It’s long been my belief that the GOP hole card in 2008 is going to be a rancid furriner-bashing anti-illegal-immigrant smear campaign. Make no mistake, whatever lipstick they put on this pig, the bottom line is the same old know-nothing nativism that has been a minor American stain since the Protestants began to get worried about the Irish Catholic surge in the 1840s (among some of our earliest settlers, the only acceptable immigrants were slaves).
I tend to be an extremist on this issue. I am wildly in favor of immigration, legal and illegal. I realize that national security–i.e. terrorism–requires that we secure the borders, and that’s a good thing, if almost impossible. But as a New Yorker, I’m deeply grateful to the immigrants, many of them illegal, who saved the city by bringing commerce (and sales tax revenues) to some of the toughest neighborhoods in the 1970s and 1980s. I’ve found that any Haitian willing to get in a rickety boat and risk all to get here is going to be an aggressive, entrepreneurial hard-working American when he or she arrives. In an unscientific sample, I”ve also found that 98.9% of all Latinos who cross our southern border looking for work are just fabulous, hardworking people.
I find the tendency of some of the Republicans running for President to play to our very worst instincts–and I mean racism, in this case–is just nauseating. A few months ago, I asked Mitt Romney if he thought illegal immigration was a net economic plus or minus. He said…he wasn’t sure (but, of course, he knows that it’s a net plus).
In any case, I was reminded of all this by Fred Thompson’s maiden venture in the realm of policy, as recounted by Ed Kilgore.
In the end, this sort of nativism has been a persistent loser in American political history; I hope it will be again in 2008.