Monday, December 19, 2005

"Disemvoweling" the GOP Coalition

The Tribune has a new editorial page editor; Bob Schuster leaves to oversee the Arizona Republic's Southeast Valley edition editorial pages, and will be replaced by Bob Satnan, who had been the Scottsdale editor. The "New Bob" seems to be a hard news guy (here's a 1998 article describing Thomson's purchase of the Tribune papers, which mentions him and which of course is now ancient history as it's a Freedom paper now; in 1993, he was promoted to Scottsdale Editor. His nickname is "Big Dog." I have no idea what this means for the Tribune's editorial stances, but I suspect that the Freedom people will make sure that it doesn't mean all that much. (Vouchers! Tax cuts! Less government except we're cool with warrantless wiretaps!)

In his last encounter with my stuff, the outgoing editor took out "la visas Bush" in the 8th paragraph and "Clintonesque? That's got to hurt." at the end of the 9th paragraph. It doesn't appear to be a space issue. I've put them back in.

East Valley Tribune, Dec. 18, 2005

I’d rather argue religion with strangers than try to fix U.S. immigration law, but as a connoisseur of political disasters, I plan to enjoy watching this year’s wedge issue divide the Republicans for a change.

Normally, the GOP and its media allies carefully select bogus “cultural” issues that discomfort only Democrats. School prayer, Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays, flag burning, “freedom fries” -- there’s nothing too insignificant to deserve a constitutional amendment and the constant focus of Bill O’Reilly.

But immigration is different. First, it’s a government issue, whose solution can’t be “outsourced” to India or the private sector. Suddenly, it matters that Republicans totally control all three branches. They can try blaming Ted Kennedy, but nobody’s buying that.

Second, usually all Republicans either robotically repeat the talking points or get well out of the way. Even so-called “maverick” John McCain, who once derided George W. Bush as a “Pat Robertson Republican” and called Jerry Falwell a “peddler of intolerance,” now hobnobs with both reverends and endorses teaching “intelligent design.”

But the GOP base has definite ideas on immigration that don’t fit with the administration’s political plans. The Bush administration had developed a carefully-calibrated scheme, one that really wouldn’t do anything to resolve the immigration and border messes, but one that pretended to give something to each key part of the GOP coalition. There’s tough-sounding border enforcement for the base, and there’s a guest-worker program, key for both big business and Hispanic outreach.

It should have worked, because the Bush guest-worker program is designed as precisely (and as fraudulently) as the Medicare drug benefit. As UCLA law professor Jonathan Zasloff wrote, no rational illegal alien would take Bush’s offer of a three year permit. Most undocumenteds are here for a better life, for themselves and their families; that’s nearly impossible to manage with only three years at lower-end wages.

The real beneficiaries of the guest-worker proposal would be big business, particularly agriculture. Currently, they keep the workers in line by threatening them with deportation. Under Bush’s plan, they’d have to fire troublesome employees first, but as soon as they lose their job, they’re deportable again. For the cost of a photocopy, agribusiness keeps its supply of low-wage, no-rights workers.

But a guest-worker program sounds good (especially in Spanish: “las visas Bush”) to Latino voters the GOP covets -- who turned California solidly blue in reaction against Pete Wilson and Prop. 187. That it’s a crummy deal for the illegals, and that it’s actually designed to avoid employer screening and sanctions, are beside the point, which was to make the GOP seem sensitive to Hispanic concerns.

As Prof. Zasloff notes, unfortunately the GOP base didn’t get the memo. They are screaming bloody murder because they view this doomed-to-failure guest-worker plan as an amnesty that would reward to those who came here illegally. It’s too generous for the angry, angry base: Rep. Tom Tancredo’s spokesman called President Bush “Clintonesque” for advocating amnesty under a different name. Clintonesque? That’s got to hurt.

Meanwhile, it’s caused Arizona’s congressional delegation to overdose on turning nouns into verbs. Rep. Jeff Flake complains that Rep. J.D. Hayworth “has gone Tancredo on us,” while Hayworth demurs: “I have not been Tancredoed. I’ve been Arizonaed.” Neither is helping the cause of the English language.

Usually staunch GOP allies, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Restaurant Association, and the Associated General Contractors, are vehemently opposed to the House GOP immigration bill. These groups claim they will consider it a “key vote” for determining future support. Will the GOP will cave to the lobbyists, or will the lobbyists cave to the GOP? I’m betting on the latter, because what lobbyist can’t be bought with a couple hundred million of unrelated tax cuts?

It’s “Sesame Street” politics. Today, we’re learning that nobody, in either political party, can trust Bush on things that start with the letter “I”: Iraq, intelligence, and now immigration. Welcome to the wedge!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is priceless, and so true. The GOP began teeing this issue up on its Gannett organ shortly after the 2004 elections. My first reaction on seeing the first articles in the BS salvo cascade (issue statements from JD Hayworth and Kyl) was "huh?" Where'd they dig this issue up? But they kept chipping away at their tried n' true strategy.

JD loved to parade at home in '04 with that red kerchief in the front pocket like some dimwitted imitation consiglieri bringing takings home to his 'hood. Ironic that Abramoff plead guilty today in his own Siciliani costume.