An interesting story I missed in yesterday’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minutemen Project devoted to combating illegal immigration, spoke Friday at the Clinton School for Public Service in Little Rock, and pronounced himself displeased with both major party presidential candidates.
Gilchrist argued that Barack Obama and John McCain are sidestepping the issue of illegal immigration because it’s “too controversial” and “they don’t want to deal with it,” reporter Evin Demirel writes.
I’ve suggested before in this space that illegal immigration as a political issue, after generating lots of grassroots heat in 2006 and 2007, is waning. In general, it’s never shown itself to be a proven vote-mover, except in some localized circumstances, and the hard-line restrictionist line that Gilchrist peddles has little traction with a broader audience. In our state, the Secure Arkansas ballot initiative fell on its face, not even landing enough signatures to make the ballot.
If Obama and McCain are “ignoring” the issue, it’s not because it’s “too controversial.” It’s because they’re looking at the realities of their polling and the mood of the electorate and judging that it can be safely ignored at no real cost to their candidacies.
That’s not to say that illegal immigration doesn’t represent real problems for many communities. Obviously, it does, and many schools, hospitals and local governments are struggling with those challenges. But Gilchrist and company are not providing a compelling or realistic argument for what needs to come next.
Class Act Award: To the audience at the Clinton School, a crowd I’ll venture was not in tune with Gilchrist’s message, for offering the man a fair hearing and civil questioning.