GOP risks long-term health for short-term gains on immigration

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Updated below - 12/11/07 6:10 p.m.

Marisa Treviño at Latina Lista wasn't shy about calling out the Republican candidates for a suspicious confluence of scheduling conflicts that prevented all but one of them from committing to a Univision debate earlier this year.  Por ejemplo:

It's very telling that the strongest advocate who hasn't been afraid to speak out for the Hispanic voters to his Republican colleagues is none other than Karl Rove.

Donde estan los demas?

"Where are the rest?"  Lo and behold, last night all the GOP candidates but one dutifully appeared on Univision in front of a Latino audience broadcast to millions across the country.  I guess someone in scheduling got the message that a debate targeted to a key constituency in danger of being lost completely to the GOP in 2008 was a higher priority than forever attempting to placate the implacable, one-note restrictionist wing of the party. 

On immigration lately, the GOP primary campaign might as well have been composed of Ron Paul, John McCain, and six Tancredos, for all the policy difference there has been between them. 

That changed a little on Sunday night at the Univision debate, if only temporarily. 

One candidate, in particular, has been the focus of discussion lately due to his comparably temperate tone on the issue.  Mike Huckabee had taken flack from his opponents for his relatively compassionate tone towards immigrants, to the point where he felt compelled to walk back much of his established position to rejoin the Tancredo herd. 

At least one skeptical conservative is not convinced

Mike Huckabee cannot be trusted on immigration matters. I'll say that again: Mike Huckabee cannot be trusted on immigration matters.

So, to sum up, Mike Huckabee cannot be trusted on immigration matters.  Apparently, Huckabee's error in this case was admitting that many migrants come here "because they're trying to feed their families."  I can see the attack ad now: Cue ominous music, accusatory voiceover says, "Mike Huckabee: pro-family-feeding."  Chilling.  But Huckabee is getting the message that this type of inclusive talk will not be tolerated by the base, hence the recent announcement that he will build the wall and send "them" back. 

Huckabee must either not have quite made up his mind or he likes to talk out of both sides of his mouth, because he was sounding rather conciliatory again at the Univision debate:  

MODERATOR: Governor Huckabee, is there a risk standing up here (inaudible)?

HUCKABEE: Well, I think the great risk is not so much that we would come. The far greater risk is if we didn't. And it's not just that we would offend or perhaps insult the Hispanic audience of this country. I think it would insult our own party. It would insult every voter in this country.

To act like that somehow we've become so arrogant that there's any segment of our population that we're either afraid to speak to, hear their questions, or somehow that we don't think that they're as important as another group. And it's why I think whether it's an African American audience, a Hispanic audience, a union audience, as Republicans, we ought to be more than willing to sit down, even with people with whom we might know there are disagreements.
And I think, frankly, it's important for us to be here. It's important that you gave us this opportunity. And I want to say thanks for letting us have this audience on Univision.

. . .

HUCKABEE: If you can get an American Express card in two weeks, it shouldn't take seven years to get a work permit to come to this country in order to work on a farm.
(APPLAUSE)

So if our government is incapable of making that process in that length of time, then we should do it in a way to outsource it.

And here's why: When people come to this country, they shouldn't fear. They shouldn't live in hiding. They ought to have their heads up, because the one thing about being an American is, we believe every person ought to have his or her head up and proud, and nobody should have to be in hiding because they're illegal when our government ought to make it so that people can reasonably come here in a legal fashion.

Sounds sensible enough, though it's hard to reconcile with the information his campaign released that very weekend.  But, with Iowa in mind, Huckabee will feel pressure to restrictionize his rhetoric.  From the NY Times today:

Mitt Romney's presidential campaign plans to begin running a negative television advertisement today in Iowa highlighting Mike Huckabee's record on immigration, escalating the warfare between the two Republican candidates as they scramble for support in the nation's first nominating state.

The advertisement starts by saying both men are "good family men" who oppose abortion. But then it says that Mr. Huckabee, as governor of Arkansas, supported in-state tuition benefits for illegal immigrants and taxpayer-financed scholarships for illegal immigrants.

The commercials are being released as recent polls have shown Mr. Huckabee now leading among early caucusgoers in Iowa, displacing Mr. Romney, who has seen a drift of Christian conservatives and others toward Mr. Huckabee, a former Baptist minister. The immigration issue is a potent one in Iowa, which has had a steady influx of illegal immigrants in recent years.

Huckabee may soon find that any time "compassion" and "conservative" get too close to each other in the same sentence, the machismo-meter gets bumped up a notch. 

The GOP may soon find itself in the position of Tobias Fünke from Arrested Development.  Tobias at one point in Season 3 suffered from Graft vs. Host disease (GVH) when his hair plugs rejected the rest of his body.  As his hair "grew" longer and more luxurious, he became progressively sicker.  


tobias funke.jpg

Right now the restrictionist wing of the GOP is rejecting the rest of the party.  Soon, the party will have to choose between short-term satisfaction and long-term viability.  A national party in a country as diverse as this one cannot long survive the nativist toxicity currently being injected into it.

[Image: Wikipedia]

Update: To follow up on Kyle's comment, Huckabee is making a bid to be the greatest flip-flopper yet--you can watch him change positions almost from one minute to the next, back and forth depending on who he is talking to at the moment.  First, he says, "we are a better country than to punish children for what their parents did."  Then, a couple of weeks later, he announces an immigration plan that is almost identical to the one proposed by notable restrictionist Mark Krikorian, a plan that calls for the infliction of maximum pain on out-of-status immigrants to get them to leave--the "attrition strategy."  (Thanks for the tip, Kyle.)  Two days later, he tells a national Latino audience, "When people come to this country, they shouldn't fear. They shouldn't live in hiding." 

Then today, we find that Huckabee has picked up the endorsement of Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist, who said of Huckabee's proposal, "It was a plan I myself could have written."  (via Yglesias 

Huckabee is talking to two audiences here--he's simultaneously running in the primary and in the general.  He wants Latinos and moderate voters to hear the rhetoric of inclusion, and he wants anti-migrant voters to hear him commit to detailed plans to ramp up the war of attrition to unprecedented levels. 

GOP politicians in general, and Huckabee in particular, still believe they can win the votes of both moderates (including Hispanics) and hardcore restrictionists by pleasing both groups on immigration.  They can't.


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1 Comments

kyledeb said:

If Huckabee's rhetoric is toned down, I don't know what toned up is. I don't know if you saw this article, yave, about how Huckabee has borrowed from Kirkorian's Attrition Through Enforcement plan that I commented on here.

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This page contains a single entry by David Bennion published on December 11, 2007 12:35 AM.

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