President Obama’s unilateral action on immigration reform has thrown the opposition into confusion. The president’s program will grant millions of undocumented aliens (1) authorization to work, and (2) protection from deportation. Those benefiting are immigrants who have no criminal record and who have been in the U.S. for at least five years. Some immigrants are disappointed with this, particularly those who have lived in the U.S. for 4 years and 364 days.
But the strongest backlash comes from the Republicans who are hostile to the program because it violates their most fundamental principles, the ones that say anything Obama does is un-American and evil. Quite a few of them have accused President Obama of trashing the Constitution and becoming even more of a hideous dictator than he already is.
The New York Times quoted contractor Joey Hartline of Alabama who said he wanted President Obama “…arrested and tried for treason.” According to Mr. Hartline, Obama’s reform is an act of “domestic terrorism.”
Hartline, an ordinary citizen, is merely echoing his state’s GOP leadership. Republican congressman Mo Brooks, for example, wants to throw Obama in jail for five years. Five years doesn’t really seem that long, which puts the Honorable Mo Brooks in danger of being accused of liberalism, especially when it comes on the heels of his claim that he would do “anything short of shooting” undocumented immigrants to stem the alien influx. His unwillingness to shoot immigrants places him well to the left of many Alabama Republicans.
Other Alabamans have been surprisingly unrestrained in their language. Kyle Davis, a former state trooper, angrily declared his opposition to immigration reform because “…a big majority of them’s dirty” (NYT).
Mr. Davis obviously belongs to the Tea Party wing of the GOP, aka, the “them’s dirty” wing.
Republicans from other red states are naturally unwilling to be outdone by these Alabamans. Texas Senator Ted Cruz compared Obama to the Emperor Cataline, who tried to overthrow the Roman Republic, while Representative Lamar Smith (also from the Lone Star State) said that through his executive order, Obama had declared war on the American people. I’m pretty sure that’s against the law, so we might want to wait to see how many years Representative Smith thinks the president should spend behind bars.
Republican Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, who leads the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, denounced President Obama in a bitterly partisan attack which he insisted reflected neither a Republican nor a Democratic perspective.*
The visceral hostility of Tea Party Republicans has put the GOP leadership in a bind. People like Speaker John Boehner and soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell want to express their vitriolic hatred of Obama, but they nevertheless recognize that immigration reform will help the people they truly care about, i.e., those people who happen to be corporations.
Cheap labor is good for profits, and cheap labor is exactly what immigrants have long supplied to the American economy. Furthermore, GOP leaders are worried that going along with the “them’s dirty” mentality of many Tea Party types makes it harder for Republicans to pretend to not be racists.
The Establishment GOP narrative agrees with the Tea Party base in claiming that Obama is both totally incompetent and an all-powerful dictator. One point this narrative makes is that, in a clumsy, doomed-to-fail Stalinist maneuver, Obama provided health care to millions of impoverished Americans.
First, I offer zem insurance, and zen, I enslave zem! Mwahahahaha!
So what options does the GOP leadership have? As of now confusion seems to reign, but that may not continue for long. According to my mole in the Republican Establishment (who has been known to sometimes tell me the truth) the GOP leadership is not planning to formally oppose Obama’s executive order, but will mount a major publicity campaign to ensure the loyalty of the “them’s dirty” voters. This campaign will include a constant barrage of legalistic criticism aimed at the president. Strategist Ana Navarro, for example, admitted that President Reagan granted amnesty to immigrants through an executive order. Her legalistic argument was that Reagan could do this but Obama could not because, unlike Obama, Reagan was “a trusted leader.”
My inside source also leaked to me a secret GOP plan to motivate the base with a contest in which the winner will be that voter who comes up with the most effective anti-immigrant sound bite. Previously publicized phrases such as “calves as big as cantaloupes” and “them’s dirty,” will be disqualified, but party leaders believe this still leaves plenty of room for inventiveness. The winner will receive an attractive painting on black velvet depicting Mitch McConnell kicking Cesar Chavez in the groin.
Can this two-pronged attack offer any hope of holding the GOP together until 2016? As they say in Texas ¿quién sabe?
Cesar Chavez 1927-2003
*Note to politicians: never forget to follow up your partisan onslaughts with the claim that your issue is “neither Democratic nor Republican.”