Much of the angst over the just-defeated immigration bill is due to concern over Americans losing jobs -- to illegal immigrants on the low end of the labor scale and to high-tech pros from other countries entering the U.S. on H-1B visas at the high end.
So it's not surprising that outsourcing is joining the war in Iraq and universal health care as one of the key issues that every 2008 presidential candidate will be expected to address.
As reported in SiliconValley.com, Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) found himself in the center of a small political storm after Indian-Americans voiced objections to a memo released by one of his campaign staffers that portrayed Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) as overly amenable to offshoring jobs to India.
Democrats like Clinton and Obama have it especially tough as they attempt to craft messages acceptable to two traditionally "blue" groups: labor unions, which are often vocal opponents of outsourcing, and high-tech companies, which tend to be pro-outsourcing.
Clinton is trying to forge a middle ground by touting expansion of the H-1B visa program -- with caveats that American wages should be protected and incentives offered to boost the numbers of college graduates in fields like engineering.
That was Clinton's message at a recent gathering in California sponsored by alumni of the Indian Institutes of Technology. She got a generally warm reception despite the fact that she appeared only via satellite, citing schedule conflicts. Interestingly, one of the conflicts was a meeting with steelworkers in Cleveland.
It's an issue for Republicans as well. But perhaps the biggest problem -- as with many issues -- is that debate rarely advances beyond the rhetoric stage. Says Bill Whalen, a political analyst at Stanford University's Hoover Institution:
The problem is that there hasn't been any serious discussion by either party's candidates. The Democrats angrily claim that Republicans don't care about working men and women. The Republicans say the Democrats are just loony protectionists. It makes for good sound bites and doesn't solve the problem.