Photo: MItt Romney on Immigration
The 1990s are back, but unfortunately not any of the good stuff, like Tupac or tennis shoes that you had to pump. No, unfortunately the worst of the 1990s has reemerged in the form of former California Governor Pete Wilson, who endorsed Mitt Romney for president Monday, and will now serve as the honorary chair of his California campaign. Wilson campaigned for governor on the hate platform, then known as Proposition 187, the precursor of Arizona’s SB 1070, as well as Alabama’s law, Georgia’s law, South Carolina’s and other similar hateful anti-immigrant laws.
What do you get when you take Proposition 187 and add it to Arizona’s SB 1070 (the author of which is serving as an unpaid immigration advisor for Romney)? You get the most extreme anti-immigrant presidential platform of any mainstream candidate in modern history. Even Ronald Reagan, the revered conservative archetype, oversaw immigration reform that paved pathway to citizenship for at least 1.1 million immigrants. Is it possible that Romney is realistically trying to reach Latino voters with this message? Doubtful, it’s much more likely he’s bypassing them in favor of recruiting the anti-immigrant vote.
And it’s not just the idea of the law that would deny immigrants legal services that is extreme. Rather it’s the manner in which these politicians presented their legislation that is the bigger problem. When Wilson ran for governor in the 90s, he ran ads that portrayed immigrants as an infestation, that was slowly and surely overwhelming the state of California, a scourge that need be remedied before it was too late. Of course, the worst never came, and “the worst” never was really defined, but hapless viewers of his television commercials were left to figure out exactly what the consequences could be.
Passing draconian laws, excluding groups of people based on appearance, and suing the federal government for the rights to do so, are unfortunately not new, even though we’ve recently seen such actions in Arizona, for example. Rather, California did this all in the 1990s, and it failed. What happened instead was that Latino voters in California solidified to become a solid Democratic voting bloc, one that has remained steadfast in the ensuing years. What’s happening in Arizona right now is that Latinos, from the grassroots level to the legislative level, are organizing into blocs that must be contended with.
It would seem that what has really returned from the 1990s is the misguided assumption that using racism and fear to win short-term victories can result in long-term power for Republican interests. If only people like Mitt Romney could look to the past and learn a lesson, perhaps we would not have to repeat the viciously hateful cycle wherein any votes gains for a primary or election season, are snuffed out by years of political aversion, transformed into loyalty for the other party.