WASHINGTON — In the Trump era, there's been a tendency to think about immigration policy as a political football. A cudgel. A weapon.
The president has certainly treated it as such. Just look at his latest proposal to transport undocumented immigrants to sanctuary cities as political retribution to Democrats — and his suggestion that his immigration opponents are "treasonous."
But if you look at immigration instead as a problem to be solved — more like health care — it may be a much better way to understand the long-term political risks of using the immigration issue to divide the electorate.
Trump and the GOP have hammered away at an immigration status quo they say doesn't work. But Trump's proposals to fix it have been politically unviable (the wall), legally untenable (denying the right to seek asylum), economically risky (closing the border), or the cause of public moral outrage (family separation.)
So, Trump has mostly been left with grievances. And griping about a system that doesn't work can only get you so far politically.
Just look at what happened with health care.
Republicans had great success in the 2010 and 2014 midterms picking apart Obamacare's flaws. But by 2018, Democrats clobbered them by running as the party that would fix the problems, after Republicans failed to come up with a workable alternative.
Sure, immigration is the defining issue for much of Trump's base. And there's certainly a chunk of his voters who will always stick with him on the grievances alone.
But in the middle of the electorate, voters — especially independents — are going to want to see progress.
And they're likely to reward candidates who seem to be taking solutions seriously.
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