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Politico: "MAGA Maggie" Hassan stumbles on the border

(AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Sometimes a move to the center pays off in a tough election cycle. For it to work, however, voters have to see it as genuine, rather than a one-off pander. The nation would be better served, for instance, if more Democrats went to the border to see the crisis in person and educated themselves on the tough work necessary for ending the perverse signals sent by Joe Biden and his administration that precipitated a 17-month rush to the southern border.

However, if that’s what embattled Senate Democrat Maggie Hassan had in mind, it’s safe to assume it didn’t work. Instead, Politico reports, the New Hampshire Democrat is taking fire across the political spectrum for what looks more like a stunt (via Gary Gross):

Her home state shares a border with Canada. So when New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan recently showed up more than 2,000 miles away, at the U.S border with Mexico, it created a backlash.

Not just among Republicans — who mocked her as ‘MAGA Maggie’ and dismissed her appearances in Texas and Arizona as a desperate attempt to appear tough on border security — but within her own party. Latino leaders reacted with rage to her southern border visit in early April and her opposition to the Biden administration’s plan to lift the Trump-era border restriction known as Title 42.

Members of the New Hampshire Democratic Latino Caucus resigned from their party leadership posts in an angry public letter. A Democratic state lawmaker took to the House floor to rail against Hassan and Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), who also opposes the administration’s effort to end Title 42. More than a dozen progressives and immigration advocates gathered in Portsmouth Tuesday — the same day President Joe Biden was visiting the city — to protest Hassan’s stance and demand that she meet with them.

The fierce pushback is a glimpse into the volatile politics surrounding Title 42 and the pressures buffeting vulnerable swing-state senators like Hassan — one of four Democratic incumbents whose fate in November will likely determine control of the Senate.

Part of this is the inevitable pushback from the utopian progressive wing as Democrat incumbents try appealing to the center. In this case, the utopianism crosses too many lines for them to allow Hassan and Pappas off the hook. Not only does it involve ethnicity but also globalism, two key values of modern progressivism — even if the latter is still contradictory to the recent populist strain of progressivism cheered by Bernie Sanders. Not only do these activists see Title 42 as some sort of systemic bigotry, a significant number of these progressives don’t believe in barriers at all to entry into the US on any basis. They’re for open borders, not regulated entry, in service to a borderless, nationless Utopia that they prophesy will eventually emerge.

Back in the real world, though, one has to wonder just how ineffective the effort by Hassan and Pappas will prove. The Biden administration has real problems in their new Title 42 policy as they have no plan to deal with the fallout of ending entries on the basis of pandemic risk. In fact, despite intermittent national headlines over the border crisis and record amounts of illegal entries into the US, Joe Biden and his team still don’t have a plan for dealing with border security, period. The use of Title 42 allowed the White House some cover for that lack of preparation and planning, but they have used the window it provided to do nothing at all.

It’s not just Hassan and Pappas that are sounding the alarm over this prospect in Democratic caucuses, either. Two Texas Democrats will meet with Biden today to warn him of another record surge at the border if he follows through on his promise to end Title 42 expulsions:

Two border-district Democrats from Texas facing stiff headwinds for reelection are pressing to keep in place Title 42, bucking fellow Hispanic lawmakers expected to meet Monday with President Joe Biden.

Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, warned Sunday that lifting the emergency order, which has barred migrants during the COVID-19 pandemic, will only accelerate the border crisis — and make it harder for South Texas Democrats to attract voters.

“Some of the actions by the administration are not helping Democrats, certainly in South Texas, when it comes to oil and gas [and] immigration policies,” Cuellar said on Fox News Sunday. “Who’s listening to the border communities? That’s my question.”

Cuellar and Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, both criticize Biden for setting a May 23 expiration for Title 42, a policy invoked by the Trump administration two years ago at the outset of the pandemic.

Cuellar’s situation provides a real test for Democrats like Hassan and Pappas. He will face a runoff election against progressive immigration lawyer Jessica Cisneros, who backs Biden’s decision and has gotten significant backing from hard-line progressive groups. Cisneros has gotten endorsements from Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in her fight against Cuellar. Cuellar has potential legal issues playing a role in this fight — the FBI raided his office in January, but Cuellar’s attorney says he’s not a target of an investigation — but the runoff is largely being fought on immigration policy, and Cuellar’s rejection of the Biden/Dem establishment position on it.

If Cisneros manages to win the runoff, though, progressive joy may be short-lived. Texas’ 28th congressional district has a D+5  Cook rating, and Cuellar probably comes a lot closer to representing the mainstream of the constituency there — especially on immigration. Progressives may well win a battle only to lose a war in TX-28, especially in a midterm cycle where Republicans and independents are a whole lot more enthusiastic to vote than Democrats.

That is why Hassan and Pappas are staking out ground on the border along with Cuellar. Republicans can and will poke fun at them for being dilettantes and Johnnies-come-lately to the border, and progressives will fume. They’re looking for what’s left of a motivated middle to save themselves, in a cycle where Biden and his team are oblivious to the tsumami to come. That’s a good development whether Hassan and Pappas are sincere or not.