Progressive Indictment | Democratic Presidential Candidates Show Surprising Stress on Immigration

Recently, I looked at the Republican presidential candidates in terms of their immigration records and those of their supporters. I also examined their fund-raising success.

My conclusion: generally, the supporters were stronger immigration patriots than the candidates—and the candidates' pronounced weakness on H-1b "temporary" worker expansion was telling evidence that corporate contributions were further, and fatally, divorcing them from their base.

Now I turn to my own party, the Democrats.

I used the same method, looking at the records of the Congressmen who endorse a candidate.

Again, I used a list of endorsers and spent the better part of a day aggregating it to construct imputed grades for each candidate from the ratings provided by Americans for Better Immigration. I then paired these with the candidates' odds of getting the nomination or the presidency obtained from the betting market at Intrade. Fund raising estimates were from OpenSecrets.org, which posts publicly available details of donations on the internet.

I got the following table.

Candidate

Win

Odds

Nom.

Odds

ABI

lifetime

Grade

Guest

Worker

lifetime

Grade

Endorser average

ABI

Grade

Endorser

Average

Guest

Worker

Grade

Number

of

Supporters

Funds

($million)

Clinton

35.4%

60.3%

D

F

D-

D+

57

63.1

Obama

13.7%

24.0%

D-

F

D-

C-

24

58.9

Edwards

4.0%

7.5%

D

D+

D

C

15

23.1

Gore

4.1%

7.4%

A-

A+

 

 

 

 

Richardson

 

2.1%

F-

 

D-

C-

7

13.3

Dodd

 

0.1%

D-

D-

C

C-

9

12.1

Kucinich

 

 

D-

A+

 

 

 

1.1

My observations:

  • Again, major presidential candidates are more likely to support a loose immigration than their supporters in Congress. The minor exception: Hillary Clinton. However, she hasn't been a Senator that long. And the difference between her record and that of her supporters is slight.

 

  • Al Gore has a far more patriotic stand on immigration than any other major presidential candidate in either party.

Some other VDARE.com writers have suggested this doesn't mean much: when Gore moved into national politics, and away from Tennessee, his stands changed. However, undeclared GOP candidate Fred Thompson was far more prone to endorse loose immigration, although serving the same Tennessee constituency.

I think—of course, I'm part of VDARE.COM's Progressive Caucus—that, in his heart, Gore is genuinely concerned about environmental and population issues—as are many of the people to whom he pays serious attention. He knows that immigration from high birth-rate groups in environmentally endangered areas to the less rapidly-growing, less-endangered countries is not sustainable.

  • While Democratic candidates are slightly worse on overall immigration policy than their GOP counterparts, they are no worse on the issue of guest worker visas.

In fact, endorsers of the major candidates are slightly better than the candidates themselves—even with Gore, the most restrictive of any major hopeful, sitting on the sidelines along with the more restrictive Democrats like Robert Byrd and Progressive Caucus member Peter DeFazio.

This is shown more clearly in the following table:

Candidate

ABI

Grade

A

ABI

Grade

B

ABI

Grade

C

ABI

Grade

D

ABI

Grade

F

Guest

Worker

Grade

A

Guest

Worker

Grade

B

Guest

Worker

Grade

C

Guest

Worker

Grade

D

Guest

Worker

Grade

F

Clinton

0

2

10

18

27

9

2

15

6

20

Obama

0

0

4

9

10

5

3

4

3

6

Edwards

1

1

2

5

5

3

1

6

1

2

Richardson

0

0

0

4

3

1

1

2

0

3

Dodd

0

0

0

3

6

0

1

5

0

1

What this table makes clear is all the serious Democratic candidates are dependent on endorsements from people who have solid voting records promoting guest worker Visas.

Part of this may be the traditional concern of Democrats with job creation. Also, a lot of the expansion of guest worker visas has been tied to various free trade bills, which are even more widely opposed in the Democratic Party.

But probably the major factor: we are now seeing a serious competition for upper middle class voters. Voters with postgraduate degrees or family incomes between $150,000-200,000 per year are becoming less likely to vote Republican, even though they are part of the traditional GOP base.

These numbers have been changing too fast for any simple demographic shift to explain. A better explanation: even these affluent, educated voters and their families are now affected by the Jobs Crunch and policies like H-1b expansion—one of the policies that is as visible as it is quickly and easily changed.

In 2006, one of the surprise Democratic senate wins was largely due to a groundswell of volunteers who hated the H-1b expansion lobbyist Harris Miller who ran for the nomination—and stayed with Jim Webb through his equally surprising victory against a Republican who was relatively lax on H-1b policy. I'm not sure if Webb himself is entirely comfortable with the issues that caused his victory.

This difference in policy may seem like a contradiction. Other writers on VDARE.COM have suggested the GOP compromise on guest worker visas to get overall immigration restriction. But I think what we have now is two parties supporting (at least incipiently) immigration restriction to help constituencies that are key for them: upper middle class voters in the case of Democrats—and rural poor whites in the case of the GOP.

When I have spoken to prominent Democrats about the immigration issue, I have gotten a mixed message. Some of them clearly understand that something bad happened with the tech industry's hog-wild H-1b gluttony. However, they sometimes seem to attribute the problems to the lack of rights for H-1b holders—similar to indentured labor.

These Democrats really believe that we can have looser overall immigration without damaging Americans—if we just had progressive Democratic economic policies. That view holds even among some fairly prominent anti-H-1b activists. I have heard liberal Democrats refer to high tech visas but say things like, "We really ought to be training our people for those jobs"—not understanding that lack of training really isn't the issue: the issue is employers wanting cheap labor.

Part of the problem is with the literature on immigration and the state of economic theory. There are only a handful of Democrats who write on the need for immigration restriction. Other than my colleagues here at VDARE.com, Collins and Guzzardi, the only one who comes to mind is Thom Hartman of Air America.

Furthermore, the economic literature on immigration is rather confusing and contradictory. It is hard for a lot of folks to understand the difference between George Borjas at Harvard and some hack getting paid to lead cheers at the Federal Reserve.

Also, as a discipline, economics has become a corporate preserve. Corporate Republicans are prone to venerate "their" economists in a way the Left just hasn't in recent decades. The last left-leaning economist who was something of a folk hero was JFK's advisor, John Kenneth Galbraith.

It is as though the Left has gotten completely snowed by Nixon's strategy of emphasizing social/religious issues—and has shied away from economics because it's "hard".

I don't think, as a Democrat, that the present mix of Democratic positions is really sustainable. The GOP might afford to lose upper middle class voters and remain a viable party driven by religious fervor and corporate dollars, for a least a while. But the Democratic Party can't keep those upper middle class voters if it doesn't deliver something real. And I don't think the Democratic Party can get away with ignoring the situation of unskilled blacks.

If the Democrats take both Congress and the Presidency in 2008, they will have to lead differently than in their years in opposition—or even in the Clinton era. The Republicans ran on pure image because they had the money to do so. It appears Democrats will now have a long-term funding advantage, but conditions of extreme discontent and internet communications could change that very rapidly.

It is time for Democrats to consider how to deliver a real economy with real jobs for Americans—and to do so in a way that our neighbors and trading partners prosper also.

Is that a hard problem? Yes it is. But that is ultimately what Democrats have aspired again and again to do—provide real solutions to hard problems.

Randall Burns [email him] holds a degree in Economics from the University of Chicago.  He works in the information technology sector and is a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University.  Burns has been active in furthering the introduction of immigration, trade, and tax realities into the progressive agenda. In 2004, he helped create the Kucinich campaign's position paper on H-1b/L-1 visas.