By Ronald Sampson
Any “old hats” who have followed politics for a while have undoubtedly seen the phenomenon of how political performance level at the national level impacts that at the state and local level. For instance, if a President is incredibly popular, lower-level politicians of the same party will do their best to ride the coattails, to match styles and platforms, and to align themselves.
So what about the opposite, when the President is rather unpopular? Well we are seeing that play out in real time with Biden and Arizona Democrats. The most recent salvo has been Governor Katie Hobbs, who is critical of the recent federal policy to close down a border crossing in order to move agents to assist Border Patrol at unsanctioned crossing points.
Closing this border is not only an effect of the Biden’s administration complete inability to control migration and secure the southern border, but will also lead to significant impediments to trade and negatively impact Arizona’s most important trade relationship, something which is clearly more important to Hobbs than federal policy. But she is far from alone in expressing dismay.
Very notably, Representative Ruben Gallego recently called for an emergency declaration at the southern border, and even the Chair of the Arizona Democratic Party, the Chief Cheerleader when it comes to party policy, was notably mum about the Biden administration’s policy when asked about immigration in a recent interview.
In short, Biden’s failure has become so potentially toxic in advance of the 2024 elections that Arizona’s Democrat politicians are distancing themselves mightily from it, even at the risk of potentially alienating some of their core voters.
In the past, it was easy for them to move to the left on the immigration issue. Sheriff Joe Arpaio made himself such a lightning rod, such a line-in-the-sand candidate steeped in indecisiveness who turned the topic into a binary, “Us vs. Them” choice. If you disagreed with “Papers please” stops and varying degrees of racial profiling, you could side with Dems. Two terms of Sheriff Paul Penzone took away that factor, and one term of Biden has Democrats on their heels and searching for purpose on this issue.
This also lends itself to a foreboding conclusion for Biden: in what is easily one of the most talked about and visceral issues in this swing state, the incumbent’s performance has been so poor that not even his allies will go to bat for him. It appears as though the case that the Democrats will make will be little more than “Trump BAD!”, and we saw how well that worked in 2016. We can’t expect it to work any better in 2024.
There is plenty of time left to right the ship, and in what is generally deemed to be the most important issue for most (“It’s the economy, stupid!”), we may somehow still avoid what was the most heavily predicted recession in modern history. But at least in this border/swing state, federal performance when it comes to immigration is looking less like a rising tide lifting all boats as it is a rock tied to an ankle, one that Democrats are furiously attempting to untie.