The fun thing about elections is that whether your side wins or loses, you can find ways to spin the results to bolster your worldview. The immigration issue and the mid-term elections are a perfect example of this dynamic. I'm a left-leaning independent, but even I have to laugh while watching the pundits break down what went wrong for the Democrats on Tuesday.
Given the fact that the party that generally supports an amnesty for illegal immigrants was routed and the one that generally opposes it won on a massive scale, it would seem that President Obama was probably wise in holding off on immigration reform until after the election. But on CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and elsewhere, I keep hearing the talking heads remark that this was a blunder that contributed to the historic drubbing, by depressing the Latino turnout. (This segment on NPR's "All Things Considered" yesterday is a typical example.)
There was only one ballot initiative concerning immigration on Tuesday, and voters in Oregon rejected giving drivers cards to illegal immigrants by a 2-1 margin. The fact that this happened in Oregon — where Democrats performed well and turnout skewed younger thanks to another ballot question on legalizing recreational marijuana use (it passed) — says a lot about where the public stands on the immigration issue. But I haven't heard a single mention of it in any of these immigration-related discussions in national media outlets.
According to various exit polls, Latinos made up 8 percent of the electorate this year, compared to 7 percent in 2010, when 31 percent of registered Latinos turned out. And Republicans captured a bigger slice of the Latino vote than they did in 2012. The Latino turnout obviously could have been higher, but what evidence is there that the president's inaction on immigration reform contributed to his party's catastrophic performance?
An election-eve poll conducted by Latino Decisions, in partnership with National Council of La Raza, asked registered Latino voters who weren't planning to vote in the mid-term election why they weren't going to participate. 25 percent said they didn't have time, 24 percent didn't know where their polling place was, 19 percent cited frustration with "bad candidates", and 14 percent said they lacked a photo ID required to vote. Sixty percent of respondents did say that President Obama's inaction made them less enthusiastic about the president and the Democratic Party, compared to 23 percent who said it made them more enthusiastic. And 68 percent of non-voters said that if comprehensive immigration reform was passed "before the end of this year" they might consider voting in 2016.
The reasons the Latino non-voters cited for failing to turn out sound a lot like the reasons you'd get from any group during any election year. And I'm not sure I see how granting them what many supposedly want — immigration reform — now, will motivate them to vote later.
All of this bogus punditry also fails to account for the fact that if the president had acted forcefully on immigration prior to the election, he would have gotten the Republican base even more fired up than they already were. The fact is that if the Democrats had won big on Tuesday, all of the same people who are saying Obama made a huge blunder would be claiming that the Republicans lost because they didn't support immigration reform.
No matter how you feel about the Obama administration, you have to acknowledge that they have a sophisticated, data-driven approach to gauging the political winds. They know that supporting amnesty is a losing proposition and that's why the president postponed action until after the election.