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Friday, December 10, 2004

Theosophical Underpinnings of Wingnuttery

Reminding us all what we're up against: Bill Moyer, from his speech before the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, when he won its fourth annual Global Environment Citizen Award:

Remember James Watt, President Reagan's first secretary of the Interior? My favorite online environmental journal, the ever-engaging Grist, reminded us recently of how James Watt told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said, "after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back."

Beltway elites snickered. The press corps didn't know what he was talking about. But James Watt was serious. So were his compatriots out across the country. They are the people who believe the bible is literally true – one-third of the American electorate, if a recent Gallup poll is accurate. In this past election several million good and decent citizens went to the polls believing in the rapture index. That's right – the rapture index. Google it and you will find that the best-selling books in America today are the 12 volumes of the left-behind series written by the Christian fundamentalist and religious right warrior, Timothy LaHaye. These true believers subscribe to a fantastical theology concocted in the 19th century by a couple of immigrant preachers who took disparate passages from the Bible and wove them into a narrative that has captivated the imagination of millions of Americans.

Its outline is rather simple, if bizarre (the British writer George Monbiot recently did a brilliant dissection of it and I am indebted to him for adding to my own understanding): once Israel has occupied the rest of its "biblical lands," legions of the anti-Christ will attack it, triggering a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. As the Jews who have not been converted are burned, the Messiah will return for the rapture. True believers will be lifted out of their clothes and transported to heaven, where, seated next to the right hand of God, they will watch their political and religious opponents suffer plagues of boils, sores, locusts, and frogs during the several years of tribulation that follow.

I'm not making this up. Like Monbiot, I've read the literature. I've reported on these people, following some of them from Texas to the West Bank. They are sincere, serious and polite as they tell you they feel called to help bring the rapture on as fulfillment of biblical prophecy. That's why they have declared solidarity with Israel and the Jewish settlements and backed up their support with money and volunteers. It's why the invasion of Iraq for them was a warm-up act, predicted in the Book of Revelations where four angels "which are bound in the great river Euphrates will be released to slay the third part of man." A war with Islam in the Middle East is not something to be feared but welcomed – an essential conflagration on the road to redemption. The last time I Googled it, the rapture index stood at 144 – just one point below the critical threshold when the whole thing will blow, the son of god will return, the righteous will enter heaven and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire.

So what does this mean for public policy and the environment? Go to Grist to read a remarkable work of reporting by the journalist, Glenn Scherer – "The Road to Environmental Apocalypse." Read it and you will see how millions of Christian fundamentalists may believe that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed – even hastened – as a sign of the coming apocalypse.

As Grist makes clear, we're not talking about a handful of fringe lawmakers who hold or are beholden to these beliefs. Nearly half the U.S. Congress before the recent election – 231 legislators in total – more since the election – are backed by the religious right. Forty-five senators and 186 members of the 108th congress earned 80 to 100 percent approval ratings from the three most influential Christian right advocacy groups. They include Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Assistant Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Conference Chair Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Policy Chair Jon Kyl of Arizona, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, and Majority Whip Roy Blunt. The only Democrat to score 100 percent with the Christian coalition was Senator Zell Miller of Georgia, who recently quoted from the biblical book of Amos on the senate floor: "the days will come, sayeth the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land." he seemed to be relishing the thought.

And why not? There's a constituency for it. A 2002 TIME/CNN poll found that 59 percent of Americans believe that the prophecies found in the book of Revelations are going to come true. Nearly one-quarter think the Bible predicted the 9/11 attacks. Drive across the country with your radio tuned to the more than 1,600 Christian radio stations or in the motel turn some of the 250 Christian TV stations and you can hear some of this end-time gospel. And you will come to understand why people under the spell of such potent prophecies cannot be expected, as Grist puts it, "to worry about the environment. Why care about the earth when the droughts, floods, famine and pestilence brought by ecological collapse are signs of the apocalypse foretold in the bible? Why care about global climate change when you and yours will be rescued in the rapture? And why care about converting from oil to solar when the same god who performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes can whip up a few billion barrels of light crude with a word?"

It is frightening in the extreme. It makes the Montana Miracle all the more miraculous -- Brian Schweitzer's successful campaign to align the interests of environmentalists and hunters offers all Democrats a lesson in "framing" the progressive message such that wingnuts who otherwise would never be symmpathetic to an environmental message can hear it. Good article in the Washington Monthly by Schweitzer campaign consultant David Sirota here.


Thursday, December 09, 2004

Immigration Spin: The O'Falafel Factor

FAIR President Dan Stein appeared on The Factor today, spinning a Republican revisionist view of immigration reform. My open letter to him:

Dear Mr. Stein,

I saw your appearance on the O'Reilly Factor today, and I feel compelled to write you. FAIR cites that their agenda of immigration reform is developed primarily for environmental reasons, ostensibly a liberal value. I am a liberal who supports immigration reform. Why do you then publicly castigate liberals, and characterize immigration reform a Republican value? In doing so you alienate a segment of your base that I believe can contribute significant support to this cause.

The fact is that Republican calls for immigration reform constitute little more than hollow saber rattling. Witness the current Intelligence reform bill -- it was FAIR's literature that informed me that the while the bill ostensibly calls for increases in border patrol agents, ICE investigators and detention bed space, these are "subject to appropriations" which means that there is no guarantee that money will be made available to implement them. Once again, it allows everyone to look like they're really doing something when they're actually doing squat.

President Bush has repeatedly affirmed his support for a steady flow of illegal immigrant labor that erodes working conditions for American workers, forcing them into an unfair competition for wages and resources. And although Republicans in Congress want to be seen to be tough on the immigration issue, you of all people know that their steady refusal to fund any of this showy legislation is tantamount to rubber stamping the President's policy.

You denigrate Democratic efforts, and yet I believe that Democrats have often taken leadership in this area. It is my understanding that it was Barbara Jordan's commission that recommended cutting the major links of family chain migration in S. 1664, the Immigration Control and Financial Responsibility Act of 1996, eliminating the categories for adult children and siblings and limiting that for parents of adults. And wouldn't the Feinstein Amendment to S. 1664 have reduced annual admissions of spouses and minor children of citizens to 480,000? Both of these measures failed, but not because of overwhelming Republican support.

Further, in 1998, when the Senate passed the H-1B bill (S. 1723), didn't the Senate vote down an amendment by Ted Kennedy that would have prohibited U.S. firms from using temporary foreign workers to replace Americans? Didn't powerful Republicans like Orrin Hatch successfully oppose a Kennedy-Feinstein Ammendment that would have ensured no Americans were laid off or displaced prior to hiring an H1-B employee, and that employers demonstrate they had previously taken timely and effective steps to hire a qualified American?

Didn't Senator Edward Kennedy also co-sponsor S 1749, the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2001? Although the bill did not pass, it is my understanding that many of the main provisions of this bill were included in H.R. 3525, which was signed into law in May 2002.

If I am wrong about these instances, please let me know. I believe that although both Democrats and Republicans have mutually piss-poor records on immigration reform, a minority of Democrats have been in the forefront of at least trying to protect American workers from unfair competition, albeit unsuccessfully. I appreciate your efforts at immigration reform, and hope that in the future you will reconsider your language that alienates people like me. Unless, of course, you are looking to define your organization along Republican lines. In that case, I believe it is incumbent upon you to stop using the word "non-partisan."

Word up: If you're pandering for a return invite to the No Shame Zone -- a little less fact bashing, a little more talkin' dirty.


Why Americans Hate Democrats -- A Dialog

Just because it is such a damned good piece of writing, the following is an exerpt from Jane Smiley's seminal piece in Slate Magazine:

The reason the Democrats have lost five of the last seven presidential elections is simple: A generation ago, the big capitalists, who have no morals, as we know, decided to make use of the religious right in their class war against the middle class and against the regulations that were protecting those whom they considered to be their rightful prey—workers and consumers. The architects of this strategy knew perfectly well that they were exploiting, among other unsavory qualities, a long American habit of virulent racism, but they did it anyway, and we see the outcome now—Cheney is the capitalist arm and Bush is the religious arm. They know no boundaries or rules. They are predatory and resentful, amoral, avaricious, and arrogant. Lots of Americans like and admire them because lots of Americans, even those who don't share those same qualities, don't know which end is up. Can the Democrats appeal to such voters? Do they want to? The Republicans have sold their souls for power. Must everyone?

Progressives have only one course of action now: React quickly to every outrage—red state types love to cheat and intimidate, so we have to assume the worst and call them on it every time. We have to give them more to think about than they can handle—to always appeal to reason and common sense, and the law, even when they can't understand it and don't respond. They cannot be allowed to keep any secrets. Tens of millions of people didn't vote—they are watching, too, and have to be shown that we are ready and willing to fight, and that the battle is worth fighting. And in addition, we have to remember that threats to democracy from the right always collapse. Whatever their short-term appeal, they are borne of hubris and hatred, and will destroy their purveyors in the end.

Although it originally appeared shortly after the last election, I think the article is so fundamentally honest and insightful that it bears dissemination until every American has read it. You can read the whole thing here.


Jesus is Alive and Well at the UCC

As you may or may not know, CBS and NBC recently refused to air an advertisement produced by the United Church of Christ, on the grounds that the ad is "too controversial." The ad shows children, minorities, an elderly couple and two women standing next to each other, one with her hand on the other's shoulder. "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we," says the narrator. In its rejection of the ad, CBS said the following:

Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations, and the fact that the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks.

Now the church is doing exactly what a church SHOULD be doing in this day and age -- petitioning the FCC to challenge the licenses of the two networks on the basis that they are not acting as a public trust. Anyone who's heard me gripe about how the FCC should boot Jimmy Swaggart off the air for promoting violence against gays knows how strongly I feel about this, and I'm really glad to see the United Church of Christ taking the first step in leadership on this issue.

I urge everyone to please follow the link and sign the petition here to support the UCC's efforts to challenge the network's decision to violate its FCC obligations and act in such a decidedly political, partisan and hate-mongering way. And forward this message to any friends you feel would be supportive. One of the bright notes from the Kerry campaign came when internet supporters put the pressure on Sinclair Broadcasting and its advertisers and to keep them from broadcasting "Stolen Honor," charging that Sinclair was doing pretty much the same thing. It worked. This is one of the ways we really CAN make a difference.

You can read pastordan's excellent article on the subject from the DailyKos here.


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Give 'Em Hell Howard

Howard Dean on the Future of the Democratic Party. Given at The George Washington University on December 8, 2004:

We are what we believe. And the American people know it.
And I believe that over the next two... four... ten years...
Election by election...
State by state...
Precinct by precinct...
Door by door...
Vote by vote...
We're going to lift our Party up...
And we're going to take this country back for the people who built it.



Wahabists = Ku Klux Klergy

Some excellent thoughts today from David Neiwert on his site, regarding the need for Democrats to re-define the war on terrorism and shatter the current dialectic that allows Republicans to "own" the issue and successfully hijack any attempt at meaningful reform:

The key to winning any war, whether amorphous, cold, or real, is contingent on one's ability to objectively assess the facts on the ground. When your assessments are constantly twisted by politics, ideology, and public relations, you lose that ability. The Bush "war on terror" is doomed to fail because it has made itself ideologically incapable of recognizing the real nature of terrorism itself....

Some preventative measures are also fairly obvious from the asymmetrical nature of the threat. One of these is a real tightening of our borders and particularly our ports, which remain vulnerable to a scenario under which terrorists place bombs in an uninspected container.....

The problem has been an utter lack of vision from the current Democratic leadership, and progressive leadership generally, including folks like Beinart, Drum, and the TNR. They have bought too readily into the right-wing paradigm of what a war on terror should be about....

Since American fundamentalism is primarily associated with the mainstream right, it probably shouldn't surprise anyone that the Bush administration has assiduously refused to frame the modern terrorist threat (including, notably, Al Qaeda) as primarily a right-wing phenomenon -- even though that is clearly what it is. And the ever-timid "moderate" leadership of the Democratic Party has been too polite to point it out.

Two hundred billion dollars later, we are no safer than we were on September 10, and the Democratic leadership has done little but rubber stamp the Bush administration's "culture of arrogane that flaunts international law" (thank you Steven Colbert). I'll cast my vote right now: Howard Dean for chief cage rattler and clock cleaner at the DNC.

Read more here.


Tuesday, December 07, 2004

No Guts, No Glory

Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) gives a rundown of what the final conference agreement stripped out of the Intellgence Reform Bill:

"Like all Americans, we are pleased that there is a plan in place to reform our intelligence system that failed to see many of the warning signs of an impending attack, and failed to act on information that was gathered," commented Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. "But, unfortunately, the final version of the 9/11 reform bill deliberately failed to close the holes in our immigration laws and enforcement policies that were specifically cited by the Commission as posing an ongoing threat to the security of our nation. In the end, special interest politics trumped homeland security....There is overwhelming public support for all of the immigration reforms that were approved by the House, but gutted by the conference committee.

Although the bill ostensibly calls for increases in border patrol agents, ICE investigators and detention bed space, these are "subject to appropriations" which means that there is no guarantee that money will be made available to implement them. Once again, allows everyone (especially Republicans like Sensenbrenner) to look like they're really doing something when they're actually doing shit.


Monday, December 06, 2004

Taking Back the South, Pt. 3. - What Would a Progressive Immigration Policy Look Like?

The Bush Administration’s policy on immigration has been, to no one’s surprise, designed to facilitate the erosion of worker’s rights, the exploitation of illegal immigrants, the further flow of money from the bottom to the top and the destruction of the middle class. Democrats have been slow to define themselves on this front, in large part because immigration policy pits core values of the Democratic Party against each other – looking out for the rights of minorities and oppressed peoples vs. the protection of jobs and worker’s rights. The Kerry/Edwards campaign barely addressed the subject, yet polls show Americans clamoring for immigration reform.

How do we as Democrats define a progressive policy that balances the needs of a variety of social concerns? This is where practical needs and ideologies clash. This diary has far more questions than answers. The subject demands a whole lot of creative thinking, not sidestepping, so PLEASE CONTRIBUTE YOUR IDEAS!!!!

When I began this series of diaries on “Taking Back the South” and lead off with immigration reform, I was prepared for the inevitable accusations of “racism,” “jingoism” and “anti-immigration” that inevitably keep people from bringing it up in the first place. I am happy to report that for the most part this has not been the case, and I have been delighted with the thought provoking comments that the Kossacks have offered. Before I go any further, let me assure everyone that I am not “anti-immigration.” I believe strongly in the need for immigrant voices to contribute to the cultural dialog in a country that tends to forget that the rest of the world even exists, except as a nemesis.

One of my heroes is Sorious Samura, the African journalist who risked his life to remain in Sierra Leone after most journalists had fled the country in January of 1999. The footage he brought back showing the acts of violence committed by rebel soldiers and the Nigerian led so-called “peace keepers” was considered “too shocking” by the major networks, who refused to run it. When he won an award in London later that year for his work (which was finally broadcast on CNN), he looked down on the assembled brass from ABC, NBC, the BBC, etc, and said “Where were you when my country was on its knees?” Holding up his award, he said: “You see this? You can keep it if it means that you will start to tell the story of Africa properly.” (Brokaw managed to skip this one on his way out the door. Much easier to roll around in all that cushy “greatest generation” crap.)

In short, if we expect the media to advocate for the rest of the world in the American discourse, we will be sadly disappointed. I believe we need a progressive immigration policy that assures that these voices will steadily flow into the culture, and the present system most assuredly does not do that. What follows are talking points for what I hope will be an ongoing discussion about the sticky questions that revolve around the immigration issue, something I think about a lot and do not have any firm answers for. The list has grown so long I am going to divide it up over the course of several days, so PLEASE BOOKMARK THIS DIARY AND COME BACK AND PUT IN YOUR TWO CENTS!

. When it comes to immigration, one of the fundamental questions is how much is enough, and how much is too much? FAIR is an environmental group formed in 1979 to promote immigration reform into the management of population growth in the US. They quote Census Bureau figures that project the US population at current growth rates to be 404 million people in 2050 (116 more than our current population). The high scenario is 520 million people. FAIR and others believe this pits current immigration policy squarely against the interests of environmentalism:

Since 1970, our population has grown by over 85 million people. Over half of our current high rate of population growth is due to new immigration and the children born to immigrants here. More people means more demands for resources, more pollution, more energy use, and more waste. More land is required for agriculture, causing deforestation and soil erosion. More homes, factories, and roads must be built, destroying habitat for other species. If our population continues to grow, we won't reach any of our environmental goals. Our best efforts to conserve water and energy, reduce pollution, control sprawl, and preserve green spaces will continue to be overwhelmed by population growth.

Current US policy effectively adds one million legal and 700,000 illegal immigrants per year to the population according to SUSPS, or “Support US Population Stabilization,” a group of disgruntled Sierra Club members who thought the Club weenied out to the forces of “political correctness” in 1996 when they removed limiting immigration from their agenda to achieve zero population growth. SUSPS advocates balancing immigration with emigration (approx. 200,000 people annually). They, and others, claim that birth rates first dropped to replacement level in 1972; therefore current levels of population growth are the result of immigration policy. “Environmentalists need not apologize for acknowledging this demographic reality,” they state. “To the contrary, environmentalists who refuse to recognize the seismic shift of demographics in the U.S. betray their own cause.”

Most environmentally-based organizations focus on the elimination of illegal immigration and chain migration. For the purposes of discussion, I've included FAIR's recommendations for legal immigration regulation reform:

. Move from a system of expansive “chain migration” to one of discrete “nuclear family” migration.
. Eliminate the immigration categories for siblings and adult sons/daughters.
. Support an enforceable cap on overall annual immigration of about 200,000.
. Deduct the immediate relatives of an immigrant in the year the primary immigrant enters.
. Admissions under any special, new, or temporary programs (such as amnesties, paroles, or lotteries) should count toward the overall cap, and other admissions should be reduced accordingly.
. Enact a blanket moratorium on future immigration (other than spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens) in order to eliminate the backlog and to get a fresh start.
. Explain these ground rules clearly to the primary immigrant before he/she enters the U.S.

So the floor is open. How open should our boarders be? What are our responsibilities to include the voices of all cultures, and how should they be balanced with the needs for population control and environmentalism? I frankly don't know. But I hope there is enough fodder in the above to fuel a thoughtful discussion.

In the coming days I'll try to deal with the problem of the H1-B and L1 visa programs which several people have made reference to, which are creating such havoc in the tech world, as well as the neo-fascist underpinnings of Bush's proposed “guest worker” program.

Other posts in this series:

Taking Back the South Pt. 1 - Welcome to Flea Country"
Taking Back the South Pt. 2 - Bring Me the Head of David Dreier
Taking Back the South Pt. 4 - Immigration and "Democratic Values"


Sunday, December 05, 2004

Taking Back the South Pt. 2 – “Bring Me The Head of David Dreier”

It was supposed to be so easy. Republican David Dreier, the 24-year Los Angeles area Congressman who chairs the powerful House Rules committee, was guaranteed a virtual walk in the park for the 2004 election. He had high visibility, powerful friends in both Governor Schwarzenegger and George Bush, and a congressional district drawn to reassure the election of Republicans.

His Democratic opponent: environmental safety worker, lesbian and political novice Cynthia Matthews. Dreier didn’t even bother to campaign. That is, until he saw the results of an October 6 poll. In a mad last-minute scramble, Dreier had to pull out all the stops – calling on his buddy Arnold and spending a reported one million dollars – to defeat an opponent whose total war chest amounted to $31,000, and who did not even have the backing of the State Democratic Party.

It was the first major shot fired across the Republican bow in the nascent war over immigration policy.

From an anti-Dreier web site:

Just so you know the impact you have had on the lives of people, here is an example: I received an e-mail from a guy who said he was living the "American Dream." He FORMERLY lived in District 26, but lost his home several years ago. When you rammed NAFTA down our throats, the Company for which he worked moved South of the border and opened up shop. They did offer him a job down there, but not at a livable wage. You did his company a favor, but hurt him and his 3 children….Then he took a job with a printer at a reduced salary. While his life style changed, at least he could pay his bills... that is until an illegal alien was trained to do his printing job and he was booted out because the Illegal would work for less money. So... you let his company move out of the country, which cost American jobs, and then you let illegal aliens move in to take the remaining jobs. HOW DO YOU LIVE WITH YOURSELF???

Pretty liberal notions on worker's rights taking root in an otherwise right-wing tomb. It is typical of the rhetoric surrounding the campaign, which received a shot in the arm when two local conservative AM talk radio DJs, John Kobylt and Ken Champiou of KFI Radio's “John and Ken” show decided to take up Matthews' cause. They devoted hours of airtime to venting public rage over Dreier's voting record.

The story gets even funnier when Dreier filed an FCC complaint against John and Ken's employer Clear Channel (yes, Clear Channel…hah!) for engaging in “illegal corporate coordination by promoting Cynthia Matthews' congressional campaign.” The two hosts countered that no Republicans complained when the two spent hours of airtime promoting the recall of Gray Davis (Dreier was co-chairman of Schwarzenegger's campaign.) "It's really massive hypocrisy”, Kobylt said. “Republicans have gotten a good ride with talk radio; then one show goes after one Republican, and suddenly they want to shut us up? "

Despite inexperience, lack of political party backing and woeful under funding, Matthews came away with 43% of the vote to Dreier's 55%, down from the 64% he received in 2002. It is a race noteworthy not only for the sublime irony of two gay candidates running for election in an overwhelmingly Republican district, but also for the price Dreier almost paid for his allegiance to George Bush. California is in the midst of a massive budgetary crisis. Its major cities are struggling to deal with the problems of overpopulation, traffic, school overcrowding, pollution and rising housing costs. A recent study by FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, estimated the annual costs to California taxpayers for undocumented aliens to be $10.1 billion per year, or $1,183 per household headed by a native-born resident. The study goes on to note that “The total costs of illegal immigration to the state's taxpayers would be considerably higher if other cost areas such as special English instruction, school feeding programs, or welfare benefits for American workers displaced by illegal alien workers were added into the equation.”

My point? It's only a matter of time until somebody taps into the latent rage brewing over the situation. Matthews' campaign, though laudable, was small time and run by amateurs, and yet she gave Dreier a run for his money on this one issue alone. It's only a matter of time before somebody with some political savvy and a bankroll comes along and decides to launch a real assault in the California political quagmire. And god help us all if that person is some wingnut. While the scope of this diary is the discussion of the development of a political strategy for retaking the South, it is worth taking a moment to send up a cautionary flare for the state of California that we depend on for its 55 electoral college votes in every Presidential election.

To throw more gas on the California flames (oh, while we're on it, let's go for it….) Right now, the City Council and LA County Sheriff Lee Baca are engaged in a pissing contest with the Department of Homeland Security over how they're going to deal with the 170,000 prisoners who pass through the system each year. Baca estimates that roughly 25% (45,000) are illegal aliens (that percentage seems to be echoed nationwide). However, they only have the manpower to interview about 10% of those prisoners to determine their country of origin so they can be subject to deportation. Right now they're being released into the general population when their prison terms end, and many wind up with return visits. The cost to taxpayers is estimated at $31,000 per year per inmate, yet Baca and the city council are getting guff for wanting to hire 6 more employees to carry out interviews. Building and running prisons in America is big business. Somebody's getting rich off this shit. And when someone with a little political acumen decides to make political hay out of the situation, it could be open season in California.

In order to appease their constituents, the Republican Congress has passed various pieces of legislation designed to “get tough on immigration” and “close our boarders.” They are largely symbolic, toothless and under funded, little more than palliatives, and they fool almost nobody. The proof is in their rank ineffectiveness. (To be covered in greater detail in follow-up blog.)

One major Democrat who has some passing familiarity at blowing with the winds of change in public opinion, and who seems to be quietly building momentum on this front, comes from that savvy Clinton family -- first name Hillary. In a February 2003 interview, she told WABC Radio's John Gambling, "I am, you know, adamantly against illegal immigrants. Clearly, we have to make some tough decisions as a country. And one of them ought to be coming up with a much better entry and exit system so that if we're going to let people in for the work that otherwise would not be done, let's have a system that keeps track of them." She has also been highly critical of business owners who employ illegal immigrants as well as Bush's guest-worker program, and in a move that sounds like something out of a South Park movie, blasted Canada for being lax on border issues. (Yes, children, it's Canada's fault.)

Hillary's increasing outspokenness on immigration is interesting for the political flux it creates. Newsmax asks “Could a campaign that calls for a crackdown on illegal aliens be the political magic bullet that catapults the former first lady back into the White House?” It then goes on to quote one diehard Bush supporter, who said he can't stand the Clintons: "If she ran on a platform of promising to do something about illegal immigration, hell, even I'd vote for her." The sentiment is echoed elsewhere. As one of the anti-Dreier blogs notes, “I am going to laugh my ass off if the GOP is stupid enough to continue this open borders nonsense and allow Hillary and the Dems to run wild with the immigration issue and terrorism. That would be poetic.”

Such a platform might be risky on a national front, but on a regional front it makes more sense. Particularly in the border states where the issue naturally looms large, but also in the Southern states, where perception of the problem probably outweighs the actual burden on the resources of the region. Part of the problem with getting Southern voters to take the cotton out of their ears and actually listen to the Democratic message is because the Republicans have done such a damn swell job of identifying their party with the so-called “values” of the region. It's created a close-minded, knee-jerk, autonomic response to any message from the Democrats as being Northern, effete, snobbish, superior and (shudder) “Liberal.”

You can argue with me if you want, but I have grown up with the firm belief that the South is forever re-fighting the civil war. And all the crowing that followed the post-2004 election sounded to my ears like sheer glee over the fact that this time they won. John Kerry looked to them like nothing so much as a postwar Northern carpetbagger, and that perception was not helped by the fact that he did not bother to campaign in the South. (Don't get me wrong, I think Kerry is a very good man and I voted for him, but we're talking about perceptions here.) Before the rigid ideological framework that dominates the Southern construct of “Democrat” can be changed, it's got to be fundamentally challenged in a very emotional and hard-hitting way. Think sledge hammer.

A Democrat running with an immigration reform message breaks down the predictable political equation. It destroys what people think they know about the clearly delineated lines between Democrats and Republicans. My favorite moment of conceptual breakdown in the last election (and I include this mostly for my own amusement):

October 26, 2004: State and national Republican leaders are blaming each other for a flier blasting Democratic Representative Jim Matheson for his support of an undocumented-immigrant Illegal Alien tuition bill. The problem is the legislation was sponsored by Utah Republicans, Senator Orrin Hatch and Representative Chris Cannon. Party leaders sent out the flier even after realizing the problem with its content. Utah Republicans say the fliers were printed and researched by the National Republican Congressional Committee, and arrived at their headquarters several weeks ago. But a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee says they had nothing to do with the ad, and it was crafted by the state party. Matheson is facing Republican John Swallow in his re-election bid...(from

I don’t know about you, but the specter of Republicans cannibalizing each other like this just fills my heart with joy.

Other posts in this series:

Taking Back the South Pt. 1 - Welcome to Flea Country"
Taking Back the South Pt. 3 - What Would a Progressive Immigration Policy Look Like?"
Taking Back the South Pt. 4 - Immigration and "Democratic Values"