In a feat of logical gymnastics so convoluted it is surprising it passed editorial review even on on opinion page, Frank Rich made the following argument in the New York Times not long ago:
The crowd that wants Latinos to show their papers if there’s a ”reasonable suspicion” of illegality is often the same crowd still demanding that the president produce a document proving his own citizenship. Lest there be any doubt of that confluence, Rush Limbaugh hammered the point home after Obama criticized Arizona’s action. ”I can understand Obama being touchy on the subject of producing your papers,” he said. ”Maybe he’s afraid somebody’s going to ask him for his.”
Now, neither I nor (apparently) the Times has very high expectations for Frank Rich. But this sad excuse for an argument had even me shaking my head. First, anyone who thinks non-citizens should have to carry documents with them (a long-standing requirement of federal law, by the way) is naturally a Birther. How do we know this beyond “any doubt?” Simple. The entertainer Rush Limbaugh used the Birthers to make a mildly funny dig at President Obama.
No reason for careful polling or analysis. Apparently Frank Rich can divine the feelings of the electorate by listening to Rush Limbaugh and looking at the tea leaves in his cup.
Rich does say that “Arizonans, like all Americans, have every right to be furious about Washington’s protracted and bipartisan failure to address the immigration stalemate. To be angry about illegal immigration is hardly tantamount to being a bigot.”
My sense is that those who have “every right to be furious” are, for the most part, furious for very different reasons than those Frank Rich imagines. He and others on the Left are trying to claim affinity with the public by acknowledging Washington’s failure on immigration. But were Frank Rich to write an immigration bill, how much support could it possibly have?
Rich fails to mention that something like 70% of the good people of Arizona supported the recent law, and just over half the country in a recent poll did, too. If we generously put the percentage of people who are both bigoted and birthers at, say, 25% of the country (surely its much less), that leaves a whole lot of people who would be supportive of Arizona’s measures and a whole lot more who are frustrated with illegal immigration but don’t support the Arizona law.
I’ve often wondered why this group is so angry. Partly it is due to bad information and bad arguments spewed forth by demagogues like Limbaugh and Beck. For instance, a lot of people think that illegal immigrants are getting a host of government benefits without paying into the system, when the truth is that illegals pay a lot of taxes, but will not qualify for most entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare. They are for the most part, a young, healthy, hard-working group with a relatively low crime rate.
When they tried to tackle the illegal immigration problem during the Bush Administration, the Republicans got burned badly. Now people like John McCain are running for their political lives. I’m wondering if Democrats are really foolish enough to take up the issue, rather than just watching the Republicans implode. True, they hope to increase their electoral advantage among Latinos, an increasingly important group, but I seriously doubt they have the math right if they think this is a winner issue. Given that there are some smart Democrats, I bet their real agenda is to bring up the issue enough to generate the anti-immigrant comments that Republicans are certain to make–comments that will get a lot of play among Latinos–and then quietly back down from actually passing anything.
The angry middle is already upset about an overreaching new health care system, voluminous federal deficits, and a stubbornly persistent unemployment problem. They have, with good reason, an enormous amount of anxiety about the future, and they are looking for scapegoats. Whoever thinks this anxiety is going to be lessened by giving illegals a pathway to citizenship or anything like that, are seriously deluded.