Tuesday, September 18, 2007

'Wingers Don't Sweat The Big Stuff

My suggested headline for this week was above but the editor instead went just-the-facts-ma’am. It's also not just GOP rage, it's also the local "Mini-Me" version of Maureen Dowd at the other newspaper, too. He also eliminated the internal rhyme in the first line ("My loyalties may stay with the U of A" scans, doesn’t it?). My spouse got a parking ticket on the ASU campus taking our son to his trumpet lesson last week, and she’s calling friends in the development office to see if the fine can be designated to the scholarships effort. Said spouse had nothing to do with the first paragraph, that’s all my own snark.

East Valley Tribune, Sep. 16, 2007

My loyalties may stay with the University of Arizona, but this week it’s "Hooray for Michael Crow." The president of what unreconstructed Wildcats think of as "Arizona’s Second University" may not need my collaboration, but Crow and ASU are taking unjustified hits for their laudable efforts to find private scholarships for returning students barred from in-state tuition and grants under Proposition 300.

You may have missed talk radio’s latest manufactured outrage, but last November, Arizona voters approved an initiative that bars undocumented students from any state aid. Prop. 300 was part of several anti-illegal immigration ballot propositions that the Legislature, hoping to boost GOP turnout, placed on the 2006 ballot.

Republicans were hoping illegal immigration would diminish Gov. Janet Napolitano’s popularity. They thought it was a no-lose proposition, putting Napolitano between a rock and a hard place. If she opposed them, she’d offend independents and Republicans. If she supported them, she’d risk angering Hispanics, who vote Democratic here.

The rouse-the-base-by-initiative strategy didn’t work, however. Republicans forgot that similarly-popular minimum wage increases didn’t hurt some GOP governors’ reelection the previous cycle. The Arizona anti-illegal initiatives all passed by huge margins but didn’t affect candidate races. Democrats gained two U.S. House seats and seven legislative seats, and Napolitano carried every county in the state.

Arizona Republicans have moved so far to the right that they, unlike voters, can’t see that Napolitano actually is a centrist. She’s governed essentially as a slightly more moderate Jane Hull. A younger, smarter, more engaged, more policy-oriented, and far more active Jane Hull -- OK, not much like Jane Hull personally, but you get the idea. She’s a moderate, and if you still lived in Wisconsin, Napolitano could be the great GOP hope.

Republicans also greatly overestimated the willingness of Hispanics and liberals to abandon Napolitano. Of course, Democrats by nature grumble continuously, but we learned our lesson in 2000. Despite talk of "compassionate conservatism," a "more humble" foreign policy, and Texas-style "bipartisanship," it turns out (after 3,775 dead) that there really is a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties.

See, Hispanics not only read what the GOP says about immigration, they’re also reading between the lines. The biggest advantage Democrats now have among Hispanic voters is not being the party of Russell Pearce and Randy Pullen. There’s more to the Democratic agenda, but it’s an awfully powerful opening argument with Arizona’s fastest-growing demographic.

So an initiative that nobody much cared about -- merely a political tactic, approved by voters who, according to some polling, wanted to do something about illegal immigration and didn’t much care what -- is now law, and ASU and its undocumented students must deal with the aftermath. It’s not clear how Arizona benefits from making higher education more expensive for young people who, despite their immigration problems, are likely to remain here. It’s also not clear whether Prop. 300 saves any money, or frees up any spots at college for legal residents. But it sure felt good voting for it, didn’t it?

ASU is trying to work around the law to help its current students, by finding private scholarships and contributions to compensate for higher nonresident tuitions. This effort drives certain people, like talk-show hosts and columnists, absolutely nuts. Because a state school, even with private money, shouldn’t help actual individual students if it means violating the "spirit" of Prop. 300. They want that money to help Americans first.

That’s a nice, populist thought, but it raises a question. These same outraged "America First!" folks are all hunky-dory about spending another $200 billion in Iraq next year. The private money at ASU actually buys something for Arizona; some Arizona residents get an education. But it’s not clear how the "surge" and $200 billion makes things any better in Iraq in 2008 than now.

Maybe there is $8 billion in "pork" in the highway bill, and maybe ASU scholarships help undocumented aliens. But if you’re fine with sending $200 billion next year to Iraq on the flimsiest of pretexts, then why are you complaining?

No comments: