Monday, October 30, 2006

Immigrant Mailer Controversy is Perfect Media Story

Gregory Rodriguez argued this weekend in the Los Angeles Times that the Orange County GOP's immigrant mailer controversy was the perfect story for politicians and the media, fostering moral posturing without any political consequences:

I DON'T KNOW what was more disturbing, the lame attempt to suppress immigrant voter turnout in California's 47th Congressional District or the breathless reporting and hyper-indignation that followed it.

Editorialists called the incident "despicable." Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger labeled it "racist" and a "hate crime." The chairman of the Orange County Republican Party called it "grotesque and obnoxious." You'd think they were all talking about a lynching, or at least a cross-burning. But no, it was a rather pedantic letter sent to fewer than 14,000 foreign-born Democrats with Spanish surnames in Santa Ana, Garden Grove and Anaheim.

It didn't matter that the mailing targeted only a tiny stratum of the district's 417,000 Latino voters, or that it made no mention of race or ethnicity; the media were all too happy to label this a "racial" incident. For Democrats, it was an easy don't-let-them-keep-you-down and get-out-the-vote rallying point, and for Republicans mired in an internecine battle over immigration, it was a great opportunity to say "Hey, don't mistreat Mexicans!" in front of a lot of microphones.

After a couple of years of politicians condoning ugly anti-immigrant and openly racist AM radio blather — think Schwarzenegger, during the recall campaign, kissing up on KFI's "The John and Ken Show" — you have to admit that the level of indignation in response to this incident appears at least slightly incommensurate. It makes you wonder: Why this outburst? Why now?

Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez used the occasion to tell voters to stand up to the powerful right wing. But Tan Nguyen, the underdog Republican congressional candidate on whose behalf the letters were sent, is hardly a friend of Karl Rove's. In the United States, you can gauge someone's power by the number and relative status of the people who come to his defense when he screws up. And let's face it, only the loons have backed Nguyen in his hour of need. And that's the point.

Not only did Nguyen never have a chance of beating five-term Rep. Loretta Sanchez, but the letter — which was designed to confuse and dissuade some recently registered immigrant Latino voters from going to the polls — was not approved by any institution or person other than the dishonorable candidate himself. In other words, it required no great act of political sacrifice for Republican activists and officials to bash and disown a marginal candidate running against a popular incumbent.

For that matter, the pathetic letter — which didn't even target the largest segment of the Latino electorate, those born in the United States — never got close to creating anything that would amount to ethnic disenfranchisement.
Rodriguez goes on to note that Nguyen, the GOP candidate, ends up being the only real loser here. He gets blown off by the party and the media get to thump their chests in moral indignation.

What Rodriquez doesn't address, however, is the underlying issue of illegal voters. Non-citizens should not be casting votes in U.S. elections, and in fact voting by non-citizens is a federal crime. As
this article from the Federation for American Immigration Reform points out, illegal non-citizen voting is easy and electoral fraud of this type is rarely prosecuted.

Voter cards in many states -- like drivers' licenses -- are legal documents that help illegal aliens find jobs. While liberal civil rights activists denounce "voter imtimidation" mailers like Nguyen's as violating federal laws, these same groups are rarely leading the charge to purge illegal voters from the electoral rolls.

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