. . .of skepticism, I recently expressed a note of optimism with regard to the GOP's electoral prospects in an email to a friend. At the time, I had a sense that some of the bile between the warring factions of immigration politics had subsided and that Republicans were beginning to congeal around the idea of conservative victory. And, I wasn't even drunk.
The bile is still there, and growing more caustic as the election draws nearer. The anti-immigrant faction -- and make no mistake about it, there is very little distinction
drawn between the legal and illegal
types as far as this faction is concerned -- are still bathing in the afterglow of their victory over Comprehensive Immigration Reform, and they're strutting like schoolboys after a chance backseat romp with the captain of the cheerleading squad. Of course, this serves to further embitter conservatives like myself, who weren't enthralled with the legislation in its original form, but saw an opportunity to improve it within the legislative process and bring about a genuine reform of a system that, by all accounts, is broken and in need of immediate attention.
For wanting to actually address the problem rather than kicking it down the road for God-knows-who to deal with, supporters of the legislation were derided as favoring open borders, promoting amnesty, selling out America's sovereignty, encouraging reconquista
, coddling "wetbacks", promoting the deaths of Americans at the hands of drunken insurgent Mexicans behind the wheel, inciting foreigners to murder Americans by pooping on our lettuce, rendering aid and comfort to hordes of hostile invaders intent on reshaping America into a squalid, third-world country filled with Spanish-speaking miscreants of every stripe, and other epithets left unsaid because even intentional run-on sentences have their limits.
The other side, of course, would protest by citing, "They called us racists, yahoos and xenophobes, oh my!" Well, my friends, one need look no further than your typical message board or the comments section of any blog or op-ed column to find all the evidence you'll ever need to bolster that case. It is there, it's real, and despite the protestations of the Laura Ingraham, Michelle Malkin, and other leading figures on the right, it provided a considerable amount of the energy that led to their eventual victory.
When Linda Chavez
sought to point out the error of anti-immigrant ways, she was excoriated in the conservative press. Even Ramesh Ponnuru, whose intellect I have always held in the utmost esteem, called for people on her (and my) side of the debate to distance themselves from her because she "smeared millions of conservatives and other Americans as racists because of their position on immigration." Well, aside from the fact that there are millions of conservatives and other Americans who are
racists because of their position on immigration, I'm left wondering why it is that "true" conservatives are obligated to distance themselves from folks like Chavez while those who hold a differing view aren't obligated to actively distance themselves from the sentiments that Chavez rightly deplored in her columns on this issue.
When David Frum
eventually addressed the issue, he was heaped with opprobrium by blogger Steve Sailer for deigning to do so. Why? One can only assume that he and his fellow restrictionists felt they could ill-afford to lose the momentum they had gained by disowning much of the rage that fueled the movement.
It may not be a legitimate criticism of the anti-illegal
immigration movement as a whole to say that it is based on racism, xenophobia, nativism, and bigotry. But, it is undoubtedly a legitimate criticism to say that it benefited from the energy derived from these bugaboos without questioning whether or not it was healthy for conservatism as a whole. It's also a legitimate criticism to say that Ingraham, Malkin, et al
reacted reflexively as if to circle the wagons when confronted with the undeniable existence of this insidious presence within their ranks, and fired arrows at allies who were simply trying to tell them that one of those wagons was burning.
Next August, when the Democrats hold their national convention, they will be holding up a picture of this ugly face on the anti-immigration right. They will have bombarded swing states with significant Hispanic constituencies with images of the GOP as the nativist party and use examples of the most hostile rhetoric and peel off their votes to great effect.
That is, unless conservatives do something very soon to come to an agreement that, whether you favor a more, or less, restrictive approach to dealing with illegal immigration, there is no room for racism and bigotry in the debate. There's much more to be gained by shunning the elements of hatred within the movement than by shunning those who point it out.