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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Framing Immigration Issues — On TV

Michael Sean Winters takes a crack at brainstorming some potential TV ads Dems could run to get a grip on immigration issues and expose GOP demagoguery at the same time. Winters’ New Republic Online piece “Democrats Immigration Opportunity: Defining Moment” suggests using baseball and other celebs to address the moral dimensions of the issue head-on:

Swing voters are probably not impressed by Bill Richardson, the Hispanic governor of New Mexico. They are impressed by Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals. Pujols is from the Dominican Republic, he is a perennial all-star, and he is a born-again Christian. The spot would begin with him reading from the Book of Leviticus, chapter 19, verse 34: “The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Pujols could then put down the Bible, look into the camera, and say, “I believe Americans are a God-fearing people, but these Minutemen seem to have forgotten their Bibles.”
The Hebrew and Christian scriptures are filled with such texts. I picture Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, who is Dominican American, reading the story of the Good Samaritan. Or Colombian-born singer Shakira reciting the twenty-fifth chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew: “For I was hungry and you gave me to eat, thirsty and you gave me to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. … Whatever you have done for these the least of my brethren, you have done for me.”

Or these:

another could take place in front of the Statue of Liberty…Liberals should not be afraid to insist that it is their position on immigration that is the truly patriotic one.
…Democrats could produce a spot with a ten-year-old girl in the kitchen helping her grandmother bake cookies. The girl might say, “Those Republicans call immigrants nasty names. In our family, we call immigrants Grandma and Grandpa.” Ads that go for the emotional jugular tend to attract free media attention, and therefore do not require expensive media buys to be effective.

The discussion thread following Winter’s article reveals some legitimate concerns about his moral confrontation approach. But credit Winters with proposing some creative ‘framing’ ideas for Dems. And making use of television to expose Republican pandering and xenophobia is a jolly good idea. Dems should also run ads that advocate some solutions to guest worker-related and other concerns.
But it’s hard to argue with Winters’ conclusion:

Last month, the Dubai Port story came and went with no real long-term benefit to the Democrats. They failed to turn the narrow issue of port management into the broader issue of Republican failure to provide adequate port security, an issue with legs, as well as an issue on which Democrats could benefit from being seen as the tough guys. The demographics of the Latino population explosion make support for immigrants smart politics as well as humane policy. If only the Dems will jump on the wave.

Painfully true about the missed opportunity regarding port security. Winters’ article and the accompanying discussion thread provide a good beginning for readers who want to seize the opportunity presented by immigration issues.