Saturday, December 06, 2008

How The "Today We March; Tomorrow We Vote" Attitude Among Immigrant Groups Helped Pulverize The Republican Party


Yes, different from suburban South Carolina

A year ago we spent some time discussing the politics of immigration reform with Josh Hoyt, head of Illinois' largest immigrants' rights organization, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR). Yesterday Josh helped readers of the Chicago Tribune understand how the Republican Party's stumbling and bipolar immigration agenda helped doom John McCain's race for the White House. It goes even deeper than the 2/3 of America's fastest growing, and largest, minority bloc breaking for Obama (and remember, just 4 years ago Bush gave the Democrats a real run for their money with Hispanic voters, winning 44%). This year, Hispanics were key to flipping formerly red states like Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Florida to the Democrats-- and in defeating xenophobic GOP congressional incumbents in each one of them. Hispanics also helped Obama win hard fought contests in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Indiana.
Even more frightening for Republicans is the strong possibility that Latino voters could soon deliver Texas and Arizona to the Democrats. If this happens, Republicans can turn out the lights on their presidential hopes, lock the door and go on vacation for a decade or three.

It turns out that the hysteria from the Republican Party's Know Nothing base, with their xenophobia and racism, trumped the plan Rove had constructed to bring Latinos into the Republican coalition by harping on religious values, homophobia, abortion, and a whole crazy quilt of right-wing talking points that appeal to "family values" voters. Once it became painfully apparent that for Republicans, the "families" in "family values," only includes white, native born families (and the obscenely wealthy, of course), their message looked less and less appetizing to all immigrants.
In December 2005, Dennis Hastert, then House speaker, pandering to the hard right of the GOP, allowed Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) to push through the House a truly draconian piece of legislation that would have turned all undocumented immigrants and the priests and nuns who serve them into felons.

The Sensenbrenner legislation triggered the historic immigrant marches in the spring of 2006, where millions chanted, tellingly, "Today we march; tomorrow we vote!" Nativist-haters and talk-radio demagogues who don't like to "Press 1 for English" mobilized their cultural conservative base, and cynics in the Republican Party thought they had a beautiful little "wedge" issue. They would paint Democrats as pandering to Mexican-Americans by supporting "amnesty for lawbreakers." Republican tax activist Grover Norquist warned of the consequences, saying, "We can't afford to do to the Hispanics what we did to the Roman Catholics in the late 19th Century: tell them we don't like them and lose their vote for a hundred years."

Ignoring his warning, the Republican National Committee covered the nation during the 2006 elections with mailers and TV commercials painting the Democrats as soft on illegal Immigration, to no avail. The GOP lost the House and Senate, and many anti-immigrant hard-liners were defeated.

A small handful of Know Nothing Democrats like Heath Shuler and a few too frightened to take principled stands took heed of the clueless warnings shouted by a tone deaf Democratic leader, Rahm Emanuel, who warned that the immigration issue would defeat Democrats, just as he had warned that being against the Iraq War would defeat Democrats in 2006. He was rewarded for his double dose of brilliant strategy by being named Chief of Staff to president-elect Obama, who, I'm afraid, has sown the seeds for eventual catastrophe in his own administration. Back to Josh, who pointed out that by the time we were getting to know him in 2007, GOP anti-immigrant hysteria from the bigoted wing of the party-- your Inhofes,Tancredos, Bachmanns, DeMints etc-- had "boomeranged and provoked a Republican civil war."
The hard-liners opposed Bush and Sen. John McCain when they tried to pass Immigration reform. The hard-liners, like Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), crowed loudly after defeating the effort, but the net effect politically was to further weaken Bush.

Bush tried to unite his party in late 2007 and 2008 by unleashing a brutal series of high-profile raids that deported 349,000 illegal immigrants. The raids sowed fear and anger in the Mexican-American community and broke apart thousands of families. But a less-noticed result of the ugly debate was that the Latino community naturalized in record numbers. In the last year, 1.4 million immigrants became American citizens, legally eligible to vote.

The limited appeal of Immigration demagoguery and the lasting toll it is going to take on the GOP became clear early this year. Mitt Romney tried to win Iowa and New Hampshire as an anti-immigrant hard-liner. He was beaten by Mike Huckabee and McCain. Then Hastert's seat was lost in the humiliating defeat of Illinois' leading Immigration demagogue, ice cream magnate Jim Oberweis—in part because Latinos voted overwhelmingly against him.

On Nov. 4, more than 10 million Latinos cast ballots, almost three times as many as had voted 16 years ago. Latinos subjected the GOP to a convincing act of collective punishment, despite McCain's efforts to turn back the nativists in his party. An exit poll in Illinois found 68 percent of Latino voters consider the Republican Party not favorable toward immigrants. And, as Republicans are finally noticing, Latinos are voting in great numbers in critical presidential swing states. In a recent Newsweek column forlornly titled "A Way Out of the Wilderness," Rove dryly noted: "An anti-Hispanic attitude is suicidal."

We're not hearing much from North Carolina twerp Heath Shuler, who sought to embarrass the Democratic House leadership and force them into a disastrous compromise with the far right on this issue, anymore either. In fact, thankfully, a byproduct of Shuler's xenophobic activism in Congress has been to sideline his career and glue his fat reactionary ass to a backbench forever.

Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home