8.24.2007

The Political Perils of Targeting Immigrants

It's not as though there aren't sensible Republicans warning the GOP that nativist appeals aren't just wrong for America--ever, but deadly in the long term for the offending political party.

GOP Chairman Mel Martinez, Clint Bollick and Linda Chavez are three that come to mind.

In
Native Sons: The political perils of targeting immigrants (Wall Street Journal - 8.24.07), Kimberly A. Strassel does a terrific job of connecting an earlier form of bigotry referred to as "Romanism", to today's equally vile anti-immigration sentiments. Strassel sees parallels between the attacks on Irish and Italian Catholics of an earlier time with attacks on Latinos today.

Republicans paid a mighty price for their foolishness back then. Unbelievably, it appears that they have come back for more.

Native Sons: The political perils of targeting immigrants.

History students call it a teaching moment: A week before the general election in 1884, fiery Protestant minister Samuel D. Burchard warned about the perils of allowing his party to identify with "Romanism." Standing by his side in New York was Republican presidential candidate James G. Blaine. Catholic voters were furious.

Mr. Blaine lost the state by 1,149 votes, and the election to Grover Cleveland. It then took Catholics 100 years to get over it, when Ronald Reagan finally convinced them to trust his party again.

Today's question is whether Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani are providing future scholars with their own teaching moment. Their spitting row over illegal immigration continues to lead the news, given how little else there has been to fill the newspapers in these dreary August days. At its current momentum, it also threatens to become a case study in how nativism can drive a political party off a cliff.
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