The Democratic Crack-Up: Immigration may be Next

It has become common, in this era of partisan ideological alignment and the resulting party-line votes in Congress, to see the two major political parties as cohesive units, with an agenda on the left or right across all issues. While there is an element of truth to that, Democrats and Republicans are coalitions of interest groups that often toe the party line on one issue (say, health-care reform) in exchange for the party's support on the issues that they care about.

This has created enormous challenges for the Obama administration, as eight years of backsliding on progressive priorities under George W. Bush, and a massive mobilization effort on Obama's behalf, have caused some impatience on the part of progressive issue activists who feel that their legislative priorities have been given short shrift. As Matt Bai writes in The New York Times Magazine:

Union leaders are incensed over the administration's ambivalence toward a bill that would make it easier to organize workers. Black lawmakers accuse Obama of doing little to stem unemployment among the poor. Liberals in Congress are appalled that the president has jettisoned the "" he once championed for his health care plan, which has only temporarily distracted them from their fury over the military buildup in Afghanistan. The left is on the verge of full revolt.

Good news for Obama: he can add the Hispanic Congressional Caucus to his list of potential internal opponents. Latino lawmakers, displeased that health-care reform will not cover illegal immigrants, have threatened to oppose health-care reform. The compromise, TPM reports: they will vote for health-care reform if the White House takes up immigration reform. Obama promised on the campaign trail to do so in his first year in office, a promise he has already broken, and the Democratic appetite in Congress to raise such a contentious issue shortly before the midterms is likely to be limited. But, as Ben Smith notes, Latinos were an important part of Obama's coalition, and if they stay home in 2010, Democrats won't benefit from that either.

The Democratic Crack-Up: Immigration may be Next | News