Hard to say which topic was more popular at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast on Friday morning -- God or the immigration bill. Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, Republican National Committee chairman Mel Martinez, and Democratic Sens. Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton trooped up to the podium and peppered every paragraph with references to church, prayer, the power of faith, and the importance of passing an immigration bill.
With a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll indicating that Hispanics now identify themselves as Democrats rather than Republicans by a 51-21 percent margin, the devastating political calculus of immigration policy for Republicans is ever more apparent. The Republican Party can kiss the Southwest goodbye if it doesn't reverse that trend. Passing an immigration bill isn't just about providing cheap labor for Republican fat cats -- it's about holding on, by its fingernails, to the pretense of being a national party.
Which of course is why Mel Martinez was named the chairman of the Republican National Committee, inspiring much derision from the GOP's nativist wing. But no matter how many times he praised the Lord, or invoked Ronald Reagan's "shining mansion on the hill" in his address, his job is a lot harder than Dean's. The Democrats are also split on immigration, but nowhere near as viciously as the Republicans.
And as boilerplate rhetoric goes, invoking Reagan at this stage of the game seems a bit of a stretch. How about some Howard Dean:
As a Democrat, I believe that we should welcome the stranger; that no child should go to bed hungry; that housing and a path to home ownership should be accessible to all; that everyone in America deserves universal health care; that the war should be the last resource only after diplomacy has been exhausted; that we should properly equip our troops before we send them to war; that we should take care of our veterans when they come home; that everyone, every single American, deserves equal rights under the law; that we should be good stewards of the Earth; that hardworking people should earn a living wage and be able to take care of their families with what they earn; that we ought not to pass debt along to our children; that faith should not be used to divide people, but rather to bring us together; and that you and I have more in common than we have differences.
Welcome the stranger. I believe the full passage goes a little something like this:
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you invited me in,
I needed clothes and you clothed me,
I was sick and you looked after me,
I was in prison and you came to visit me.