Be Careful What You Ask For

August 10th, 2007at 11:16am Posted by Eli

David Sirota’s general premise is good, but I think his specific recommendation could easily backfire:

One of the major reasons why Democrats have not yet been able to pass legislation slowing down or ending the Iraq War is because they remained within their archetype (aka. the role low-information voters perceive them as reflexively playing). The strongest bills they have proposed have all been straight-up “antiwar” bills – that is, they bring the troops home to end the war and that’s about it. True, that IS the antiwar movement’s goal (a goal I wholeheartedly support) – but the problem with it as the stand-alone legislative strategy is that it doesn’t allow Democrats to play outside their antiwar archetype on Republican turf, nor does it make the average Republican incumbent all that uncomfortable, because it doesn’t force Republicans to make a choice between loyalty to Bush and loyalty to their conservative base.

Right now, the antiwar movement’s strategy is a battle of attrition. Keep pushing standalone antiwar bills, and hope that public opposition to the war will force Republicans to peel off. It certainly may work – but to echo Robert Redford’s famous line in The Candidate, there is a better way – at least in terms of a legislative strategy that gets our troops out of Iraq as soon as possible.

Think for a moment about which issue Republicans have been trying to one-up and out-conservative each other on…Got it in your head? Right – it’s illegal immigration. On that issue, the least offensive Republican proposal from a racist/xenophobic perspective has been the effort to beef up border security. A look at recent congressional votes shows that beefing up border security has the widest bipartisan support among all the immigration-related proposals being considered.

So here’s the concept (which, though I’m not 100 percent sure, I don’t think has been tried yet in Congress): How about when Congress reconvenes in September, Democrats bring a bill to the floor of the House and Senate mandating that, say, 25,000 National Guardsmen be taken out of combat in Iraq and be immediately redeployed to guard America’s porous domestic borders – both southern and northern?…

Think this through for a moment. All of a sudden, the illegal-immigration-obsessed Tom Tancredo wing of the Republican Party, which also happens to be the most reflexively pro-war wing of the GOP, would be forced to choose either the Iraq War or beefed up border security. All of a sudden, we would be having a debate about two very real, very pressing priorities, rather than theoreticals and hypotheticals, and we would be discussing exactly how the misuse of our National Guard as a wing of the regular Army harms our ability to deal with the domestic challenges the National Guard was originally established to deal with.

With the war so unpopular, far-right, law-and-order, “tough on immigration” conservatives would be hard-pressed to vote against this kind of bill, potentially providing a veto-proof majority in support of it. And if they didn’t vote for it, Democrats would have a flip-flop campaign ad all set for 2008. You can just hear the voiceover: “The Republicans who told us they support border security voted against Democrats’ bill to secure our borders.”

This is a great idea in theory, but it assumes that Bush and the Republicans are somewhat responsible and sane. Given their approach over the last four years, I think it’s entirely possible that they would say, “You know, those Democrats may actually have a point, but Iraq is just too important and the surge is working too well for us to pull anyone out of Iraq. Instead of redeploying Guardsmen from Iraq, we will simply make use of the Guard who are rotated stateside in between deployments to Iraq. Border patrol is much less stressful than serving in Iraq, so this should not affect their combat readiness at all.”

Can anyone give me a good reason why this would not happen?

Entry Filed under: Bush,Democrats,Immigration,Iraq,Politics,Republicans

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