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By David Podvin
Republicans govern to defraud the majority, so they must constantly create sideshows with which to manipulate the voting public. During recent elections these diversionary issues have included flag burning and gay marriage. In 2006, the GOP will be waving the bloody banner of illegal immigration.
Apparently at the behest of Karl Rove, Republicans are preparing to place on next year’s ballot the California Border Police Initiative, which would establish a state militia dedicated to patrolling the Mexican border in search of illegal aliens. The last time the California GOP waged an all-out electoral assault against undocumented workers the campaign quickly became a hate fest. Governor Pete Wilson’s bid for re-election was faltering, so he crafted televisions ads featuring a brown-skinned man running over a hill accompanied by the announcer’s voice ominously intoning, “They just keep coming…”
Long term, this blatant appeal to xenophobia damaged the Grand Old Party with the burgeoning Hispanic community. Short term, it worked like a charm, stampeding panicked white voters to the polls for the purpose of re-electing Wilson.
Few issues are more incendiary than illegal immigration. Opinion surveys show that even Americans who live far from border regions are passionate about the matter, some because of a devotion to sovereignty, others because of an aversion to diversity. Illegal immigration is a topic where reason is swamped by emotion, and that makes it an effective vehicle with which to herd sheeple into the GOP ranks.
The Republican motive for supporting the initiative is power lust. The motivation of the people who will be gathering signatures to qualify the proposition is racism. Jim Gilchrist is the founder of the Minuteman Project, a band of self-described vigilantes who have illegally patrolled the border intimidating Hispanics whom they perceive to be “suspicious”. According to Gilchrist, his group’s mission is to deport millions of illegal aliens, thereby saving the United States from imminent conquest by Mexico, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. Minutemen have appeared in public wearing Speedy Gonzalez t-shirts and standing alongside members of the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi organization.
The American public is suffering due to the policies of George W. Bush, and it is during such times of hardship that Republicans most skillfully exploit bigotry. The “brown-skinned invasion”, as one Minuteman has termed it, provides the scapegoats Rove needs to con the angry electorate into voting against its economic interests.
The complicating factor for the GOP is that the national Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of Corporate America, which prizes undocumented workers for their depressing effect upon wages. The Bush administration cannot overtly oppose illegal immigration lest the currently uncritical corporate media coverage of the incumbent suddenly turn hostile. Therefore, the issue is being put front and center by California Republicans and promoted by those segments of the media whose parent conglomerates do not greatly benefit from coolie labor.
Clear Channel Communications is taking the lead. The nation’s largest owner of radio stations, Clear Channel has its on-air personnel championing the initiative in California and rallying listeners to the cause in other states. The company has a nefarious history of inciting the conservative grass roots. It was a Clear Channel station in Tennessee that instigated a riot at the statehouse over a tax increase, and one in Los Angeles that initiated the recall of Gray Davis after Enron had plundered California.
The chairman of Clear Channel is a strong Bush supporter, as is the author of the California Border Police Initiative. Bush poses as a moderate on immigration to mollify his business benefactors, but a call to the legislative office of initiative sponsor Ray Haynes confirmed that no White House officials have asked the assemblyman to stop promoting the proposition. To the contrary, longtime Bush loyalists in California are key backers of the effort.
Rove quietly guided the GOP/Clear Channel attack on Davis, dispatching operatives to assist in the recall, and the presence of the same cast of characters in the current scenario indicates that he is at it again. The Bush team intends to reap political dividends by publicly maintaining a Hispanic-friendly demeanor while privately encouraging the racial divisiveness that generates votes for the Republican Party.
And so throughout California, citizens are being bombarded with horror stories about how illegal aliens are responsible for the bad economy, the high crime rate, the bottlenecks in traffic flow, and the overburdening of public schools. Californians are hearing that unless they support the initiative their state will soon experience “reconquista”, a violent uprising by fifth columnists who are intent on returning the American Southwest to Mexico. With the vote still about a year away, the volume of ethnic hostility is already high and rising fast.
Based on the emerging narrative, the Republicans will use the illegal immigration issue to augment the standard slanderous caricature of Democrats. There is the argument that the “open border” with Mexico constitutes a national security risk, bolstering the traditional GOP claim that Democrats are not as strong on national defense as they should be. There is the argument that illegal immigration is “altering the very nature of Americanism”, reinforcing the right wing theme that Democrats are not as patriotic as they should be. And with the Caucasian majority warily eying the changing demographics of our nation, the illegal alien issue will be used to resurrect the implicit yet highly effective argument that Democrats are not as white as they should be.
Illegal immigration has a profound impact on this nation and it is a subject worthy of intellectually honest debate. There are legitimate concerns about working class salaries being artificially depressed as a result of sub-minimum wage labor, a problem that can be resolved by severely sanctioning employers who break the law. It is valid to question the wisdom of having porous borders at a time when al Qaeda threatens America, but that concern would have to be addressed by securing the entire perimeter of the continental United States rather than just the southern boundary.
These issues directly affect the Democratic constituency yet have been largely neglected by the Democratic Party out of deference to its corporate contributors. By failing to engage the illegal alien issue, the Democrats have missed the opportunity to preserve the wages of their base, strengthen the party’s national security credentials, and remove the toxic component of race from the equation. Into the vacuum are now stepping rabble-rousers with a states rights-style proposal to have armed militiamen keep ethnic undesirables at bay. The Republican hate campaign is going to get really ugly and it will degrade the political environment nationwide.
The only way to defeat conservative flame throwing is to fight fire with fire. A good rule of thumb when confronting demagogues is “Go for the jugular”. In practical terms, that means lowering the level of public discourse by ripping the masks off the racists and exposing them for what they are. It also means placing the worst possible interpretations on the actions and motives of the other side, putting Republicans on the defensive and keeping them there. Such tactics are extremely partisan, not to mention extremely effective, and therefore would be employed only by political warriors who are serious about vanquishing fascism.
In the past, Democrats have taken the high road, presenting well-reasoned arguments designed to checkmate demagoguery with dazzling logic. If this discredited strategy is now employed, the California Border Police Initiative will pass overwhelmingly, conservatives will gain additional power, liberals will be further marginalized as un-American, and the amount of discrimination directed against Hispanics will skyrocket.
Having accomplished their political objectives, Republicans will then accommodate Corporate America by sabotaging the new patrol, insuring that the flow of illegal immigration continues unabated. Subsequent to passage of the California Border Police “solution” the ongoing influx of undocumented immigrants will further inflame the passions of the frustrated masses, making them even more susceptible to being manipulated.
Politics as practiced by conservatives is not an exercise in civics. It is a switchblade fight. As long as Democrats honor the Marquis of Queensbury rules they will continue to lose, and so will those Americans who desperately need protection from right wing malice. The time has arrived to stop being nice and start getting tough because the price of liberal civility is that innocent people suffer.
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