Xenophobia and the Right

It’s their secret weapon in the upcoming presidential election. Some candidates, like McCain and Rudy, have largely resisted irrational bully mode when it comes to illegal immigration, but talk radio has spoken — loudly — and a desperate GOP is likely to follow.

Hearing the passionate opposition, you’d assume the just-defeated "Dream Act" would’ve granted Mexicans the right to enslave whites. Not surprisingly, specifics were absent from the discussion.

Under the proposal, men and women who fulfilled several conditions —- they had to be under 30, had to have been brought into the country illegally when they were younger than 16, had to have been in the United States for at least five years and had to be graduates of U.S. high schools —- would have been given conditional legal status. If they went on to complete two years of college or two years of military service, they would have been eligible for permanent residency.

Let’s see. Here was a way to encourage a bunch of kids to go to college rather than melt into the shadows as off-the-books day laborers —- or maybe even gang members. And here was a way to boost enlistment in our overtaxed armed forces. Aren’t education and global competitiveness supposed to be vital issues? Aren’t we fighting open-ended wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Perhaps, but exploiting prejudice is a proven winner (see Nixon’s "Southern strategy"). 


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