Despite what those brainy political pundits have long predicted, the '08 elections may center more on illegal immigration than the discontent over the flawed war in Iraq. That is not good news for the Democrats. But it's not especially optimistic for the GOP either.
In growing numbers, Americans are voicing stronger objections to the explosion of illegal immigrants than they are with the divisive Iraqi war. And that discontent is filtering down to the state level.
A new poll out this week in Missouri is worth reading. To no one's surprise the poll gives Sen. Hillary Clinton a fairly comfortable lead on the national Democratic ballot and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani a lead on the GOP side. But it's not that aspect of the poll that captures my interest.
On the question of illegal immigration, 55 percent of Missourians favor building a wall across the Mexican border (up 8 percent in the last year), 78 percent favor deporting illegal immigrants (up 5 percent), 74 want more penalties for employers who knowingly hire illegals (up a whopping 11 percent), and 81 percent want more border patrols (up 4 percent).
In the world of polls, these are astounding numbers. Missourians generally have a low opinion of President Bush's performance but an even lower opinion of the actions of Congress. There is a growing sentiment to throw all of the rascals out of office. But underlying this discontent is the stark opposition to illegal immigration. Which party can seize the high ground on this single issue may well determine the election.
So what are the Democrats in Congress doing about the issue? In an irony of perfect timing, the increasingly unpopular House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has killed an amendment that would mandate the English language for many companies and organizations.
Legislation offered by moderate Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee would have mandated English as the common language of these companies - including the Salvation Army among many others. But the Hispanic Caucus said they would oppose any measure mandating English. And Pelosi gave them exactly what they wanted.
Alexander was dumbstruck by the Pelosi move. "We have spent the last 40 years in our country celebrating diversity at the expense of unity. One way to create that unity is to value, not devalue, our common language, English," he told Congress.
So how can someone ignore the overwhelming sentiment of most Americans on this issue? You'd have to ask Pelosi and her cronies.
Missourians will vote next year on a state constitutional amendment making English the official language of government. I suspect it will pass overwhelmingly. Both Gov. Matt Blunt and his likely opponent, Attorney General Jay Nixon support the measure. To do otherwise, I suspect, would be political suicide.
With some pockets of optimism coming out of Iraq these days, the focus may clearly shift next year to the complex question of illegal immigration. If the GOP has any hope of retaining the White House or returning control of Congress, they need to focus loud and clear on illegal immigration.