I have just returned from the largest, most energized demonstration I have ever witnessed in my life. Over 500,000 people filled the streets of downtown Los Angeles to march against HR 4437, a bill authored by Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner (heir to the Kotex fortune) which would turn 11 million undocumented immigrants into felons, punish anyone guilty of providing them assistance, and construct an iron wall between the US and Mexico.
The rally reached a crescendo as thousands of demonstrators lined the walls and bridges above the 101 freeway waving flags and cheering while an endless parade of cars and trucks blasted their horns in support. It was the sound of a sleeping giant awakening.
In passing HR 4437 and whatever draconian and utterly counter-productive bill emerges from the Senate, the congressional Republicans have become their party's worst enemy. They have cast their white, Southern base in conflict with the Latino constituency the RNC and the Bush White House realize they must win over if they are ever to achieve a so-called "Republican majority."
A leading researcher of the neo-Confederate movement, Ed Sebesta, submitted an illuminating analysis of the GOP's immigration quandary to me by email yesterday. Here are some excerpts:
In regards to Hispanics and the GOP I think the big development is that Hispanics are immigrating in large numbers now into the Southeast, or I should say the former Confederate states, excepting Texas and Southern Florida. It isn't something largely confined to the Southwest and major urban centers outside the South. This is where the base of the Republican party is. There has developed a reaction against this immigration in these areas. The Neo-Confederate movement and a lot of other movements have taken up this issue...
These reactionary elements and others see immigration as an issue to take control of conservatism in the South, if not the nation...
Suddenly the Republican party is going to have to try to get votes from two groups that will be increasingly at odds with each other. Also, what happens to Hispanics in Alabama will get back to Hispanics in California.
Hispanic immigrants didn't grow up as minorities and don't have the habits of deference or accomodations to prejudice. They may be poor or disadvantaged materially, but they don't have internalized anti-Hispanic values.
They will have no inclination to accommodate themselves to a subordinated role, and no prior history of accomodation to subordination. They will challenge anti-Hispanic tactics and efforts in the Southeast, not give in to them. They will not have religious leaders saying that some anti-Hispanic measure is okay.
Deprived of any substantive issues ahead of this year's mid-term congressional elections, the Republicans have reached into their deck and drawn the race-card. Introducing a stream of anti-immigrant legislation specifically directed against brown-skinned workers is the GOP's post-Bush, post-9/11 strategy.
And as they advance their short-term political goals, the congressional GOP institutionalizes a culture of hypocrisy which punishes immigrants publicly while paying them privately. To quote a sign that hung today on an overpass above the 101 freeway, "We built your houses, we growed [sic] your food, and now you call us criminals?"
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