Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Party of No

No citizenship, that is, if your parents have the bad taste to "birth" you on this side of the border while under the influence of a different nationality.

The Republican Party fought for the 14th Amendment (which instituted jus solis, or "law of the ground", which allows anyone born on American soil citizenship no matter the nationality of the parents) and now some in its ranks are fighting to have it repealed.

You know things are bad when this kind of diversionary scapegoating is introduced as an "issue" confronting the nation.

I don't mean to belittle the need for immigration reform, and I have no doubt that border regions in the Southwest face real struggles accommodating people coming across who, like anybody else, need food, shelter, clothing, medical care, etc.  BUT, given the overwhelming problems our country faces at the moment, is this really the political peg some in the Republican Party want to hang their hat on?

You betcha!

As I've mentioned before, 19th-century Republicans championed what would become the 14th Amendment ostensibly to guarantee citizenship to newly-freed slaves.  This, in addition to being just and appropriate, also had the added benefit of creating a nice, new supply of voters for the Party which would no doubt hold for some time the loyalty of those it had been instrumental in freeing.  Fast forward to today, and the tide has reversed.  The Southwestern states have become prosperous, populated and (as a result?) purpler over recent years and, as such, have come to play larger roles in especially presidential elections.  This is troubling to Republicans and, frankly, newly-minted citizens via naturalization or birthright who will later surely recognize that the Party has been no help to them certainly do not help matters.

For a Party disinclined to deal well with reality (Wall Street, deep-water oil drilling, Just Say No, cutting taxes during two wars, marriage equality), this immigration/citizenship question has offered them a delightful wedge issue...and not just, as one might think, in the Southwest.  When times are tough, people get cranky and start circling the wagons.  Armed with short memories, they tend to fire at whoever happens to be standing in front of them at the moment.  Score one for the Republicans.  Cranky people also want someone to blame, preferably an outsider because they are much easier to vilify.  So, whether it's Muslims in Manhattan or Mexicans in Mesa, score two for the Republicans.

Nevermind unemployment, foreclosures, health care, financial reform, off-shore drilling, Iraq, Afghanistan!  Our real problem is the foreigners!!

Therein lies the beauty:  take a regional issue and blow it up out of proportion for a freaked-out population wanting someone to blame that, in turn, deflects attention away from more pressing issues and colossal failures as well as paints you as the patriotic protector of the Homeland.

It may not be just or appropriate, but it's brilliant politically.

[Cartoon by Ben Sargent.]