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Democrats: We’re Being Played on Immigration | Opinion

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis‘s mind-spinning maneuver last weekusing Florida money to fly Venezuelan migrants from Texas facilities to the affluent Massachusetts island Martha’s Vineyardwas probably the most discussed political stunts in recent history. THE PROPER crowed concerning the mission accomplished of pointing out the hypocrisy of sanctuary cities, as the horrified Left called DeSantis a human trafficker, excoriated him for luring migrants under false pretenses onto the planes he chartered, and launched a study into his actions.

That has been a mission accomplished for DeSantis. The storm of reaction was what he wanted. However the condemnation of DeSantis from Democrats missed the most crucial point. DeSantis’s stunt wasn’t the uniquely evil act of an uncontrollable crusader, but instead, this is the latest exemplory case of what Republicans always do. In the event of political emergency, Republicans have one move they go back to again and again: break immigration glass.

Here’s a fascinating coincidence: On Tuesday, Sept. 13, Senator Lindsay Graham released his latest proposal for a national abortion ban at 15 weeks, a politically harmful issue for Republicans which absolutely dominated the media discourse. The following day, Wednesday, Sept. 14, DeSantis lured migrants onto airplanes. Huh.

In a single day, we went from headlines about whether Sen. Graham just scored an enormous “own goal” on his party’s midterm prospects to back-to-back coverage concerning the DeSantis stunt. Abortion evaporated, and immigration became the very best story completely the Sunday talk shows and well into this week.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what political operatives call a “pivot.”

Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Unite and Win Rally to get Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano at the Wyndham Hotel on August 19, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. During his stop by at hawaii, DeSantis urged Republican voters to stand behind Doug Mastriano. Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

That the ploy was nakedly transparent did nothing to quell the breathless coverage of it, nor did the truth that Republicans planned the immigration push months ago, as a leaked 60 page plan revealed. This is definately not spontaneous. And that is what’s important here, a lot more so compared to the grossly callous nature of everything: It is the Groundhog Day facet of it, the predictable biennial outbreak of thirsty Republican immigration outrage.

Recall 2020, when “open borders” became their new en vogue tagline. From September 1 to October 15 that year, immigration was Donald Trump‘s number 1 topic in TV ads. Back 2018, it had been caravans (remember them?); in the runup to the election, Fox News devoted over 33 hours to a supposedly country-ending threat. In 2016, it had been The Wall. 2014 was about the backlash: After briefly flirting with a bipartisan reform deal, Republicans fell around themselves down the midterm stretch to double down on migrant hysteria.

And the media falls in to the trap ever and again. In 2018, for instance, the immigration message sucked media attention from issues where Democrats were stronger and likely helped save Republican seats amidst a blue wave.

Political scientists have shown that Republicans, particularly Donald Trump, have already been particularly proficient at these types of media diversions. But mostly it works because Democrats are complicit to make it work.

Like Charlie Brown running at Lucy’s football, we can not help ourselves. Research implies that probably the most effective messages will be the ones that acquire anger by attractive to the emotional on the rational. So when Republicans play the immigration card, they get yourself a two-fer: activating an emotional response fine-tuned to match their base, and triggering Democrats’ elevated fairness and justice response.

Quite simply, Republicans push buttons, Democrats respond. They play the tune, Dems dance.

That is why this moment is indeed critical. Republican pollster Bill McInturff recently described there are two campaigns in the us at this time. One is approximately the economy, crime, inflation, and border securityand Republicans are winning. But there is a second oneon abortion, democracy, and climate changethat the Democrats are winning, so handily actually they have reversed the expectations of a red wave in November. The mix of the Dobbs decision repealing abortion as a constitutional right, falling gas prices, and multiple legislative successes changed the narrative and turned that tide. Currently, things look pretty near dead even.

Just what exactly this election will now boil right down to is easy. If the nexus of abortion, threats to democracy, and MAGAism are in the forefront of voters’ minds, Democrats could have an advantage. If Republicans can effectively change the focus to inflation and immigration, they’ll grab some gains.

The Democrats’ most significant job now, regardless of how outrageous Republican antics become, would be to resist the siren song of the immigration fight. Like tic-tac-toe and thermonuclear war, the only winning move isn’t to play.

Matt Robison is really a writer, podcast host, and former congressional staffer.

The views in this post will be the writer’s own.

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