James Carville famously salvaged Bill Clinton’s political career by focusing on economic problems people were facing during the 1992 campaign.

The term “it’s the economy, stupid,” attributed to Carville as Clinton’s campaign strategist, became the mantra for a generation of Democrat politicians and political strategists:

Battling the impression that President Bush is closing on him, Gov. Bill Clinton returned today to the basics of his strategy, playing to the interests of the vast middle class of Americans who decide every Presidential race.

Mr. Clinton and his strategists said Mr. Bush had moved closer, as they have predicted he would. But Mr. Clinton’s poll taker and several other aides said today that their own surveys showed Mr. Clinton’s slippage had stopped, and that he still retained a seven-point lead in their own surveys.

Arguing this and working to dispel the perception that Mr. Bush is gaining on Mr. Clinton, the Democratic campaign tried to renew its focus on the message that got it to this point. ‘The Economy, Stupid’

Mr. Clinton and his aides have said from the very beginning that those interests can be summed up in three phrases, which are on a sign in the campaign’s headquarters: “Change vs. more of the same. The economy, stupid. Don’t forget health care.”

Obama broke with that economic message in favor of social justice warfare. Obama was able to cobble together a winning coalition because he expertly exploited racial issues while claiming to do the opposite. In one of my first posts at Legal Insurrection, on October 15, 2008, I wrote, “Race” As Political Weapon:

It is the stifling of legitimate debate which is fueling anger throughout the country. We are on the verge of electing a president who built his political career on the backs of race-baiters and anti-american zealots, and we can’t talk about it out of fear of being called “racist.”

The suppression of legitimate political expression through false accusations of racism by the Obama campaign and its supporters is the defining theme of the 2008 campaign. This tactic, while it may be successful, is shameful and has damaged our society in ways we may not understand for years.

On July 13, 2015, long before it was clear or even likely that Trump would be the Republican nominee, much less president, I wrote at National Review how central the issue of illegal immigration was to Trump’s rise.

My post was Trump’s Lesson: Voters Are Furious about Illegal Immigration:

Donald Trump has rocketed to the top, or near the top, of the Republican-primary field by focusing on illegal immigration and border security….

The media fell all over itself to denounce Trump, as did many Republican candidates and pundits. Trump was called incendiary, insensitive, a clown, not serious, damaging to the Republican “brand,” not what “we” are about, and so on.

But something happened on the way to the denunciations and purges. Kate Steinle was murdered in San Francisco, a sanctuary city….

Illegal immigration and open borders have made voters increasingly angry because they reflect the growing lawlessness of society and the willingness of Republicans to capitulate to leftist identity politics. The sense that we are losing control of our own country, by the design of politicians, is creating a fury — and an opening for a politician willing to recognize that the problem poses an existential threat to our own freedoms.

I focused on a sentence in Trump’s Phoenix speech which correctly identified the problem as being whether we have a country or not (emphasis added):

When I started . . . I didn’t think the immigration thing would take on a life like it has. I made some very tough statements about people flowing through, because that’s one of the things, to make our country great again, we have to create borders, otherwise we don’t have a country.

This is not a mere theoretical distinction. The Democratic Party, pushed by its progressive wing, is moving towards a position of de facto open borders. They are not alone, many libertarians are already there. As are many mainstream Republicans, who willfully deceive themselves into thinking one more amnesty, this time for 12-16-20 million people (the amount is unknown), will do the trick and then we’ll get serious about having a country.

https://www.facebook.com/yahoonews/videos/10155118828849714/

[Anti-Trump Inauguration Protest]

As central as illegal immigration was in 2016, it may be even more important in 2018 and beyond, writes Andrew Sullivan in New York Magazine, The Issue That Could Lose the Next Election for Democrats.

Sullivan first covers how the mass migration to Europe enabled by Angela Merkel has focused the electorates in western countries on whether they have countries:

I don’t believe it’s disputable at this point that the most potent issue behind the rise of the far right in America and Europe is mass immigration. It’s a core reason that Trump is now president; it’s why the AfD is now the third-biggest party in the German, yes, German, parliament; it’s why Austria’s new chancellor won by co-opting much of the far right’s agenda on immigration; it’s why Britain is attempting (and currently failing) to leave the EU; it’s why Marine Le Pen won a record number of votes for her party in France this spring. A critical moment, in retrospect, came with Angela Merkel’s 2015 decision to import over a million Syrian refugees into the heart of Europe. I’ve no doubt her heart was in the right place, but the political naïveté was stunning. How distant from the lives and views of most people does an elite have to be to see nothing to worry about from such drastic social and cultural change? Michael Brendan Dougherty elegantly explains here the dynamic that followed. There are now new borders and fences going up all over Europe, as a response to Merkel’s blithe misjudgment.

Sullivan then focuses on how leftist parties throughout Europe, but also in the United States, have failed to come to grips with the issue, instead moving harder left and more towards open borders:

… And this is one reason why I have dwindling hopes that the Democratic Party will be able to defeat Trump in 2020. Instead of adjusting to this new reality, and listening to the electorate, the Dems have moved ever farther to the left, and are controlled by ever-radicalizing activists….

The activist reaction — a rejection of most immigration enforcement or, with sanctuary cities, an open defiance of it — just makes this worse and renders a sane immigration compromise even more remote…..

This is, to be blunt, political suicide. The Democrats’ current position seems to be that the Dreamer parents who broke the law are near heroes, indistinguishable from the children they brought with them; and their rhetoric is very hard to distinguish, certainly for most swing voters, from a belief in open borders. In fact, the Democrats increasingly seem to suggest that any kind of distinction between citizens and noncitizens is somehow racist. You could see this at the last convention, when an entire evening was dedicated to Latinos, illegal and legal, as if the rule of law were largely irrelevant. Hence the euphemism “undocumented” rather than “illegal.” So the stage was built, lit, and set for Trump.

Sullivan then focused in on the same sentence I focused on in my National Review column, on whether we have a country (emphasis added):

The most powerful thing Trump said in the campaign, I’d argue, was: “If you don’t have borders, you don’t have a country.” And the Democrats had no answer, something that millions of Americans immediately saw. They still formally favor enforcement of immigration laws, but rhetorically, they keep signaling the opposite….

The entire concept of a nation whose citizens solely determine its future — the core foundation for any viable democracy at all — is now deemed by many left-liberals to be a function of bigotry. This is the kind of madness that could keep them from power indefinitely.

Andrew Sullivan gets it. I’m still not sure the Republican establishment gets it. Or Trump, as he flirts with some form of amnesty, Particularly if you support Trump, you need to oppose an amnesty sellout:

Amnesty is the issue on which to oppose Trump, particularly if you support Trump generally. It will kill his presidency, something Schumer and Pelosi correctly diagnosed. Democrats want amnesty for all illegal immigrants and open borders, they’ll take 800,000 as the way to open the door. And they’ll use even the slightest sellout to seek to separate Trump from the people who elected him so as to defeat him on other issues.

Amnesty is the gateway drug to a failed Trump presidency.

Don’t take the amnesty gateway drug.

It’s still the illegal immigration, stupid. It’s still whether or not we have a country.

[Featured Image: Anti-Trump protester inside Trump Rally at U. Illinois – Chicago]