Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Editorial: GOP primary not about only illegals

Today the unnamed Courier editor asserts that "Candidates who take political advantage of immigration by neglecting other issues are as dangerous as voters who do the same thing." I agree, but there are two ways to look at this piece.

The first is to take it at face value. The editor would like to move the public discussion off its focus on immigration to more important things. This echoes the response of Senator Steve Pierce to the first question in last Wednesday's candidate forum. The entire editorial could be read as a rewrite of the senator's 90-second answer.

On the other hand, candidates taking political advantage of the phony immigration issue and neglecting others are following the standard GOP playbook this year. Could it be that the editor is saying, "most GOP candidates are dangerous"? Given the Courier's history, I rather doubt this would get through the editorial board.

The nagging question is why the Senator and the editor would try to soft-pedal being on the right side of what the Rs see as a 70+-percent positive issue among the public at large. Why not lean into immigration as a sure winner? How can the editor write, "immigration is hardly the lead dog in a pack of issues," when that is obviously untrue in terms of real political rhetoric?

How about this:

Saying the right things about illegal immigration is necessary to winning the R primary (the rightward version of political correctness), so every R running for a seat is saying those things, which negates the value of the issue in the primary. If everyone's saying it, there's no differentiation among candidates. Looking past the primary, the zealotry over the immigration issue becomes a negative in attracting moderate voters (and there are a lot more of us with serious concerns about how this is shaking out than the R polls suggest). So ramping down the rhetoric at this point and pushing the real nutbars into the closet until after November is a canny move politically.

So ultimately I agree with the editor that immigration-happy candidates are dangerous. But I'm guessing the editor is saying this for different purposes. Illustrating the piece with the GOP logo is a hint.

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