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The Politics of Change

PerryScope by Perry Diaz

The 2008 presidential election could turn out to be the most interesting election since Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860. Lincoln's famous quote on "change" was: "The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew." Isn't there a distinct similarity to what some of today's presidential candidates are saying? Today, "change" has become the buzzword in the presidential election. But "change" in itself is meaningless without knowing what the candidates would do to effect change. One of the issues that is now at the forefront of debate is change in the immigration law. Attempts have been made by Congress in the past three years to change -- or reform -- the immigration law but failed due to the issue of illegal immigration which is expected to become the hot-button issue in the election.

When the 2008 primary season was kicked off in the Iowa caucuses last January 3rd, two candidates who successfully projected themselves as the "candidate of change" won in their respective party caucuses. Coming from behind, Democrat Barack Obama beat John Edwards and Hillary Clinton by a wide margin. And Republican Mike Huckabee -- a new face in national politics -- proved to be a viable candidate by beating veterans Mitt Romney and John McCain. However, in the New Hampshire primary last January 8, Clinton and McCain won in their respective Democratic and Republican primaries. They, too, projected themselves as the "candidate of change."

With Clinton, "change" means the first woman president n the history of the United States. But other than that, she is perceived by many as the establishment candidate who would preserve the status quo. People are saying that if Clinton would become president, it would be "business as usual" in Washington, DC. Old hands in the Bill Clinton administration would reappear. Actually they already have reappeared in Iowa and New Hampshire and helped in Hillary's campaign. And with hubby Bill as her First Gentleman and closest adviser, her administration would be a repeat -- or extension -- of the Bill Clinton presidency.

Clinton's stand on immigration can be summed up as follows: She voted 'yes'for the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006; opposed granting driver's license to illegal immigrants; voted 'yes' on building a fence along the Mexican border; voted 'yes' on establishing a guest worker program; voted 'yes' on allowing illegal immigrants to participate in Social Security; and voted 'yes' on giving guest workers a path to citizenship.

With Obama, "change" means -- among other things -- the first African-American president. It seems, however, that even the African-American community would not get behind his candidacy because they think that he wouldn't have a chance of getting elected president. The conventional thinking of some African-Americans was: Go with the winner, go with Hillary. Well, that was before the Iowa caucuses. Obama did not only beat the odds against him in Iowa -- one of the whitest states in the Union -- he also proved that he could win. Sounding like Martin Luther King, Jr., Obama's message -- "Our time for change has come" -- reverberated across the plains of Iowa. He brought Iowans in record number to the caucuses and dealt Hillary a stunning defeat. Suddenly, Obama became the front-runner.

Obama articulated his stand on immigration during the Democratic debate in Las Vegas on November 15, 2007. He said, "What we have to do is create a comprehensive solution to the problem. As president I will make sure that we finally have the kind of border security that we need. Employers have to be held accountable. When we do those things, we can take the illegal aliens who are here, get them out of the shadows, make sure that they are subject to a stiff penalty, make sure that they're learning English and go to the back of the line so they're not getting an advantage over people who came here legally." Obama supported the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act which was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate in 2006 but died when the Lower House rejected it.

With Huckabee, "change" means a lot of things. He claimed that he is the true "candidate of change." However, some of his Republican party mates say that he had a change of heart on many issues. They weren't happy with his record on illegal immigration when he was governor of Arkansas. According to news reports, "he supported higher education benefits for children of illegal immigrants, opposed a federal roundup of illegals from his state in 2005, opposed a 2001 bill requiring proof of citizenship to vote in the state, and in 2001, a member of his administration pushed for legislation to grant driver's licenses to illegal immigrants." During the Republican debate last November 28, 2007, he steadfastly defended his immigration record by saying, "We're a better country than to punish children for what their parents did."

But after winning in the Iowa caucuses, Huckabee flipped flopped and changed his stand on illegal immigration. He said that he would build a fence on the U.S.-Mexico border by July 2010. He also said that he would oppose giving a "pathway" to citizenship for illegal immigrants unless they return to their country of origin where they would apply for immigration legally. And he wanted to amend the constitution to deny citizenship to children of illegal immigrants born in the U.S., a notion no other Republican candidate have thought about or would even do. He promised that he would force a test case to the Supreme Court to challenge "birthright citizenship."

With McCain, "change" means changing a lot of things. He calls himself the "agent for change." He pushed for a change in the Iraq strategy including sending more troops which his opponents called the "McCain Surge." McCain is also a proponent of "climate change" which is akin to Al Gore's "Stop Global Warming" crusade.

McCain's stand on immigration reform has been consistent. In 2005, McCain and Sen. Edward Kennedy co-sponsored the failed Secure America and Orderly Act. He voted 'yes' on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 which passed the Senate but was rejected by the Lower House. He also supported and helped in crafting the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007. However, the bill is considered dead.

With Obama and Huckabee -- dubbed "Barackabee" -- winning in Iowa; and McCain and Clinton -- "McClint" -- winning in New Hampshire, we have four front-runners, all claiming to be the "candidate of change." Would they survive the Super Tuesday primaries in 22 states on February 5? Or would Republican Rudy Giuliani and Democrat John Edwards come back from behind and become their respective party's nominee?