Is drilling debate a repeat of the immigration debate?
Last week, Matt Yglesias finished his stint blogging for The Atlantic. Next week he starts blogging for the Center for American Progress. In between he’s taking a week off — the first time, according to Matt, that he’s gone more than 24 hours without blogging in over four years. We don’t want Matt’s head exploding from holding its opinions in, so in the interest of relieving the pressure, here’s something he sent along about the drilling kerfuffle:
So here’s a thought: For years and years before 2006, the savvy leadership of the Republican Party took the view that indulging the base’s passion for Mexican-hating would be a political error. It was important, thought Bush, Rove, et. al, to position the GOP as a forward-thinking pro-immigration party. Then along came a moment of political desperation for congressional Republicans at which point they seized upon immigrant-bashing as a cure for their midterm blues. Democrats, conditioned by decades of defeat to instinctively believe that whatever crap the GOP is pulling at any given moment is political genius, had a moment of panic. But at the end of the day, it turned out that the Republican strategists were right the first time and there is no mass swing constituency for immigration restriction capable of delivering elections — the crank racists were already Republicans, and this just helped push Hispanics into the Democratic column.
Flash forward to the Great Drilling Debate of 2008. Recall that it’s unlikely that Bush and the GOP leadership weren’t pushing this issue back in 2006 or 2004 out of their deep-rooted environmental convictions. Instead, the leadership didn’t used to push offshore drilling because they thought offshore drilling was a bad issue — the people who care either work for the oil companies (and are Republicans anyway) or else are drilling opponents worried that their communities and coastal economies will be wrecked by drilling. But facing another drubbing in November, congressional Republicans have talked themselves into believing that “drill drill drill” will deliver them a victory.