It’s the Math, Stupid
I never know when wingnut kabuki ensues because they're seriously stupid or because think everybody else is, but Peggy Noonan ought to stick to giving knuckle jobs to the Pope. Now that Bush is officially an abject failure, as Digby has long predicted, he has "failed conservatism," this time over immigration:
The president has taken to suggesting that opponents of his immigration bill are unpatriotic–they "don't want to do what's right for America." His ally Sen. Lindsey Graham has said, "We're gonna tell the bigots to shut up." On Fox last weekend he vowed to "push back." Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff suggested opponents would prefer illegal immigrants be killed; Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said those who oppose the bill want "mass deportation." Former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson said those who oppose the bill are "anti-immigrant" and suggested they suffer from "rage" and "national chauvinism."
Why would they speak so insultingly, with such hostility, of opponents who are concerned citizens? And often, though not exclusively, concerned conservatives? It is odd, but it is of a piece with, or a variation on, the "Too bad" governing style. And it is one that has, day by day for at least the past three years, been tearing apart the conservative movement.
I suspect the White House and its allies have turned to name calling because they're defensive, and they're defensive because they know they have produced a big and indecipherable mess of a bill–one that is literally bigger than the Bible, though as someone noted last week, at least we actually had a few years to read the Bible. The White House and its supporters seem to be marshalling not facts but only sentiments, and self-aggrandizing ones at that. They make a call to emotions–this is, always and on every issue, the administration's default position–but not, I think, to seriously influence the debate.
"Why would they speak so insultingly, with such hostility, of opponents who are concerned citizens?" Good question, Peggy, glad you raised it. It certainly must come as a shock to those who have been applauded for their bigotry within a party that has fueled its ascendency with hatred of anyone who can't check the "white Christian male" box:
Why have Republicans found themselves on the point of this wedge? Because in the two decades since the last major immigration measure, the makeup of the national Republican Party and the demography of the country have both changed dramatically. In 1986, radio talkers like Limbaugh could not harness the power of millions of devoted daily listeners to bring national Republican political figures to heel, and the Hispanic vote share was negligible. Twenty years later, Limbaugh is the most popular talk radio host in America, and there are millions of Spanish-speaking immigrants living alongside Rush's listeners in the kinds of red states where Spanish was rarely heard before. At the same time, the Latino vote has grown to 10 million. The GOP is now forced to choose between its reliable base of close-the-border, English-only cultural whites and the rapidly growing bloc of swing-voting Hispanics.
The demographic winds explain why Karl Rove has been obsessed with corralling the Hispanic vote since he was the little-known sidekick of a would-be Texas governor. He made George Bush a uniquely successful candidate among Latino voters in both state and federal elections by embracing Hispanic culture and avoiding any whiff of anti-immigrant rhetoric. After Bush won a startling 40 percent of the Hispanic votes in 2004, double the GOP total from a decade earlier, the Democrats rightly panicked. The conventional wisdom among pollsters like Republican Matt Dowd — a former Democrat who admits he was attracted to Bush precisely because of the then-Texas governor's views about Hispanic assimilation — was that if Republicans could reach 40 percent of the Hispanic vote, they would be unbeatable, but if they sank below 30 percent, they would be in a world of electoral trouble. Sure enough, after many 2006 Republican congressional candidates ran nasty, anti-immigrant ads — some juxtaposing the faces of Hispanic immigrants with Islamic terrorists — the GOP share of the Hispanic vote collapsed to 29 percent in the midterm cycle. "The Republicans have to choose if they want to be a 21st-century party, and right now they are making decisions like they're a 20th-century party," says the New Democrat Network's Rosenberg. His organization took many of those attack ads and rebroadcast them on Univision to remind Hispanics which of the two parties had their best interests in mind.
Despite the cognitive dissonance it must be causing the knuckle draggers, Bush's position makes perfect sense with regard to the only principle the wingnuts really respect: power. If they can't tame the bigotry of their base, the GOP faces death by demographic. Peg-a-loon can indulge in whatever revisionist history she wants to in order to justify whatever absurd notion is flying through the cobwebbed belfries of her mind, but that really is the bottom line.