OBAMA ON THE BORDER: Among immigration advocates, reactions to President Obama’s May 10 speech in El Paso, Texas, could be summed up by a headline in New York’s El Diario: Nice Speech, Now Show Real Commitment. With a president who has overseen record deportations and broadened the Secure Communities program, which teams ICE agents with local law enforcement, striking fear in the hearts of many immigrant communities, Latinos have reason to be skeptical as Obama solicits their support for 2012.
The president retains support among Latinos, thanks in part to a Republican opposition that has embraced policies that are flagrantly bigoted by comparison. Obama won laughter when he suggested that the GOP will be dissatisfied no matter what he does to secure the border, joking, “Maybe they’ll need a moat. Maybe they’ll want alligators in the moat.” But favorably contrasting himself with a party that has an increasingly anti-immigrant platform isn’t enough.
Obama deserves praise for urging passage of the DREAM Act, a bill reintroduced the day after his speech by Senator Richard Durbin and thirty-one co-sponsors. “We should stop punishing innocent young people for the actions of their parents. We should stop denying them the chance to earn an education or serve in the military,” Obama said. Such young people will seek to hold him accountable to his words. After the speech, wrote journalist Roberto Lovato, “hundreds of DREAM Act students and their families converged on an Obama fundraiser in Austin to demand he stop deporting DREAM Act students immediately. Liliana Segura
TALKING TORY BLUES: Held the same day as local elections, the May 5 referendum on changing Britain’s voting system was sup-posed to be Nick Clegg’s prize for taking his Liberal Democrats into coalition with the Conservatives. Instead it became a referendum on Clegg and his party, which crashed in spectacular flames, losing half its English council seats and scuppering electoral reform for years to come, while the Tories emerged from the wreckage startlingly unscathed. Ever since they broke their promise to scrap university tuition fees (voting instead for a Tory plan for a 300 percent increase), the Lib Dems have become the nation’s punching bag, taking the rap for Tory budget cuts just as Prime Minister David Cameron clearly hoped they would.
Labour picked up most of the Lib Dems’ dropped seats in England but made no dent in the Tory vote—and suffered its own devastating defeat in Scotland. A historic victory in Labour’s former citadel for the left-leaning Scottish National Party—whose leader, Alex Salmond, vowed “the rocks will melt in the sun” before he’ll impose tuition fees—will likely mean a referendum on Scottish independence. If Salmond takes Scotland out of the union, the Tories will have a huge majority in what’s left of Britain. A vote meant to empower Britain’s left-of-center majority could now see the left shut out of Westminster for decades.
In politics, timing is everything. The financial year starts in April, so drastic budget cuts have barely begun to bite. By scheduling the referendum on the Alternative Vote at the same time as local elections, Cameron allowed his party to launch an all-out public attack on its coalition partner. “Under AV, the only vote that really counts is Nick Clegg’s,” proclaimed the posters. But Labour also bears some of the blame. Endlessly worried about being seen as fiscally irresponsible, the party still hasn’t offered an alternative plan for the economy. Labour has long been split on electoral reform, and unlike Cameron, Ed Miliband couldn’t unite his party behind the AV campaign. The next election will be fought in even fewer constituencies, with new boundaries drawn by the current government. There may yet come a day when British election results reflect the views of the majority, who favor a well-funded, universal National Health Service and high-quality public services, but it may not be in our lifetime. Perhaps by the time William and Kate come to the throne. D.D. Guttenplan and Maria Margaronis
THE YOUTH VOTE: A lawsuit filed by the Constitutional Litigation Clinic at Rutgers Law School, on behalf of the New Jersey ACLU, is challenging the state’s voter registration law, saying it imposes needless obstacles to young people trying to cast ballots on election day. The lead plaintiff is the Rutgers University Student Assembly, along with students disenfranchised in the 2008 election. They are calling on New Jersey to join nine other states and the District of Columbia by instituting Election Day Registration (EDR).
Those most affected by advance registration requirements are highly mobile populations, like students and young adults. Meanwhile, the five states with the highest voter turnout all use EDR. In Minnesota nearly 78 percent of those eligible to vote did so in 2008, the highest rate in the nation, compared with 67.9 percent in New Jersey.
Threatened by a robust youth vote, some Republican lawmakers want to repeal EDR in their states. New Jersey’s Republican governor, Chris Christie, has warned that the lawsuit will encourage voter fraud. But as Minnesota’s secretary of state has argued, “EDR is much more secure because you have the person right in front of you—not a postcard in the mail.” Instead of condemning an initiative that would make it easier to vote, Christie should help New Jersey catch up with the times. “We have cell phones that pinpoint your location from thousands of miles away,” Rutgers student vice president Matthew Cordeiro told New Jersey’s Star-Ledger. “I don’t know why we can’t figure out same-day voter registration. Frank Askin
CALLING ALL STUDENTS: Six years ago The Nation launched an annual Student Writing Contest to identify, support and reward the many smart, progressive student journalists who write, report and blog.
This year we’re looking for original, thoughtful student voices to answer this question in 800 words: What do you think is the most serious issue facing your generation?
The contest is open to all matriculating high school students and undergraduates at US schools, colleges and universities. Entries will be accepted through June 30. High school and college winners will see their essays published in The Nation and will receive $1,000 and lifetime Nation subscriptions. Finalists will be published on TheNation.com and will receive $200 plus free subscriptions.
More info at thenation.com/students.