Some 20 years ago, respected Democratic Pollster Stanley B. Greenberg and the “Ragin’ Cajun”, James Carville, founded Democracy Corps — “the leading organization providing in-depth research and strategic advice to progressive groups, candidates, and leaders”. That group recently published the results of a poll it conducted between October 19 and 23 that underscores the importance of immigration and the border in the November midterm elections — and the fact that Biden and congressional Democrats made a losing bet that Americans didn’t care about illegal immigration or border security.
Democracy Corps, Greenberg, and Carville. Political consultant Carville — long a D.C. mainstay — should be familiar to most as the man who ran the successful 1992 presidential campaign for then-Governor Bill Clinton (D-Ark.).
Greenberg keeps a slightly lower profile, but in the last few years he authored “R.I.P. GOP: How the New America is Dooming Republicans” in advance of the 2020 presidential election, and co-authored “It's the Middle Class, Stupid!” with Carville in 2012.
Don’t expect to see either of these guys at your local “Lincoln Reagan Douglass Dinner” showcasing Republican candidates.
Democracy Corps, “A mainstay in Democratic polling efforts for over 20 years”, contends it provides “the information to help people reclaim their democratic government”. Years ago, Karl Rove advised the GOP to form a similar group if it ever hoped to regain a majority.
The Poll. As noted, this is a recent poll, involving 2,520 registered voters, “weighted down to an effective sample size of 1,000”. The final product is captioned “Democrats must still close on the cost-of-living. Results of new, large scale national & battleground poll”.
Among the key findings is the following: “Democrats are being hurt by the persistence of the economy and crime issue and late hits by the Republicans on the border and immigration — and that is driving the current slippage. Current Republican strategies on this issue are working.”
It continues: “Fear of Democratic governance generates much greater fear than what happens with Republican control. Voters see growing crime, homelessness, attacks on police, and an open Southern border.”
Respondents were asked to choose three issues “most pressing for the United States”. “Cost of living” was chosen by 57 percent, followed by “economy and jobs” (39 percent), “crime and violence” (35 percent), and then “immigration and the border”, a choice of 26 percent of respondents.
By way of comparison, just 23 percent chose “climate change, the environment, and energy transition” as pressing issues, while “the status of abortion” was chosen by 22 percent of those polled.
Which Party Is Better Able to Handle Immigration and the Border. The poll also gave respondents a series of issues, asking them which party would do better in handling it. Democrats scored high points on “climate change, the environment, and energy transition”, with 60 percent of respondents choosing the Party of Jackson, as opposed to 39 percent who believed Republicans could do a better job.
Democrats also held an eight-point edge on dealing with “health care”, with 54 percent to 46 percent for the GOP.
Republicans, however, did 10 points better than their political rivals when it came to “getting things done”, 55 percent for the GOP to 45 percent for Democrats. Republicans held an 11-point advantage on dealing with the economy, by a margin of 55 percent to 44 percent.
Then there is immigration.
The GOP was deemed better able to handle that issue by that same 11-point margin, 55 percent to 44 percent for the current majority party in Congress. Note that this was a seven-point improvement for the current minority party since similar polling in September, when 52 percent of respondents opined that Republicans were better able to handle immigration, compared to 48 percent who chose Democrats.
The subject area in which the GOP has the greatest advantage? The “border”. Some 59 percent of respondents believed that Republicans were in a better position to handle that issue, compared to 41 percent who preferred Democrats.
That represents a six-point swing since September, when 56 percent of respondents thought the GOP would do a better job of handling the border, compared to 44 percent who trusted Democrats on this issue more.
As I have explained previously, this swing is likely due to the efforts of Republican Governors Greg Abbott (Texas) and Doug Ducey (Ariz.) to bus migrants out of their border states to the northern enclaves of Washington, D.C., New York City, and Chicago, and partially due to outsized complaints by the Democratic mayors of those cities about their newfound “surges” of a few thousand migrants.
It’s no wonder that a key takeaway of that report is: “At close, Democrats take big hit on immigration and border”.
Issues that “Upset” Respondents the Most. Interestingly, the pollsters asked respondents what three subjects would upset them the most if Democrats on one hand or Republicans on the other took control of Congress.
The number one concern of respondents about Republican control is “Congress passing a law to ban abortion nationally and women losing equal rights forever”, the choice of 32 percent of those polled. Number two, the choice of 29 percent of respondents, is “The pro-Trump, white nationalist wing of the Republican Party gaining power”.
Each of those concerns paled in comparison to respondents’ leading fears if Democrats maintain control of Congress.
The top problem that would upset respondents in that eventuality is “Crime and homelessness out of control in cities and police coming under attack”, chosen by 56 percent of respondents. That was closely followed by the 43 percent of respondents who would be upset that Democratic control of Congress would result in “The southern border being open to immigrants”.
In other words, respondents were more concerned about a Democratic Congress doing nothing with respect to an open southern border than a Republican one banning abortion rights — by an 11-point margin.
To a degree, that likely reflects an awareness that even under the Supreme Court’s opinion in Dobbs overturning a constitutional right to abortion identified by the Court in its 1973 opinion in Roe v. Wade, the federal legislature could not actually impose an abortion ban.
Voters Favor a Republican Check on Biden’s Border Policies. More saliently, however, it is probably more of a reaction to the fact that the current, Democratic-controlled Congress has failed to act as a check on efforts by the Biden administration to encourage illegal migrants by all-but eliminating the consequences of illegal entry.
Unlike all of his predecessors, Biden has no policy to deter foreign nationals from entering illegally. That’s deliberate, because the administration’s stated border objective is ensuring all aliens who make it to this country — legally or illegally — have a “safe, orderly, and legal pathway” to apply for asylum, regardless of the strength of their claims, or even whether they come seeking asylum at all.
Simply put, the Biden administration doesn’t believe there are any “illegal migrants” — just “asylum seekers”. Not only is the president’s border policy paternalistic and chauvinistic, but it’s also self-defeating: Most of those aliens will never qualify for asylum, but the effort to allow them to try will break our legal immigration system.
Want proof that this is the administration’s position?
In 1996, Congress gave DHS “expedited removal” authority to deport illegal entrants without obtaining a removal order from an immigration judge. Aliens in expedited removal claiming a fear of harm if returned are to be screened to determine whether they have a “credible fear”. If credible fear is found, those aliens can apply for asylum from an immigration judge; if not, they are to be removed.
In September, Border Patrol agents at the Southwest border apprehended more than 207,000 illegal migrants. Fewer than 72,500 — less than 35 percent of the total — were expelled under CDC orders issued pursuant to Title 42 of the U.S. Code in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
That left more than 135,000 illegal entrants who were processed by DHS for removal. Just 9,382 of them — less than 7 percent — were subject to expedited removal. By contrast, CBP released nearly 105,000 others into the United States, where they will remain indefinitely, if not forever.
How about proof that congressional Democrats have failed to act as a check to the president’s border policies?
In August, congressional Republicans attempted to offer amendments to H.R. 5376, the “Inflation Reduction Act of 2022”, a “reconciliation” bill that could be passed with a simple majority in the Senate, to address the humanitarian crisis at the Southwest border. Democratic leadership stymied all those amendments, most of which were defeated on party-line votes.
A Losing Bet. Beginning on Inauguration Day 2021, the White House and congressional Democratic leadership gambled on the proposition that the American people were not really that concerned about illegal immigration or border security.
Biden’s DHS leadership imposed unnecessary burdens on ICE officers’ ability to engage in immigration enforcement actions (that is, investigating, questioning, arresting, detaining, prosecuting, and deporting removable aliens), while the president quickly reversed nearly every Trump policy that had brought any semblance of operational control to the border.
The only Trump policy he left in place was Title 42, which really involves public health, not border security. Even then, Biden tried to end those CDC orders on May 23 (despite DHS warnings that doing so would mean 18,000 illegal entrants per day at the Southwest border), only to be blocked in that effort by a federal judge who enjoined any end to Title 42 on May 20.
As the Democracy Corps poll and analysis reveals, that has been a losing bet for the White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill. Biden’s policies look feckless (even the left-leaning editorial board at Bloomberg Opinion referred to it the situation at the U.S.-Mexico line as “Biden’s Border Fiasco” in August), while congressional Democrats look complicit in those efforts.
Voters rejected a second Trump term in 2020, but that likely had more to do with his personality than his policies. Immigration and the border were key points for both his 2016 campaign and his presidency, and I personally think he erred in failing to talk more about those issues when seeking reelection.
As Democracy Corps implicitly underscores, American voters are concerned about illegal immigration and border security. That organization is trying to warn Democrats to change course on those issues, but it’s likely too little, too late. Perhaps, like Clinton following the 1994 midterms, Biden will have a change of heart. If he doesn’t, it will be up to whoever controls the next, 118th, Congress, to act.