August was largely a disappointment for both the pro- and anti-immigration reform rallies that were meant to rally public opinion on both sides of the issue. But the Arizona Republic, like many mainstream media outlets, falsely scores the outcome in favor of the pro-reform crowds: “it is increasingly clear that those in favor of reform are better mobilized and have the momentum,” it concludes.
On Friday, an Organizing for Action rally–yes, that’s President Barack Obama’s own group–in Columbus, Ohio managed to draw all of six participants. That is actually higher than some pro-immigration reform events attracted. Yet the Republic‘s Dan Nowicki and Erin Kelly call an anti-reform rally in Richmond, VA a disappointment because “only about 60 people turned out.”
In mid-August, pro-reform organizers touted a rally outside House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)’s Bakersfield, CA office as the centerpiece of their summer campaign. They promised over 5,000 demonstrators. Only a few hundred showed up. But the mainstream media–with the exception of NPR–continued to repeat organizers’ absurd claims that thousands had participated.
The media have had a thumb on the scales since the beginning. Earlier in August, more journalists than demonstrators showed up for the start of an anti-immigration campaign on the steps of the Los Angeles City Hall. They have been, for the most part, advocates for amnesty, portraying opponents as the dwindling remnant of an America long consigned to the demographic dustbin of history.
The fact is that both sides in the immigration reform debate have struggled to muster much enthusiasm or outrage. And the reason is simple: immigration reform is simply not an urgent or important issue to the vast majority of Americans. It ranks in the low single digits in recent Gallup issue polls, far below economic issues and a distant third even among non-economic issues.
Unlike Obamacare, which stirred intense opposition in the summer of 2009, immigration reform does not touch the life of every American directly, at least not in ways that are obvious to the average citizen. Many consider it an issue for border states and big-city politicians. Even the Hispanic community struggled to muster the kind of interest it showed in the immigration issue several years ago.
Though our southern border remains porous and laughably insecure, the weak U.S. economy has slowed illegal crossings to a trickle. The famed Minutemen have all but dissolved in the glare of public controversy and private infighting. The anti-war movement that swelled the amnesty movement’s numbers during the Bush years has been co-opted and demobilized by the Obama machine.
And yet the media remain undeterred. The earnest editors of the Arizona Republic wanted a win for the pro-reform crowd–and if one was not in the offing, they would make one happen. So they devoted over 2,500 words to the disappointment of immigration reform’s opponents, and precious little attention to the failures of pro-amnesty organizers. If the media have it their way, that disappointment will be short-lived.