Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The GOP Leaders and Immigration Policy

At The Boston Globe Jeff Jacoby laments Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney embodying the contemporary equivalent of the anti-immigrant Know-Nothings. The money excerpt:
The Know-Nothings today are spoken of with disdain, but their attractiveness to voters was once a powerful political phenomenon. One of Romney's predecessors as governor of Massachusetts, Henry J. Gardner, was elected three times on the American Party (the "Know-Nothing") ticket. He had plenty of company: In the 1854 election in Massachusetts alone, the Know-Nothings won every statewide office, every seat in the state Senate, virtually the entire state House of Representatives, every seat in the congressional delegation, and a slew of local offices.

It wasn't a party of single-issue yahoos. The Know-Nothings opposed slavery, supported greater rights for women, expanded constitutional liberties, mandated paid legal counsel for poor defendants, increased aid to public schools and libraries, enacted numerous consumer protections, and cracked down on corruption in public office.

But who recalls any of that today? The Know-Nothings are remembered now for one thing only: the anti-immigrant bigotry they inflamed and exploited for political gain.

Giuliani and Romney are not single-issue yahoos either. But they are letting their hunger for power overwhelm their better judgment and decency. Recklessly bashing illegal immigrants may score them points with one angry segment in the GOP base. But what are they doing to their party's reputation - and their own?

Jacoby, I'll remind you, is a very conservative columnist. This does not represent an attack from the left.

I live in the Southwest where the issue of immigration is more than just a cynical topic to scare white suburbanites and I find Giuliani and Romney's conversion to represent facile opportunism. There is no easy solution to this issue. But demonizing immigrants strikes me as a vicious and craven way to approach immigration policy. Texan George W. Bush understands this, and I don't give the president all that much credit on many issues. I don't entirely agree with Bush's immigration policies either, but at least he is making an attempt to find a solution within a context where any policy is going to lead to deep dissatisfaction.


Marshall said...

I live in Odessa and last night listened to a "town hall" meeting over the phone held by Rep. Mike Conaway which is going to guarantee his re-election. But the most interesting aspect was the questions being asked by some of the people, from our area, on the call. One lady from Crane seemed ready to declare war on all immigrants legal or not, saying that the people were ready to “rise up” and take the law into their own hands. Another man wants all of our military bases placed on the southern border so they can do “maneuvers” and protect our border. To his credit Conaway dismissed these ideas, as illogical and in the woman’s case immoral.

I was impressed by this campaign strategy by Conaway. Conaway gets the issues for his re-election campaign next year from the people that care enough to sit through the call. He didn’t really give any answers except blaming Democrats for most things, but in six months he will be able to come back to the area and regurgitate these ideas and win in a landslide. Politically genius.

Jaime said...

In response to Jacoby's defense of the Know Nothing Party, I am sorry but I don't feel as he does that history has somehow slandered a secretive Xenophobic political movement, even if it did obtain a national following for a brief period. They were also anti-Catholic, which was in-line with their anti-immigrant stand and tried to restrict public schools attendance to only Protestants. And their anti-slavery stance may have been more politically and regionally determined rather than a clear commitment to ending this institution; voters who cared more about this issue probably supported the Free Soil Party in the elections of 1854.

For an additional point of view on the issue of illegal immigration and the Republican party, I suggest reading Barry Goldwater Jr.'s editorial from this Sunday's Arizona Republic.

"Hysteria over illegal immigrants must stop"