As the primary season reaches its final stretches, I wanted to write on the front-runners for the Democratic and Republican nominations. In my memory, there have never been such interesting campaign attempts to find the collective pulse of America. This seems particularly true for the debates on immigration law.
Contrary to his attempts at painting himself the outsider, Republican front-runner Donald Trump is a talented insider businessman with a proven ability to reach a target audience. My sense from Mr. Trump and his immigration stance is that he believes the election can be won with isolationism. His arguments for banning Muslim immigration and building a 'giant wall' along the border with Mexico appeal to those who are struggling in an America where opportunities seem more and more distant.
Jobs are scarce for isolationists (and Americans without college degrees in general), so it makes sense that these voters find the message compelling. I wonder for Mr. Trump, however, whether isolationists can carry him to a general election victory. How many voters in the U.S. are immigrants themselves? How about their relatives, their neighbors, their friends? Will there be enough isolationists that vote against these relationships, and carry Mr. Trump to a win here?
I do believe Mr. Trump adept at reaching a target audience, however, his business model cannot be successful without that audience being substantially larger than those playing golf or purchasing condos.
Hillary Clinton, by contrast, is attempting to reach a segment of the population identifying themselves as immigrants or children/relatives of immigrants. The Democratic front-runner is advocating for comprehensive immigration overhaul, a path to citizenship for those currently living in the US, and a halt to deportation raids in the U.S.
By many accounts, Mrs. Clinton, an insider by almost all political definitions, is attempting to reach the changing demographics of America through populist arguments. This will continue to challenge her in the national debate as she attempts to reach a large swath of voters.
Take for instance her statement on the migration of children from Central America fleeing to the US. Previously, she maintained that deporting minors would send the proper message to parents, deterring them from sending children to the U.S. She has since been challenged on this in debates, and found herself making the case for these children to remain here, stating that she does not want to deport children.
In this area of law, we consistently reach an area that challenges so many policy makers: How do you enforce laws, and yet remain a humanitarian for so many people struggling? Mrs. Clinton is attempting to find a populism here that will carry the general election, but I think her arguments will be subject to attack in the general election because of this policy challenge.
What remains to be seen is whether Mr. Trump's arguments for isolationism or Mrs. Clinton's populism find the pulse of America? Something tells me that both candidates will soon be fighting over the patient.