To the World:
Most Americans are not like Tancredo, Giuliani, and Romney!
As I move around Madrid, go to stores, libraries etc. I am still surprised at the rudeness of many Spaniard. No! they aren´t all like this, but it happens often enough to leave me a little shaken.
It may be a cultural thing, but then I wonder, maybe they are angry at us because of Iraq... since the Madrid subway bombing was related to the IRAQ war that we started. Maybe they think all Americans are jerks who think they own the world (like our presidential administration?)
Well, it has been said many times, but I´m saying it again. A large percentage of Americans DID NOT want the IRAQ war, and did not vote for Bush-Cheney in either election. In fact many think the elections were stolen.
Scare tactics on the border
Most Americans back citizenship for illegal migrants, but are eclipsed by a fevered minority
Michael Tomasky in Washington
Monday December 3, 2007
The Guardian (London)
It may not look like it much of the time, but we Americans are a fairly reasonable people. The rugged individualist streak inherited from the frontier culture cohabits in the collective soul with a civic and communal strain that started in New England and spread from there. The strong hatred of government you hear so much about is balanced by an affection (in many cases stronger than the hatred) for many of the outcomes the government makes possible, such as the delivery of a social security cheque.
However, we're living through an age when this commonsensical balance tends to get overshadowed by a very vocal and fevered minority. On no issue is this truer than on immigration, which figures to emerge as the leading rightwing scare issue for next year's voting.
Earlier this year, Congress was, remarkably, fairly close to passing major immigration reform legislation, something that hasn't happened in Washington in 20 years. The bill's chief adherents, who had spent years working on it, were a Democrat and a Republican, Ted Kennedy and John McCain respectively. For the right, it strengthened the Mexico border with more secure fencing to keep new illegal migrants out; for the left, it offered the 12 million or so undocumented people already in the US a shot at working their way toward citizenship.
Solid majorities of my reasonable compatriots supported the bill's main provisions. According to a New York Times poll in May, for example, 67% supported renewable visas for illegal migrants, and 62% backed the more controversial notion that those in the States for at least two years should be allowed to seek legal status.
Well, the bill died. Liberals disliked certain provisions that changed a key premise of immigration policy from family reunification to employer need. But what really did the bill in was the tsunami of anger that swept across rightwing America. This, the nativists thundered, was an amnesty bill for law-breakers. It was not - amnesty means amnesty, as in all is forgiven, while the bill's provisions for securing citizenship were in fact fairly onerous.
It was a minority view - 33% in that Times poll felt that illegal migrants here for two years should be deported, as opposed to the 62% who backed a citizenship process. But it happens to be a minority that is in possession of: 1) overrepresentation in the Republican party and in Congress, which because of the way individual districts are drawn skews more conservative than the country as a whole; 2) an apoplectic propaganda network on various talk radio stations that reaches at least 25 million Americans every day; and 3) Lou Dobbs, the CNN host who is to immigration in America what, say, Peter Hitchens is to "Britishness", except that Dobbs has the more prominent pulpit of a nightly cable show from which to launch his artillery shells, and does so every single night.
And so the immigration debate as presented in the media is not about how three out of five people think a path to citizenship is an acceptable idea that is preferable to deportation; that may be true, but it's boring and lacks good visuals. So it is instead about how furious "everyone" is, which isn't necessarily true but makes far better television.
Into this maelstrom arrive our presidential candidates. The Democrats strive to represent that safe and poll-tested 62%, with the added fillip that, because of their Latino constituencies, they try to brush past any discussion of fences.
But the ground isn't always safe there. Not long ago, Hillary Clinton strolled into the propellers during a Democratic debate by taking no position (or two positions) on the question of whether illegal migrants should be able to get drivers' licences in her "home" state of New York, where the governor had proposed it. It should be noted that several other states already grant such permission, without overwhelming discord. She has since come out against such a plan. Interestingly, and perhaps riskily, Barack Obama stood by (or, based on the way he answered the question, sort of hunched by) his support for it.
On the Republican side, the two leading candidates, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, are men with humane track records on immigration now running as far and fast as they can from those records. Their sparring in last Thursday night's debate about who could be tougher on illegal immigrants was as distasteful a display of pandering as we've seen all year. Mike Huckabee, the current belle of the Republican ball, has had compassionate words to say about the children of illegal migrants, though not the migrants themselves.
In sum, the Democrats represent views held by a larger percentage of the population, while the Republicans by and large are pandering to the same 33% they usually pander to. And yet, it is assumed with near unanimity here in Washington that the issue will help the Republicans next autumn, for the reasons cited above and because of the minority's intensity of feeling.
Campaigns usually win by controlling the day-to-day issue agenda. If, next November, American voters are thinking about healthcare and jobs and not seeming insane to the rest of the world, the Democrat should win. But, of course, Republicans know this. They will want Americans to be thinking about terrorism and our porous borders - preferably in tandem. Next year's Willie Horton will not be black, but brown. I hope my fellow Americans stay reasonable when he appears.
· Michael Tomasky is editor of Guardian America email@example.com