Since their poor performance among minority voters in the 2012 election, Republicans have been chided for their refusal to budge on their opposition to a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Polls have consistently shown that a majority of Americans want some sort of rational resolution to the impasse on immigration and understand that rhetoric about deporting 11 million illegals is as unrealistic as promises that Mexico will pay for a wall along the Rio Grande. There is also some truth to analyses that assert a tough stand on immigration more or less guarantees that the growing numbers of Hispanic voters are becoming as wedded to the Democrats as African-Americans. But as troubling as that development should be for the GOP, it remains to be seen whether Obama’s successors will truly be able to remain a national party if Democrats become wedded to irrational sanctuary city rules such as the one in Philadelphia.
Democrats have lost ground throughout the country on the local, state, and Congressional levels during Barack Obama’s seven years in office. They retain control only in those deep blue areas like Philadelphia, where liberals and minority voters predominate. That gives them a built-in advantage in the Electoral College, but one that is vulnerable to even slight shifts in large swing states. Put simply, Democrats can hold the presidency if they nominate hugely popular candidates like Obama that can turn out minority voters in record numbers or ones that can appeal to independents like Bill Clinton. But barring the unlikely emergence of another Obama, they cannot prevail as a sanctuary city party.
Though the media and political elites scoff at the popularity of anti-illegal immigration rhetoric heard in the GOP presidential race, Democrats should worry about what happened this week in Philadelphia. What makes political sense for a mayor seeking minority support in a one-party town as complacently corrupt and insensible to the need for reform as Philadelphia is not smart policy for a political party that is losing the political center. Anger about sanctuary cities isn’t just a Fox News stunt. It presents a clear and present danger to Democratic hopes for retaining the White House or ever winning back control of Congress.