Immigration deal needs moderate Democrats; silence will be their peril

As a sequel looms to the longest government shutdown in American history, a weary nation wonders: Will the increasingly clannish leaders of our two political parties manage to broker a broad consensus on immigration, vote it through, and bring our politics back from the brink?

President Donald Trump, inflammatory as he is, appears ready to deal — having floated a compromise for his much-ballyhooed wall in exchange for continued amnesty for DACA recipients, or Dreamers, an element many Democrats claimed was a vital priority just months ago.

In contrast, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Schumer labels McConnell's scheduled coronavirus stimulus vote as 'a stunt' Pelosi: White House made 'unacceptable changes' to testing language during negotiations on coronavirus stimulus MORE (D-Calif.) seems loath to offer Trump anything close to a broad victory as he approaches his 2020 reelection campaign — even as a tenuous and narrow deal emerges on Capitol Hill to avert another shutdown.

That this imperils the Dreamers is self-evident. That this sets the country back in an era where bipartisanship and simple legislative order are a rarity is also clear. Pelosi seems more focused on a political win — or denying one to her opponent — than the welfare of the country. In that quality, she is certainly not unique among our political class.


Even if Pelosi is willing to accept the compromise, will she be able to corral the roiling Democratic base? Failure could imperil her Speakership. From Oklahoma to South Carolina to Kansas to South Jersey, the Democratic House map is over-extended; the blue-collar workers, independents and formerly-Republican women who just recently flipped so many purple and red districts towards the Democrats thought they were voting for the adults in the room, not immigration extremists.

Democrats who are in no way guaranteed reelection in 2020 now risk overstepping on immigration, as their base lurches leftwards. This includes dozens of candidates who flipped House seats in 2018, who may become one-term wonders if they’re perceived to be too extreme for their constituents. In 10 such districts, polling shows Democrats underwater on immigration. And three-quarters of the people who viewed the State of the Union last month supported what President TrumpDonald John TrumpPolice say man dangling off Trump Tower Chicago demanding to speak with Trump Fauci says he was 'absolutely not' surprised Trump got coronavirus after Rose Garden event Biden: Trump 'continues to lie to us' about coronavirus MORE said on immigration, according to a CBS News snap poll.

It is a rare moment indeed when a vast majority of those paying attention side with our extraordinarily divisive president. Democrats ought to take note.

Democrats tend to feel invulnerable on social policy due to the almost-uniformly left-wing media establishment that exists to convince the voting public of their moral superiority. How would Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), whose federal indictment detailed public corruption, be treated if he were a Republican? Despite a deadlocked jury, partial acquittal and dropped charges? How about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA may violate courts with new rule extending life of unlined coal ash ponds | Trump reverses course, approving assistance for California wildfires | Climate change, national security among topics for final Trump-Biden debate Biden distances himself from Green New Deal during town hall Ocasio-Cortez, progressives call on Senate not to confirm lobbyists or executives to future administration posts MORE (D-N.Y.), whose factless musings and attacks on journalists have elicited timid replies or even support from the same figures who claim Trump is at war with the free press?


But even with an immeasurable assist from this media corps and an army of celebrities, “thought leaders,” and Twitter blue-checkmarks, it is possible for the Democrats to overreach. This was made perfectly stark during the Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughMajor abortion rights group calls for Democrats to replace Feinstein on Judiciary Committee Trump rebukes Collins amid difficult reelection fight Supreme Court battle turns into 2020 proxy war MORE confirmation debates, wherein the Senate Judiciary Democrats’ foregone conclusion that the judge (despite zero corroborating evidence) was a serial rapist, did more to galvanize conservative voters — especially women — before a crucial election than anything else. This cost Democrats more than a handful of Senate seats.

Moderate voters do not believe, as the Ocasio-Cortez wing of the Democratic Party does, that illegal immigrants flooding over the border in caravans are “more American” than the law enforcement agents who seek to prevent them from doing so.

Moderates do not consider our country’s unwillingness to take any and all comers at any point an equivalent to a modern Holocaust.

Moderates want Dreamers protected and are repulsed by Trump’s impulse to separate migrant families. That does not mean they voted for open borders, endless smuggled fentanyl, and a see-no-evil-hear-no-evil approach that zealously denies the efficacy of such millennia-old technologies as a wall.

Unless members of the newly minted Democratic majority proactively create daylight for themselves, moderate and conservative-leaning voters in their districts will get the message only from the loud fringes of the party. That is, that Democratic immigration policy amounts to the following: Any person can come here, at any time, do whatever they want, and stay indefinitely.

For the sake of their political futures, moderate Democrats would do well to distinguish themselves in this crucial moment, whether Speaker Pelosi and the progressive base want them to or not.

Albert Eisenberg is a Philadelphia-based political consultant who works on LGBT and urban issues from the right. He formerly served as communications director for the Philadelphia Republican Party and director of social media for the Young Republicans National Federation. Follow him on Twitter @Albydelphia