Two of the biggest think tanks in Democratic politics, the centrist Third Way and the more liberal Center for American Progress, have come together to tell Democrats to pipe down about immigration, because bringing the Trump administration’s unbearable cruelty to light might lose them a couple of votes that were surely leaning towards them otherwise.
“Sanctuary attacks pack a punch,” says a four-page memorandum, prepared by the liberal Center for American Progress and the centrist think tank Third Way, that has been shared at about a dozen briefings for Democrats in recent weeks. The New York Times obtained a copy of the memo, whose findings are based on interviews and surveys conducted over the summer.
Many of the Republican attacks use misleading language and employ overblown claims about the dangers of immigrants. But the fear-based appeal demonstrates how Mr. Trump has overcome months of negative headlines about his hard-edge immigration policies to make the issue a potentially profitable one as Republicans try to preserve their slim Senate majority and defy projections that they will lose the House.
And how should the Democrats respond to this, you ask?
Democrats, the strategists who prepared the memo advised, could neutralize the attacks if they responded head-on. But they should spend “as little time as possible” talking about immigration itself, and instead pivot to more fruitful issues for Democrats like health care and taxation.
It’s true that healthcare is one of the top issues Democrats can hammer Republicans on. The Republican project for the last eight years has been taking it away from poor and working-class people. In the past two years, the GOP has kicked this mission into overdrive with the failed repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the successful repeal of the individual mandate, and the backing of a Texas lawsuit against the federal government which will attempt to get the whole thing thrown out on a bullshit technicality.
But while it’s understandable to stress some issues more than others depending on the makeup of the district in question, there’s a difference between that and running from the issue altogether. The Trump administration continues to commit rampant human rights abuses in a never-ending quest to purge this country of brown people. And it should be no surprise that as the rest of the GOP’s argument for re-election falls away, they’re starting to talk more and more about how good family separation is.
The way to combat this—both in the short- and long-term, considering that as bad as it is now, it could get so much worse in the future if Republicans are allowed to continue to pursue this line of attack unanswered—is to offer a robust alternative to the racism of Trump and the GOP. Turning tail on one of the most important issues of our time isn’t the way to do that.