They bet wrong
[Photo by Albert of the Philly blog - more great photos here] Our Star-Spangled Banner
With all their talk about invasions and threats to U.S. security, the American nativist right thought the traditional Republican melange of fear and flag would create a groundswell on immigration reform.
It did. But the flags are flying over millions on the march in L.A., in Phoenix, on the streets of Philadelphia, here in New York, and all across the national mall in Washington DC. They're American flags for the most part, brilliant red, white and blue in the spring sunlight. And they're swirled by the hands and arms of those who do a good bit of our manual labor - immigrants, legal and otherwise. Americans, new and not, proud of their myriad heritage but even prouder of being Americans.
The outpouring was not from the right-wing base, as hoped. Oh, immigration reform is in the wind alright - but it's not moving in the direction that people like Tom Tancredo, James Sensenbrenner, and JD Hayworth intended. It's moving the other way, entirely. By stirring the pot in a desperate attempt at a galvanizing issue in what is shaping up as a disastrous election year for the home team, the Tancredo Wing has pretty much ensured that immigration reform in the United States will lead to a liberalization of current law. One more trip to the well with the old fear-laden, us-versus-them cultural themes of Ronald Reagan's craven Southern Strategy has yielded disaster for nativist conservatives.
The Bush Administration, meanwhile, has handled this issue with all the characteristic skill it applied to creating a new civil society in Iraq. That is to say, badly - although the President himself favors liberalized immigration law, his neo-Reaganist political calculations always tilt toward the precious base - a base, by the way, that is sick of being played and not all that loyal or motivated going into November.
Blogger Maskow from USworldcast [via Steve] writes a smoldering, full-on blast on race and the voting right - dead-on, in my view:
White, fundamentalist, voters of the lowest Republican income-brackets have been feasted on God, guns, and gay-bashing. Finger-lickin' good distractions as their jobs and sometimes whole factories were sent overseas, their sons and daughters to war, their treasury into the pockets of profiteers and speculators, their legal protections into the shredder.
Even as their incomes shrank they were exhorted to spend lest the terrorists win, fattening the credit card companies that eventually took away even the hope of bankruptcy.
Long suckered into believing that they made enough money to be Republicans, there is the creeping realization that someone has made off with the till and they will be much poorer than when love was new. The sense of betrayal is rising.
First to sense trouble in the herd is their long time leadership: talk radio.
The raw meat talkies may not sense that immigration has backfired, but keen Republican politicians like Senator Lindsay Graham and former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie clearly know it's a loser in a losing year. Here's Gillespie [via Joe] on immigration and the GOPs electoral strategy:
Hispanic voting percentages are increasingly decisive in swing states like New Mexico, Nevada, Florida, Colorado and Arkansas. Mishandling the immigration debate today could result in the Republican Party struggling in these states and others in the same way it now does in California. People who come legally to this country with nothing and labor in the most menial ways to get a new start should feel at home in our party. As a rule, they are hardworking, law-abiding, freedom-loving and patriotic Americans.
The so-called mainstream Republican center is also between a rock and hard place with another huge sector of the electorate: Catholics. Liberal, ethical, welcoming treatment of immigrants is a core guideline in the American Church, and has been endorsed strongly by the Bishops conference. Republican candidatess have seen massive gains nationally in Catholic voters over the last two decades. Fumbling immigration can roll that back, especially as leading Democrats march to the center on abortion rights.
If the GOP needed any reminder of this, there was Cardinal Theodore McCarrick front and center on the Mall yesterday. In his address to the crowd, delivered mostly in Spanish, according to the right-wing CNSNewsService:
McCarrick compared the protest to civil rights marches of the 1960s. "We must still fight against racial discrimination in our land," he said, adding that Catholics are in "prayerful protest against discrimination ... of the immigrant who comes to our country seeking a better life for himself and his family."
Cardinal McCarrick may as well have delivered a tough, blunt message to the Sensenbrenners and the Tancredos on the Hill: You want to make this a cultural battle? Game on!
UPDATE: Conservative pundit Michael Savage does not, er, agree: "And I say...to the politicians, I warn you personally. You will not be re-elected. If you take to the streets with the vermin who are trying to dictate to us how we should run America, even though they're not even entitled to vote or be here, you're going to be thrown out of office. The people will throw you out of office. There are not enough of them to re-elect you. You will be out of a job. You will not have a living. You will be hunting for a job. Maybe, you'll be picking the vegetables." Nice. UPDATE II: Neither does Jack Cafferty: "March through our streets and demand your rights. Excuse me? You have no rights here, and that includes the right to tie up our towns and cities and block our streets. At some point this could all turn very violent as Americans become fed up with the failure of their government to address the most pressing domestic issue of our time ... where's the immigration service? Why don't they pull the buses up and start asking these people to show their green cards? And the ones that don't have them, put them on the buses and send them home." Very nice.
UPDATE III: Strangely, neither does James Farrah, founder of the intolerant (but widely read) WorldNetDaily conservative site (via Wolcott): "Every day now, it seems, hundreds of thousands of ungrateful human parasites rally in American cities condemning their host country's lack of hospitality...These invaders have made it easy for drug dealers, criminals and terrorists to hide behind the skirts of ordinary civilians." Very, very nice.
Grover Norquist gets it, I bet Mehlman, who has been amazingly silent, gets it as well. But the base, the precious base, has to be served. Even though they could lose not only both houses, but ensure a Democratic president in 2008. The GOP played this as badly as Pete Wilson did, but with even less of an excuse for ignorance.
Blacks got some of the racists to drop their masks after Katrina, but this, this is like manna from heaven. You have people wigging out and attacking American citizens. Most of the protestors were Americans, not immigrants. But the racists had to spew their filith, while every TV executive and politician with a brain realized America just changed before their eyes. It isn't just black people any more. It's brown people, too, and blowing them off can be fatal to the GOP's growth.
posted by Steve @ 1:03:00 AM