There is some truth to the statement that presidential elections can be bought, as is evident by the ever-expanding ceiling of campaign expenditure by our political parties. To the extent that public opinion matters on any given issue, whether domestic or international, is therefore subject to extensive debate. Whether or not public opinion widely reflects support for the continued funding of our government, or for the ending of certain wars, or for implementing a requirement of background checks on the sales of firearms, it seems to be of little relevance when it comes to the policies executed by the political elite. There is indeed a disconnect between attitudes of the elite and of the general public, but the last five decades have especially shown that money alone is unable to yield political victory as reliably as many may believe.
That is not to say that public opinion is wholly irrelevant, as the elite will tend to govern to appease the governed, but only when it is convenient for them to do so. And public opinion, of course, also bears greater significance in many matters that do not involve elections whatsoever. Such matters generally shape our society external of the influence of money and greed. But for my purposes, the focus will be on the implications of public opinion both on elections and ultimately our national security.
Both the public and the elite have had varying opinions on the issue of immigration. This is consistent with Adam Berinsky's theory that as long as the elite itself disagrees on a given issue, so will the population. Generally, Republicans have been more strict with regard to immigration policy, both by cracking down on illegal immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border and by being less tolerant with respect to illegal immigrants that have already crossed into the U.S. And Democrats have generally been more forgiving with such illegal immigrants, while not expressing the same level of passion and support for border states that are more directly impacted by the issue than the rest of the nation. The immigration issue has become more and more important to presidential elections, as the degree to which the public has expressed sympathy with the Democratic perspective has been more or less parallel with the increase of the illegal immigrant population itself.
In 2012, Republican candidate Mitt Romney received 27% of the Latino vote, compared to John McCain's 31% in 2008, and George Bush's 44% in 2004. The number of registered Latinos since 2008 has increased by 26%, which means they are becoming a critical component of the electorate. And it is the immigration issue that can essentially make or break a presidential candidate's probability of winning the general election (though, not exclusively). Therefore it is of little wonder that President Obama has been able to defeat his Republican opponents, when "swing" or "purple" states such as Florida, Nevada, and Colorado have been experiencing and continue to experience a swelling of their Latino population. Even when taking into consideration the millions of dollars spent by both parties in swing states, the money has not proven to be strong enough to trump the message.
However, the immigration issue also carries foreign policy implications that deserve greater attention. It seems that the determining factor of the Latino vote has been grounded on pure liberal versus conservative ideals, which if remains as such can result in vulnerability to our national security. The Bush II and Obama administrations have spent tremendous amounts of money to secure and better protect our nation from terror attacks after 9/11. To their credit, we have since not sustained any such terror attacks that were to be executed from outside of the U.S. The Boston bombing suspects indeed carried out a terrorist attack against the U.S. for the sake of jihad, but they did so from within. Our enemies are aware that their likelihood for another successful terrorist attack against us has dramatically diminished, which is only to be expected when trillions of dollars have been injected into enhancing our security protocols and engaging in operations overseas to eliminate known targets. And while every American can agree that protecting our nation from such atrocities is worth the financial investment, the Obama administration has reduced the amount of funding for border security in an effort to curtail spending in general. This is independent from his social perspective of illegal immigration and how best to engage that issue, as it leaves our nation more susceptible to the invasion of terrorists by land, who will ultimately carry out terrorist attacks against us all the while bypassing a large margin of security protocols implemented since 9/11.
One begs to ask, what kind of developed first-world country is unable to secure its own borders? This concept should seem like a prerequisite for nations striving to reach such status. While the U.S. may not be the only developed nation to fall short in this regard, it goes with logic to expect the world's leading nation or hegemon to have this aspect under control at a minimum. The reality is that people from nations that are willing or likely to cause harm to the U.S. have already managed to enter the U.S. via the Mexico border, and they continue to do so. It is thus only a matter of time until some form terrorist attack is carried out against us, as we do not even have records of most of these populations. However, in 2005, there were a total of 1.2 million illegal immigrants arrested that had infiltrated from the Mexico border, and 165,000 of those were determined to have originated from countries outside of Mexico (i.e., not Mexican citizens). Roughly 650 of those were further identified by the intelligence community to have originated from countries that could export individuals for the purpose of doing harm against the U.S. With 650 apprehended, there is no telling how many have managed to hide in the shadows and plot possible attacks. And these figures only represent one year.
With the issue of illegal immigration comes risk that transcends economic concerns alone. It is therefore of utmost importance that the U.S. properly take control of its borders and give attention to this blind spot. Instead, the present administration has chosen to draw back these efforts and reduce expenditure toward these ends, while ironically playing to the tune of illegal immigrants who are increasingly more important in determining who will be elected president of our country. It begets the question, who really runs the nation anyway? In sum, public opinion is becoming more instrumental for our elections, while contributing to greater potential threats of terrorist attack in the future with respect to the issue of illegal immigration. And while money certainly helps to sway public opinion, it is been falling short by ever-widening margins to clinch presidential elections for those outspoken to greater commitments in securing our border.