Since President Obama's announcement that his Homeland Security Department would use prosecutorial discretion to stop deporting young people who came here as children, have no criminal records and who are Americans in every way except in paper, Mitt Romney and the Republican party has struggled to formulate a coherent response, much less a popular one. The President's move is wildly popular, as a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey shows support holding at or expanding to nearly 70%. The same policy announcement has given the president a surge among Hispanic American voters, and put him on top on key states.
It seems like it's a slam dunk. This is not only a move that is the right thing to do, but one that is being shown to be capable of moving poll numbers. Remember how Mitt Romney, in a literal Johnny-come-lately fashion, thrust himself in front of the microphone to declare his support to keep student loan interest rates low? That was a low-hanging fruit for him to pick. This one seems like one, too, if one looks at the polling.
Yet, Romney's response, along with that of his party, has been muddled. The best they can do is accuse the President of not getting something done on immigration legislatively. Funny, given that Democrats have tried time and again to pass the DREAM Act, only to have Republicans - including former sponsors of the DREAM Act - obstruct the bill simply because it earned support from President Obama. The current position - or lack thereof - of Romney and the Republicans is designed to do one thing and one thing alone: avoid landmines.
Mitt Romney was emphatic during the Republican primaries as he shred Texas governor Rick Perry for allowing children of undocumented immigrants to get in-state college tuition rates. Romney boldly declared that he would veto the DREAM Act, that he would be so brutal in enforcement that undocumented immigrants would just self-deport.
But it's the general election, and it's time for an etch-a-sketch. Romney would like to wipe the slate clean and hopes that we all forgot what he said, though I doubt the Obama campaign is going to let any of us forget. But it's not just the Obama campaign that won't let him forget. It's his own base. The Republican base that started its sharp crazy turn with the birther movement, and has continued on a downhill since. The same base that attacked the President's legitimacy because of his skin color... err... because they "doubted" his place of birth is watching Romney closely. He better not do anything for those brown people, or else.
I could say a lot of words to describe just who these people are that Romney is so beholden to, but I think these do a better job:
The inmates are now running the asylum. These crazies are now running the Republican party. Mitt Romney has closed his own door to the Latino vote (or the vote of anyone who's smart enough to do some sane thinking). Mitt Romney and his party has pandered to, and become more and more beholden to the racist vote. Those radicals demand absolute adherence to their racist rhetoric, and they stand ready to abandon the party's nominee, who they trust little in the first place. The GOP have thus far managed with a wink and a nod - they have managed to spread the southern strategy without getting caught elsewhere. But the immigration issue has brought into conflict - the first of many conflicts - the Republican traditional strategy to round up the angry, white, racist vote and the need to get minority votes in order to win in an increasingly diversifying electorate.
When President Obama made this announcement, he knew all this. It was the right thing to do by young people. It was also the right thing to do to expose the Republican party's true racist nature. The reason that the President's campaign made the decision that they would go against conventional wisdom and highlight Romney's radical policies (along with those of his party's) to force a much larger philosophical choice rather than an one-election strategy of Mitt Romney's flip-flopping is because they know that if we are ever again to have a government that works, we must beat back the surge of hatred-driven politics.
The Republican party chose to fan the flames of the racist, birther movement, and it gave them massive political gains in 2010. They chose to keep fanning it, and this time, it will come back to haunt them.