The great joy of the Iowa Presidential Caucuses is that every idea gets its moment in the spotlight. That can be the great nuisance of the caucuses as well when some of those issues devolve into pandering to a small, hard-core audience.
Because it is so important for presidential candidates to be seen reaching out for every vote, there is a crowd for every speech and a speech for every crowd. It is important for us to distinguish between the ideas that are meaningful and achievable in our diverse nation and then set about to advance those ideas to the next rounds of the primary contest. More importantly, caucusgoers must help winnow the ideas and leave behind those that are the mere unachievable pandering of demagogues.
Among the large field running for the Republican nomination, there are a few candidates who are out to pander to the small but vocal crowd of voters who think that doing absolutely nothing on immigration reform until an electrified “great wall” is constructed on our southern border is a winning message. It is not a winning path to the nomination, for certain.
According to a recent poll released by the Partnership for a New American Economy and Burning Glass Consulting, only 17 percent of Iowa GOP voters favor mass deportations. The remaining Iowa Republicans are looking for something a little more thought-fueled, realistic and compassionate. Republican voters want to hear realistic plans for immigration reform. A candidate who can think seriously and talk honestly about this important issue shows that he or she is ready for other big challenges facing our nation.
Over 81 percent of Iowa Republican caucus voters said they would support a candidate with a multi-step plan for moving undocumented immigrants to some form of legal status. That should be enough to throw cold water on the efforts of the anti-immigration extremists.
A careless, knee-jerk policy on immigration will not win anyone the Republican nomination. And it certainly will not win the White House next November. We have all seen how a handful of groups of swing voters can make or break a tight election — and make no mistake, 2016 is likely to be another close election decided in Florida, or Colorado, or even Iowa. We live in an era where senseless moments live on well past their 15 minutes thanks to YouTube and social media. So if Republicans make the mistake of letting the extremists hijack the agenda in the primary cycle, Republicans can kiss their chances of winning goodbye.
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