Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Wag the Dog




Today's the big day.  I have to mail my absentee ballot off this afternoon.  Not that it really matters as there are no Senate races in Washington and King County is overwhelmingly Democratic, but it is important to vote.  I'm too far removed from state matters to really know what's going on in Olympia, but as John Oliver rightly points out, we should be more concerned with politics at the state level than at the national level, because here is where decisions are being made that directly reflect on the lives of most people.

Mitt Romney stuck his oversized foot in his mouth once again, proclaiming that the first thing the new "Republican" Senate would do is put an immigration bill on the President's desk.  It seems Mad Mitt doesn't follow events very closely these days, as the Senate passed an immigration bill (68-32) back in June, 2013, (seems so long ago now) only for it to sit in the House for months because Boehner refused to put the bill to a vote thanks to Tea Party pressure.  Leave it to Sarah Palin to remind old Granddad that this election is about immigration, but not the way you think, stupid!

The Republicans have been busy linking ISIS and Ebola to immigration, working Americans up into a fever over what they believe are "porous borders."  As Margaret Talbot notes in her article for the New Yorker, this has been a conservative tactic for decades, resulting in draconian immigration laws like the 1924 Immigration Act and the 1952 McCarran-Walter Act, which is more likely what you would see a Republican Congress trying to put on the President's desk this next session, not another "amnesty bill," like the one Reagan signed in 1986, or which a bipartisan Senate committee tried to get passed last year.  This isn't about a path  to citizenship for illegal immigrants residing in the US, it is about rounding them up and deporting them.

It doesn't matter that we have seen a record number of "removals" these past 6 years, Republicans still believe there are too many "aliens" living in our midst.  Estimates range up to 11 million illegal immigrants residing in the country, but it is impossible to say how many of these persons are residing permanently or temporarily, if at all.  You hear a lot about illegal Hispanic immigrants (a.k.a. "persons of color"), but there are plenty of undocumented Canadians and Europeans as well, but they blend seamlessly into our midst for the most part.

This kind of Nativism has lurked in the country ever since it was formed in 1789, with the ratification of the Constitution.  Citizenship was never formally defined other than only a natural-born citizen need apply for the office of President and Vice-President.  This was largely out of fear that a closet Brit might seek the highest office in the land.  Naturalized citizens can run for all other offices, including the Senate.

The Know Nothing Flag, ca. 1850

The flood of European immigrants in the 19th century, particularly from Eastern Europe, led to tougher immigration laws out of fear we would be overrun by Anarchists, social deviants and just plain "sick-looking" people.  The aptly-named Know Nothing Party formed out of this ignorance.  You might call it the forerunner to the Tea Party.

Democratic candidates in Red States have become the victims of this hysteria, seen as willing pawns of the President to push through "his" immigration bill -- "Obamnesty," as some have called it in the right wing media.  The Republicans who voted for the bill back in 2013 have all since stepped away from it out of fear of being teabagged themselves.  That's politics, baby!

Despite good economic numbers across the board, Democrats find themselves having to defend their positions on immigration, to the point they asked the President to delay taking executive action on the contentious issue until after the midterms.  This earned him the ire of Hispanics, who were expecting something to be done about all those kids being held in detention camps on the border.  Remember them?

Obama was made the goat for the failures of the US Congress, and when he threatened to take action himself this summer, he was further vilified by Congressional candidates answering to an electorate, in which they planted all these unwarranted fears.  The "lamestream" media, as Sister Sarah likes to call it, was complicit in supporting these fears with all their faux news stories on the threat of ISIS and Ebola to our fair nation.   As Woody Allen once observed in a film, "Life doesn't imitate art, it imitates bad television."

Make your vote count!


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