I Hate To Say….

I told you so, but I did. Back in the third week of January, http://americamagazine.org/blog/entry.cfm?blog_id=2&id=9D26AE9A-3048-887F-8F45813D8C1D5293 I urged Barack Obama to introduce a family friendly approach to immigration reform. This would perfectly illustrate the kind of transformative leadership he is promising: approaching a difficult issue in a new way that might create a new coalition for action. Two weeks ago, in the pages of The New Republic, I extended the argument to all Democrats, noting that I anticipated the Pope would discuss immigration reform and, if he did, this would be his likely approach. Noted scholar Martin Marty picked up on the New Republic piece and added his own thoughts on the issue. So, there was Pope Benedict XVI yesterday, answering questions on the plane trip to the US, and what did he advocate in terms of US policy? He said the most serious part of the immigration problem was the necessity of keeping families together. Failure to focus on this imperative, "really is dangerous for the social, moral and human fabric," the Pope said. Any candidate who had come out with a statement about immigration that began not with the fence but with the need to keep families together would have the advantage of not appearing to be mimicking the Pope but, alas, in these cautious, poll-tested times, no one wanted to go out on a limb. Still, it is still better to mimic him than to say nothing on the subject not least because he is right. In addition to being right, the Pope has given the Democrats, and especially Obama, a new way to appeal to white ethnic Catholic and evangelical voters, two groups for whom the role of the family is central to their culture. If you have been to an Irish wake or a Greek wedding or a mega-church Sunday school, you know what I am talking about. President Bush could have, and should have, tried a similar approach, as John McCain could have. But, the GOP base is too rabidly anti-immigrant now and they feel that they succeeded in getting McCain to back off his more humane immigration policies during the primaries. They are not going to hand him that scalp back anytime soon. Michael Sean Winters
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