By Al Giordano
Senators John McCain and Barack Obama were both co-sponsors of the Immigration Reform Bill of 2007, but McCain, being a Republican, took far more heat for it from his party bases. Right wing talk radio hosts and bloggers were outraged. Rush Limbaugh called it "the Comprehensive Destroy the Republican Party Act of 2007," because it would have opened a path to citizenship for twelve million undocumented Americans who would then presumably utilize that citizenship to participate and vote in elections (Limbaugh believes that they would vote mostly Democratic).
The turning point toward what will inevitably bring that reform (just as all waves of immigrants throughout American history have always been legalized after initial prejudiced campaigns against them wore off) came on May 1, 2006, when millions participated in gigantic demonstrations throughout the country (half a million in Los Angeles alone) for immigrant rights. It was the first General Strike - in which workers from many professions walked off the job in protest, and also students of all ages - in the United States in more than 70 years, dwarfing any protest on any issue in recent US history.
Politicians were fearful: Only two US Senators - Ted Kennedy and Obama - participated in the street marches on that day two years ago. That fear continued into 2007 when many US senators, Democrat and Republican alike, that had originally pledged their support for the bill folded at the eleventh hour and voted against it.
Still, McCain expected to be able to reap the electoral benefits of his high-profile cosponsorship of the 2007 reform bill. In June of 2007 his own campaign advisors said as much to the Washington Post:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is not wavering on immigration. This week, he continued to stand firm with President Bush in seeking a Senate compromise on the issue in the face of intense opposition from core activists in the Republican Party.
His advisers refer to such a stance as one of the signatures of his political career: principled stands on tough issues.
But by November of last year, McCain, too, flipped positions on his "signature" issue:
Now, the Republican presidential candidate emphasizes securing the borders first. The rest, he says, is still needed but will have to come later.
"I understand why you would call it a, quote, shift," McCain told reporters Saturday after voters questioned him on his position during back-to-back appearances in this early voting state. "I say it is a lesson learned about what the American people's priorities are. And their priority is to secure the borders."
He repeated his new stance again and again during debates with his GOP rivals who had tried to hammer him over his original support for the reform.
That flip flop has driven, according to polls, a massive rejection of McCain by Hispanic voters. Immigration reform is, hands down, the most outcome-determinative issue among millions of voters in 2008 (during the Univision Spanish-language debate among Democratic presidential candidates, seventy percent of the thousands of written questions sent in by viewers were about the reform bill).
A new Research 2000 nationwide poll echoes what all other surveys have revealed about the Hispanic vote between Obama and McCain: Obama towers with 65 percent to 24 for McCain and one percent each for Bob Barr and Ralph Nader (this, even as Nader tapped Matt Gonzales as his vice presidential candidate: one of the paradoxes of Nader's proclaimed progressivism is that historically his candidacies have only appealed to a certain segment of white voters; part of this is caused by his own recent "talking white" statements - in psychobabble parlance, "he has issues" that impede him ever becoming a coalescing force among the multi-racial left). That leaves 9 percent more up for grabs and if Obama doesn't commit a misstep in who he names for vice president (more on that in a moment) he will be well positioned to sop the bulk of those votes up, too, potentially bringing him over 70 percent of the vote among the fastest growing demographic group in the electorate.
The Obama campaign has deployed an army of organizers and "Obama Fellows" to register Hispanic voters from Las Vegas to Las Cruces and everywhere else, changing the electoral math particularly in the swing states of Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Florida but also, very significantly, in Texas. Eight million Hispanic Americans voted in 2006. To win two thirds of their votes would bring an advantage of 2.7 million votes nationwide. Now, watch the numbers tick upward: Two thirds of, say, 10 million would bring an advantage of 3.4 million for Obama. Or if 12 million Hispanic-Americans vote in November, that would mean a margin of four million votes more for Obama than for McCain, and heavily concentrated in some major battleground states.
Obama's success so far among Latinos, and Mexican-Americans (the largest subgroup) in particular is striking because of efforts during the primaries to play the race card and turn Latinos and blacks against each other (your correspondent witnessed a very ugly example of that during the Nevada caucuses last January).
Had McCain not switched positions, he could have made a real play for those voters (George W. Bush had unprecedented success for a Republican winning Hispanic votes in Texas and later nationwide). But they're not going to forgive him, unless...
There's only one thing Obama could do to lose the goodwill he is building among Hispanic-American voters, the very demographic groups who could seal his landslide victory in November. I'm going to put it on the table, right out into the open: There are some names being floated on the alleged "short list" of vice presidential nominees for the Democrat. They include three US Senators that voted against immigration reform last year: Jim Webb of Virginia (who has said he's not interested in the post), Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Evan Bayh of Indiana. The press has blown Bayh, in particular, some kisses of late in the veepstakes reporting.
To pick a running mate that voted against the 2007 Immigration Reform Bill would give McCain the opening to pull a large chunk of the Hispanic vote back into the GOP column, and would have a wet blanket effect on the growing enthusiasm for Obama among this sector, dampening voter turnout.
In politics, there are flip flops, and then there are flip flops big enough to matter, but the cave-in last year on immigration reform - more than on any other issue - by some Democratic legislators, and later last year by Senator McCain, constituted the biggest flip flop of all: the one that could lose somebody the presidency this year.
Obama can pick any governor, any legislator that voted for immigration reform, or anyone from any sector that did not vote against it last year, and still run away with the Hispanic vote in November. But to pick a member of Congress that voted against it would provoke a backlash with real consequences in voter turnout and the Electoral College with a force that probably cannot be found on any other single issue in 2008.
With Caroline Kennedy on the vetting committee, and her family's singular commitment to immigration reform, I'm not particularly concerned that this factor will go unnoticed in these final weeks as a VP nominee is being selected, but when names like Bayh's are floated in the media, his 2007 vote against immigration reform has to be brought up again and again, because it is that large of a deal breaker.
By Al Giordano
Photo: 2008, by Navajo
So... sometime last year there was a presidential debate that was co-sponsored by Facebook and I signed on to be able to watch it. And over the months I kept getting emails from so-and-so and such-and-such that wanted to be my Facebook "friend."
I succumbed yesterday when my Scrabble partner, traveling abroad, wanted to play a game long distance, and suddenly I was thrust into that Facebook world, and old friends and new ones pinging me all day and night from there, which I don't pretend to understand.
Anyway, if you're a Field Hand, and you're there, you can find me here. (If we don't know each other face to face, make sure to send a note identifying yerself as such, because I don't usually respond to strangers online.)
Maybe you can educate me, too. I understand why myspace pages exists: so that musicians can find each other and get club gigs! But I don't quite grasp this Facebook thing (except that Mark Penn hates it: ten points for Facebook based on that alone). I presume there's a point to it. But... what is it?
By Al Giordano
If I were John McCain, I wouldn't be taunting an athlete for going to the gym.
The next three-point shot will probably be with his head.
My guess? Some really smart political street fighters in Chicago are going to accurately read this as permission to hit back hard, now that the adversary has thrown the first punch. Just ask the Clinton machine about the lessons learned from the primaries: do not invite a counterpunch from the skinny guy with the funny name.
Get out the popcorn. This will be interesting to watch over the next few days.
Update: Halperin reports that the ad is running in just three states: Pennsylvania, Colorado and Washington DC (which is to say, it's aimed at Virginia and also at the chattering pundit class in DC, to generate "free media"). That indicates one of two things: penny-pinching by the McCain campaign, or, more likely, they will then poll in those markets to see if the ad worked to move public opinion and drive up Obama's negatives. In a week we'll be able to see whether McCain's internal polling showed an impact or not by whether the message is then expanded to more swing state media markets.
Update II: Speaking of Virginia, DKos diarist VirginiaDem says "get out the pitchforks" and offers some talking points to hit back from the bottom, up. (He also ads some interesting history of how similar attack ads have backfired in the Old Dominion state.)
Update III: The substance of the McCain ad critique was that, while in Europe, Obama didn't visit wounded soldiers at a base in Landstuhl. Jed absolutely nails him: It turns out that when McCain visited Europe in March, he was geographically closer to that same base, but didn't visit it either:
(Note that the pushback is so far coming from a multitude of surrogates, bloggers and journalists, none of whom waited for orders from above to get out their blowtorches. To me, that's a more significant development than anything the Obama campaign itself does. That brings to mind another rule of life: do not shake a hornet's nest! Obama's gonna have to take a number behind everybody else that has lined up to throw knives on this one.)
By Al Giordano
Summer in the United States is a dreadful time to be a political candidate, consultant, ad-maker, press secretary, policy analyst, fundraiser - or for that matter political reporter or blogger - because the news cycles slow to comatose with the breezeless so-thick-you-can-cut-a-knife-through-it August air.
All those people are dependent on public attention to get anything done at all. But teachers and students are on summer vacation, as are so many members of the professional classes that feed media crises and scandals during the rest of the year. Their email accounts are on automatic response: "I will be out of the office until...." Every man and woman's life and property is safe, to paraphrase Mark Twain, because Congress is out of session. Even talk radio hosts are merely "phoning it in" this time of year, taking Fridays and Mondays off, grabbing those days of respite and calm that are so elusive for most of the rest of the year.
And for the many that can't afford a summer home or even a long weekend away - that struggling majority that the media doesn't care about anyway - the schools aren't available to baby-sit the kids, there's no air conditioner to help beat the heat, the pollen and the smog, those that live in tourist towns are working sunrise to sunset or waiting tables or bartending all night, there are weeds to be pulled and grass to be cut and arid fields to be irrigated: for the America that doesn't have a summer home, these months bring even harder work and longer hours.
As a result, it's impossible to focus national public attention on almost anything, no matter how prurient or scandalous: if you're going to get caught by tabloid stalkers with the mother of your love child in a Beverly Hills hotel, this is the perfect time of year to do it: nobody notices, and those few that notice don't give a damn. By Labor Day it will already be old news.
But there is one task that matters in US politics this time of year, the job done by volunteers and unsung professionals alike: field organizing. And this year, in 2008, as E.J. Dionne points out, registering new voters from the 56 million that are eligible and don't vote can put the calcified Electoral College map out of its misery and rebirth it anew:
...the evidence is overwhelming that this year, the young really will vote in large numbers -- and they just might tip the election.
The trend started four years ago. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, or CIRCLE, electoral participation among 18- to 24-year-olds rose from 36 percent in 2000 to 47 percent in 2004. For the larger 18 to 29 group, participation rose from 40 percent to 49 percent.
The 2006 midterm election saw a larger increase in off-year voting among the under-30s than any other age group.
Then came this year's primaries: According to CIRCLE, the turnout rate for the under-30s nearly doubled between 2000 and 2008, from 9 percent to 17 percent.
...on present trends, it's a near certainty that young people's overall share of the electorate will rise substantially this year.
Have you noticed how many of the political pundits are writing columns this season along the lines of "why aren't the polls moving?" and trying to squeeze some meaning out of it like one last drop of Budweiser from a US-made can? Well, its summer, dumbasses. Public opinion in presidential politics never moves until the conventions are held and herald the beginning of the fall, with its crisper brisk air, death-tolling school bells and the return of a well-rested scandal-mongering media corps to its cubicles and cauldrons of toil and trouble.
But while America has been on autopilot, the few (well, maybe not so few) and the proud (some might say "arrogant" or "uppity!") - those crazy and cocky field organizers - are the ones out there making history.
Last week, The Field brought you the scoop of how the Obama campaign plans to use the Democratic National Convention and the millions of viewers it will attract in late August as the stepping-off-point for a massive national voter registration drive.
Since then we have learned that it has plopped down $5 million dollars for a national television ad buy during the Olympic games: the messaging will surely be tied into the call for those 56 million missing voters to come home and overwhelm the system. The Denver Post broke some news yesterday: Anybody that wants one of 60,000+ available tickets for Obama's Mile High Stadium acceptance speech on August 28 (forty-five years to the day of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" oratory) can buy them only with sweat, by registering new voters.
In a half-hour interview Wednesday with The Denver Post, Obama's deputy campaign manager, Steve Hildebrand, said he wants to use the ticketing process as a massive recruitment tool meant to bring in supporters from all 50 states and energize them to carry the campaign into the final 60 days of the general election.
"We're going to ask those 80,000 people in that stadium to march out of there and go with very specific instructions and goals to register millions of new voters," Hildebrand said.
And this just came into my email box (and maybe yours, too). It's specific to the New York zip code I typed when they made me give one last year when I signed up to receive alerts from the Obama campaign:
If you're ready to take the next step, you are invited to attend a two-day Camp Obama training session near you.
Camp Obama is back: the summer camp for those that can't afford summer camp!
Camp Obama trainings offer a unique, in-depth look at the strategies and techniques that have driven this campaign.
These two-day sessions, to be held August 22nd - 23rd, are led by experienced Obama campaign staffers and other professional organizers who are eager to empower dedicated supporters like you.
After completing a camp session, attendees will be asked to fill essential volunteer positions in battleground states -- these are demanding roles, but they are a vital part of our election strategy.
Supporters with experience in community organizing or political campaigns are strongly encouraged to apply. But the only requirement is that you support Barack and be ready to turn your enthusiasm and energy into action.
Here are some of the skills you'll learn at Camp Obama:
- Tactics that will help you creatively and effectively organize voters
- Tips to increase the visibility of the campaign in your area
- Keys to mobilizing other volunteers to join our movement
(Don't dawdle, Field Hands: In other regions the training sessions will be held August 15 and 16.)
Yep, while you're out there complaining about the heat, swatting flies, and listening to pundits try to ruffle your Chicken Little feathers, there's an army forming over hill and dale. (Best of all, and bwahahaha, it is also training thousands with the skills to hammer and hold its candidate accountable after he's elected, something that complaining activist critics of all-things-electoral have failed to do, on this scale, for decades. How's that for irony?)
Anytime I speak to Obama Fellows or active volunteers (which is daily, and from all corners of the country; I'm their off-the-record pen pal and secret decoder ring buddy and I'll be yours, too: email@example.com) I ask how they are spending their days and nights. "Registering voters," is the universal response. Then I ask for numbers. Typically, no matter in what part of the United States they are organizing, they have already signed up an average of three times more new voters than signed up in all of 2004 in their counties or municipalities. This is the big untold story of the summer of 2008. (This autumn is going to bring a royal headache for political pollsters who, even for the very few that want to measure this X factor, will find it difficult to weight accurately in their numbers crunching activities.)
For all of you that have been asking me to tell you what is really happening in the presidential election, for once you haven't come to the best source: go to "camp" instead. In your town or city, people are forming up posses and knocking on doors by day and even trawling bars and clubs by night - how can that not be fun? - hunting down the 56 million missing American voters and signing them up. Those that have spent even just one day or night doing it are not worrying or fretting about November. They know more than the pundits and professionals have a clue.
You do not want to end this summer without being able to say that you went out there, even if just once or twice, and were one of the many that, outside of the media's radar screen, changed the game. After all, why stay home and watch the Olympics when you yourself can go for the gold? It's a medal you'll wear with pride for the rest of your days, being able to look in the mirror - at last! - and say: I made history.
By Al Giordano
I've just posted a news story over on the Narco News side of these pages:
Because this story mirrors a struggle going on throughout the United States as a new wave of change-agents confront the corporate wing of the Democratic Party, I've also cross-posted it to Daily Kos.
Spread the good word, Field Hands.
By Al Giordano
Obama is now on stage in Berlin at 1:23 p.m. ET, with roadblocked cable TV coverage and livestreaming at CNN.com.
Here's how it began:
I come to Berlin as so many of my countrymen have come before. Tonight, I speak to you not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen - a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world.
I know that I don't look like the Americans who've previously spoken in this great city. The journey that led me here is improbable. My mother was born in the heartland of America, but my father grew up herding goats in Kenya. His father - my grandfather - was a cook, a domestic servant to the British.
At the height of the Cold War, my father decided, like so many others in the forgotten corners of the world, that his yearning - his dream - required the freedom and opportunity promised by the West. And so he wrote letter after letter to universities all across America until somebody, somewhere answered his prayer for a better life.
That is why I'm here. And you are here because you too know that yearning. This city, of all cities, knows the dream of freedom. And you know that the only reason we stand here tonight is because men and women from both of our nations came together to work, and struggle, and sacrifice for that better life...
Add your comments and reactions here.
Update 1:30 p.m. ET: The message is pitched not at Berliners but, after praising the toppling of the Berlin Wall, at "People of the world: Look at Berlin!"
More at 1:36 p.m. ET:
The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.
We know they have fallen before. After centuries of strife, the people of Europe have formed a Union of promise and prosperity. Here, at the base of a column built to mark victory in war, we meet in the center of a Europe at peace. Not only have walls come down in Berlin, but they have come down in Belfast, where Protestant and Catholic found a way to live together; in the Balkans, where our Atlantic alliance ended wars and brought savage war criminals to justice; and in South Africa, where the struggle of a courageous people defeated apartheid.
So history reminds us that walls can be torn down. But the task is never easy. True partnership and true progress requires constant work and sustained sacrifice. They require sharing the burdens of development and diplomacy; of progress and peace. They require allies who will listen to each other, learn from each other and, most of all, trust each other...
Money Quote: "In this century - in this city of all cities - we must reject the Cold War mind-set of the past."
Post-Speech, 1:50 p.m. ET: Most of the paragraphs of the speech began with the words "This is the moment," a line he's used before, and also "this is our moment." Fox News commentators are having difficulty trying to criticize the speech.
I must offer a critique of the moral equivalency Obama drew between terrorists and poppy growing farmers in Afghanistan (for whom he used the drug-warrior language of "traffickers putting heroin on our streets") but on the other hand I thought the words overall were far more progressive, and shining light upon injustices throughout the world, than anything a US president has said abroad in recent decades. And as the Fox News commentators' stuttering response indicates, he didn't give an inch to those who wanted to portray giving a speech abroad as somehow un-American. That was the major risk of holding the speech there in Berlin, now a risk averted.