To the editor:
As the GOP struggles to redefine itself in the wake of November’s election, a major element of that process is going to entail how the party addresses the issue of immigration.
In recent years, the GOP’s approach toward immigration did great harm to the party’s brand, not just with Latinos but also with many Anglos who found the harsh and ugly rhetoric offensive. The GOP paid dearly for that rhetoric in Novemeber as Latino voters flocked to Democrats at the polls.
That phenomenon has also sent up red flags within the GOP establishment.
The establishment understands, even if the Tea Party base does not, that the GOP risks becoming irrelevant as a national party if it continues to alienate Latino voters with the kind of ugly rhetoric it has engaged in since G.W. Bush, to his great credit, worked collaboratively with John McCain and the late Ted Kennedy to try to reform our admittedly broken immigration system.
Those efforts were sandbagged and undermined by the right wing, overwhelmingly white, Tea Party base of the party and its enablers in the media.
In the media, people like Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs during his tenure at CNN, Glen Beck, and Beantown’s own right wing radio shock jock, Jay Severin, were particularly nasty and dishonest in their attacks on Latinos in general, and undocumented Latino immigrants in particular.
The list of GOP politicians who have engaged in similar ugly attacks is as long as one’s arm, but two in particular stand out.
One is Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. During her 2010 re-election bid, she campaigned by sounding the alarm about a brutal wave of decapitation murders sweeping the state. The perpetrators of those brutal crimes, she repeatedly implied, were no doubt undocumented immigrants. It whipped the right wing, white, xenophobic, Minutemen and Tea Party types who dominate the base of the state’s GOP into an angry, Brewer loyalist frenzy.
But when one of Phoenix’s largest papers dispatched reporters to interview the state’s county coroners about Brewer’s wave of decapitation murders, they discovered there was no such crime wave.
When confronted by both the media and her Democratic opponent about her ugly lies at the final gubernatorial debate, she cut the debate short, angrily stormed out, and insisted she hadn’t lied but had just made a “mistake”. Her lie/mistake, however, proved effective. She was re-elected.
Another is Congressman Steve King of Iowa, now the state’s presumed GOP nominee for the Senate in 2014. King has repeatedly referred to undocumented immigrants not as people, but as stray dogs deserving of the same kind of treatment some think stray dogs deserve.
On March, 19, Rand Paul tried to disguise his longstanding xenophobic attitudes toward Latinos while addressing the Latino Chamber of Commerce. At that gathering, he very publicly stated he supports a “path to citizenship”, something that is anathema to the right wing, Tea Party xenophobes who cheered wildly for him just days earlier at CPAC.
Within hours of making that statement to the Latino chamber, after it was reported by the Associated Press, Paul denied supporting a “path to citizenship” and claimed he meant to say he only supported the issuance of temporary green cards to undocumented immigrants.
In the past, as evidenced by his website during his Senate campaign in 2010, he supported not only the construction of a wall along the nation’s southern border, but also an electrified fence that ran both above and below ground. Once in the Senate, he spearheaded an effort with another far right, Bible thumping, Tea Party xenophobe, former Senator Jim DeMint, to deny children born in America to undocumented immigrants the US citizenship the Constitution guarantees them.
Yes sir. If the more honorable members of the GOP establishment can’t put the mean-spirited Tea Party genie back into the bottle from which it crawled, it will not be long until the once-great party of Lincoln, especially at the national, is not just irreparably harmed but also totally irrelevant.
And, believe it or not, even a liberal like me thinks that will be a very bad thing for the country.