The heir apparent of the GOP, Senator John McCain, has steered a moderate path on the immigration issue, even co-sponsoring legislation with his political mirror-image, Senator Edward Kennedy. If he doesn’t repudiate his position (something he’s been known to do, despite his wide-spread ‘straight taking’ rep), then much of the far right who identify immigration as the most important issue (as much as 30% according some polls), could go looking for thier own candidate to put on a third-party ticket.
If that person is able to capture a protest vote of any size, expecially in immigrant-heavy areas like Florida, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado, these states, which are already swings or near-swings, could easily end up in the blue in 2008.
Rep. Tom Tancredo has made noises about a Presidential bid, the wingnuts love him, and though it is unlikely that he could capture the GOP noimination (in fact, he likely won’t even try), his Team America Tour with Bay Buchanan sure looks like a prelude to a Pat Buchanan-style independent Presidential campaign. The open questions are whether immigration will still be a festering question by 2008 (perhaps Congress will bring the issue to at least a temporary resolution next year) and whether creepy Tancredo can effectively mount enough of a campaign to drain off more the a few percent of the Republican vote (though with margins as tight as they have been, even that might be enough to tip the race).
Democrats should give serious thought to how best to keep the anti-immigration wing of the GOP steamed up while providing needed policy changes for undocumented immigrants. It shouldn’t be hard; anything less than full-scale deportation or liquidation, an Israeli-style border wall, and the death penalty for illegal immigration will probably keep them dissatisfied. In a sense, this is a reverse wedge issue for Democrats. We aim to cut off a chunk of GOP voters, but not to capture them – to make them politically irrelevant by forcing them into pursuing a racist third-party insurgency.
Now if we could figure out a way to encourage all those Fundies to jump the GOP boat and form a theocratic third party, we’d be well on the way to a new Democratic majority…