Earth to Democrats
Twelve candidates, five hours of airtime and 16 million viewers resulted in one mention of #immigration. There is something wrong with this formula if the Democrats are intending to put up a fight in #election2020.
I was recently invited to go to Florence, Italy, with my then fiancé Jenny and a few of our friends. How could I resist la dolce far niente, or the sweetness of doing nothing, for a weekend with my woman! We arrived in Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci International Airport on an early Friday morning. We had two hours before our connecting flight to Florence. Jenny joined her friends to check out the duty free shops in the airport. I sat in a café to have my first Italian espresso of the trip and to write.
I sat at a shared table with two American couples in their late fifties. They were completing a holiday in Italy and returning home to the United States. We smiled politely at each other as I gestured a request to sit at their table. They kindly agreed.
As I sipped my coffee I could not help but overhear one of the ladies mention #immigration. I was a consular officer. It was my job to adjudicate immigrant visa applications. Just like Pavlov’s dog, I am conditioned. When I hear someone talk about immigration my spine straightens, my ears prop up, and my curiosity is sparked.
The group allowed me to interject in their conversation. I learned that they are proud residents of St. Louis, #Missouri. Dennis, the patriarch of the group, is the president of a local television station that focuses on cultural and educational programming. The group was talking about the 2020 elections.
They shared with me that they are conservative Democrats. They traditionally voted for Democratic candidates but are concerned with the extreme liberal direction the party appears to be moving in. They also told me that their top three campaign issues are the economy, health care, and immigration - in that order.
Dennis and his family are not alone. According to Gallup's Midterm Election Benchmark poll healthcare, the economy, and immigration are the most important issues for almost 80% of American voters.
This is why I am bewildered that Democrats appear to be avoiding the topic. During the October and November Democratic #debates, immigration was mentioned only once. In five hours of talking, zinging, gesturing, and jabbing there was only one reference to immigration. This led me to the following equation:
12 candidates x 5 hours of airtime + 16 million viewers = 1 mention of immigration
There is something wrong with this formula if the Democrats are intending to put up a fight in November 2020. Were the candidates and the moderators unaware of the importance of immigration to voters? Or was it something else?
The Democratic Party may be purposefully avoiding the immigration issue. The reason could be that many of the Democratic responses to #Trump’s immigration policy changes have been filled with outrage and virtue, but there have been no solid counter policy position.
For example, let’s look at how some Democratic candidates responded to Trump’s new “public charge” rule. The public charge rule gives immigration officials broader parameters to identify immigration candidates who may need public welfare programs in America. Those candidates will not qualify to immigrate to the United States.
Senator #KamalHarris said the rule is part of “an ongoing campaign of his to vilify a whole group of people.” Senator Harris expressed outrage and disappointment. But she did not provide a counter policy.
On Twitter #BetoORourke responded by saying “this administration finally admitted what we’ve known all along: They think the Statue of Liberty only applies to white people.” Mr. O’Rourke expressed his displeasure with what he believes is Trump’s racist agenda. However, once again there was no counter proposal on how to uphold our public charge laws.
Even worse, some Democratic candidates’ policy proposals on immigration appear completely out of touch with the real concerns of Americans. For example, Democratic candidates #JuliánCastro and Senator #ElizabethWarren proposed decriminalizing the illegal crossing into the United States without proper documentation. Entering the United States illegally would no longer be a crime. These candidates want to equate entering the country illegally to a parking ticket.
Democrats also proposed giving illegal immigrants free healthcare coverage. In the July 2019 Democratic debates, all ten candidates on stage raised their hand when asked whose government plan would provide healthcare coverage for illegal immigrants.
The problem is that most Americans don’t agree with this. According to a CNN poll most Americans do not think that government funded health insurance should be available to illegal immigrants. This proposal marginalizes the majority of Americans and leaves them thinking, “What about my family and me? We can hardly get healthcare for Americans.” Are the candidates paying attention to these American voices?
The Democratic Party is not doing itself any favors on immigration. In the last two debates they’ve ignored the topic although it is of utmost importance to their voters. They have countered Presidential executive orders with a lot of passion but no policy. They have also made policy proposals that leave many Americans scratching their heads and feeling ignored.
I'll be interested to see if this strategy changes in the December debate. If the Democrats want to have a chance in November 2020, they will need to start feeling the pulse of the American streets and come down to earth.
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