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Throwing Peanuts From the Gallery

Monday, December 12, 2005
I have never seen a political party with such a case of schitzophrenia as the Republican party on the issue of immigration. And it only looks like it's going to get worse for them. There is an absolute babble of voices, with each faction of the conservative movement (the corporatists, neoconservatives, cultural traditionalists, libertarians, and the party leadership itself) presenting an entirely different position. Frankly it's pretty fun to watch.

Business leaders argue that large amounts of immigration provide a pool of cheap labor that American companies need. Without them outsourcing would be even worse. What they don't say is that the current system - of illegal workers with no protections of any kind - suits them just fine. Great for busting up unions and keeping labor costs low, y'know. They want the current policy to remain exactly as it is. If there has to be a change, they would prefer the guest worker program, which would preserve their power over their labor force.

Libertarians have a philosophical opposition to government regulation, and that includes strong border controls. They pretty much favor entirely open borders - market forces will eventually solve the problem (hey, who cares if U.S. living standards are cut in half?). So they want to repeal the entire structure of U.S. immigration policy.

Cultural traditionalists are horrified by the growth of immigration. Between the flagrant violation of law, the supposed threat to American (read: white protestant) culture, and the alleged cost to U.S. taxpayers, they are unalterably opposed to the current system. They're the leaders of the "build a fence" crowd.

The neocons think this issue is a big distraction and apparently just don't care. They have terrorists to hunt down! Of course some of them want to strengthen border controls and partially legalize the flow in order to be able to keep better track of who comes into the country. There is also some resistance to offending the Mexican government.

Finally, the political strategists - Karl Rove, Ken Mehlman, etc., realize that while immigration per se is not an important issue to Latinos, an overt anti-immigration policy while be perceived as anti-Hispanic. Given that the #1 imperative of the Republican party is to capture a larger share of the Latino vote, embracing an anti-immigrant perspective would be a total disaster.

This is apparently an unsolvable puzzle for the Republicans. They can safely ignore the libertarians and the neocons, who don't represent many votes. But they desperately need big business cash and white nationalist votes. Unfortunately they can't do both without totally alienating the growing pool of Latino voters.

After all the wedge issue politics the Republicans have been employing to divide the country over the last generation, I must say that it's awfully nice to see it come back and bite them in the ass. I expect a total political meltdown on the other side over this issue in the next five years. So pass me a beer and let's enjoy the show.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:31 AM
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