. president’s move. As she notes, it could get extremely ugly, with immigration opponents likely to "mobilize popular outrage against any effort to legalize ...

The New York Times‘ Julia Preston, who reports today on Barack Obama’s plan to start pushing for immigration reform as early as May, seems to doubt the political wisdom of the U.S. president’s move.

As she notes, it could get extremely ugly, with immigration opponents likely to "mobilize popular outrage against any effort to legalize unauthorized immigrant workers while so many Americans are out of jobs."

And indeed they will. Lou Dobbs is going to have a field day, and the Republican base is going to lose its collective head. It doesn’t seem even remotely plausible that Obama will get a bill passed in this economic climate.

That said, perhaps the president has another aim in mind. Maybe he doesn’t expect to pass legislation this time around. Maybe he’s thinking ahead to the 2010 midterm elections, and looking to give the Republicans just enough rope to hang themselves on this issue. If he moves forward, the GOP’s worst elements will come to the fore, branding the party for years to come as narrow-minded and regressive. Without George W. Bush as the voice of tolerance and reason on immigration, the party’s base will swiftly alienate Latino voters once and for all, and meanwhile frighten white suburban voters who are repulsed by racial appeals.

At least, that’s the only explanation that makes sense.

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