Local Learns Politics: Passing Immigration Reform Is Not That Hard. Seriously.

Poli-tricks, poli-ticks, politics. The intricacies of government and society are supposed to make your head hurt—simply because none of them actually make any shred of sense. Game theory never helped anyone either. But that’s what defines politics: a bunch of nonsense packaged into a somewhat sustainable rule of law. We know the topic can be yawn-inducing, confusing and nauseating but, hey, it’s in the news so we might as well take a shot at disassembling and digesting this mess for the greater good. And that’s what “Local Learns Politics” is all about.

When analyzing any sort of legislative move, you have to first look to its two reigning factors: the economic environment in which it’s taking place and the electoral consequences of such a move. The former determines popular support while the latter hints towards its actual chance of being passed in Congress. Without these two together on your side, you’ll get nowhere fast in Washington.

With that being said, we come to our first topic: immigration reform. This past week, President Obama announced that he would be moving forward with his 2008 campaign promise to overhaul the system by which our government brands people “American.” And, from what it seems, a broad coalition will back his proposals. Because most politicians have agreed on this subject for some time now; it’s just been a matter of scenario.

In 2006, President George W. Bush urged his Republican Congress to follow his steps in granting millions of illegal immigrants amnesty. It was a call to revive one of Ronald Reagan’s lasting legacies: the swift legalization of 3 million undocumented workers. However, President Bush wasn’t as lucky as his revered predecessor based off the two principles mentioned before.

Firstly, it was 2006. During one of the last years before shit hit the fan, America was riding high (or so we thought): the economy was stagnantly impressive, our conflicts abroad were only just unraveling and people were comfortable, for the most part, with the direction our country was headed. Nativism parallels Good Times—voters didn’t want to share prosperity with the proclaimed Other, especially in a post-9/11 environment. “Get out of my backyard!” was a living social mantra of the Bush Era.

Secondly, Hispanics didn’t decide elections then. In 2006, the demographic made up six percent of the voter pool—a number that, at the time, didn’t seem too threatening to politicians. And here’s a quick rule of politics: if elected representatives don’t feel threatened by said electorate, they won’t usually act on their behalf. Sorry, Schoolhouse Rock fans, but that’s the truth. So no one in this Republican Congress was about to go against popular support for this overhaul. Legislative fail for Dubya.

Fast forward seven years. The clearest irony of this lesson we’re discussing here is in the proposal: what President Obama is stumping for is basically identical to the bill President Bush wanted. Except, this time, he has the right ingredients at his disposal.

It’s 2013. As all of us have come to accept as reality, America is no longer riding high: the economy is still in the shitter, our conflicts abroad have completely unraveled and people are not comfortable, for the most part, with the direction our country is heading. However, here’s the twist: in tough economic times, social issues are successfully pushed to the forefront. We’re seeing the same thing happen right now with same-sex marriage. No one has time to worry about what the Other is up to, let alone a wedding invitation.

And now (reminder: 2013), Hispanics decide elections now. In the 2012 election, Hispanics made up 10 percent of voters, giving President Obama 71 percent of their support compared to Romney’s measly 27 percent. Hence why Mr. Obama delivered his immigration reform speech this week in Nevada – a state that was added to the Democratic bloc by a group that was overwhelmingly pleased with a commander-in-chief who allowed children of illegal immigrants to apply for citizenship just months before and didn’t mention the phrase ‘self-deportation’ on the campaign trail once. In 2013, you need to have the future on your side to win. And Republicans are slowly beginning to realize that.

The President has said the bill will be signed in six months. No one should doubt that, though.

See how that works?

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