- DONE AQUÍ
If the thought of working with the current Republican Party–and in particular the politicians vying for the GOP’s nomination for President–to enact just and logical immigration policies such as the DREAM Act seems unreasonable, I believe that is because it
is. The party’s nomination process (particularly this cycle) has rewarded extreme positions on nearly every issue–including immigration (for example, in Arizona the most sought after endorsement was from Sheriff Joe Arpaio). While long-term shifts in public opinion and demographics ensure such politicians will not only be defeated but also land on the wrong side of history, in the near-term steps can be taken to advocate for a more reasonable immigration policy
Political parties have long leveraged social issues and casting minority groups as “not really American” for short-term political gain. The Know-Nothings–a third party that challenged the dominant Democratic Party and the Republican Party in the wake of the collapse of the Whig Party prior to the Civil War–were founded solely on the basis of racial hatred, going so far as to attempt to ban immigrants from all jobs in the city of Chicago. A young Republican state senator from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, blocked these efforts, but the movement flourished in the south as Americans–fearful of economic instability from 1839-1843, as well as the Panic of 1857–attempted to find a scapegoat for the nation’s woes. Yet the Know-Nothings collapsed relatively quickly, as few reasonable politicians wished to be branded as anti-immigrant in a nation that was increasingly Catholic, German, and Irish. After the civil war, “reconstruction” did not primarily refer to the north’s generous efforts to rebuild the physical structures of the south; instead, it referred to the reconstruction of the political landscape and the creation of a coalition which benefited northern politicians and the Republican Party. Only one Democrat would win the presidency for 50 years following the civil war, as the Democrats were cast into the darkness both due to institutional and demographic disadvantages.
The current Republican Party is on the cusp of entering such a wilderness, as its continued hostility toward Latino immigrants will serve as the single greatest miscalculation of the next fifty years. Of course, anti-immigrant sentiment is not new in the United States, nor is the penchant for the political party drawing most of its support from white, male, and southern voters to take positions against those who they view as different. What is new, however, is the magnitude of demographic shifts in the United States, and the consequences for the GOP. While the Civil War may seem like an inaccurate analogy, it is one regularly cited by conservatives. In this version of history, conservative politicians attempt to paint Democrats as enhancing class divides, by labeling advocacy of marginal taxation as “class warfare”, or–as Sarah Palin recently stated–a desire by President Obama to, “Go back to before those days [before the Civil War] when we were in different classes based on income, based on color of skin”.
For those who live in daily fear of deportation, I have little doubt these demographic realities bring any solace. As college admissions letters go out this month, another class of highly motivated, successful, and talented immigrants will be denied an opportunity to further their education and fulfill their potential in the country. If statements by politicians such as Governor Palin were not taken seriously by so many, they would be laughable. Yet today’s Republican Party is not only firmly on the wrong side of history, it is taking positions for short-term gain that will land it in the wilderness for at least a generation.
Follow Charles on Twitter @charlesdahan.