Wednesday, October 20, 2004

More on Kobach

There's been a kerfuffle (the original radio report is here) over links between Kris Kobach and gun rights activist Larry Pratt, who has been associated with racist groups. It's amazing how much turns up when you Google “Kris Kobach” racist

A lot of hits are from my new best friends at KrisWatch.

But money from an extremist gun rights group filtered through its racist affiliated officer is pretty weak. I think that the top issue isn't guns. Gunowners Of America seems like a more honest, if crazy, group than the NRA. They think the 2nd Amendment is about having enough firepower to check the power of the government, and they don't dress their ideology up in orange vests and pretend to be about hunting and enjoying the outdoors.

I want to talk about immigration, Congressman Tancredo and “Team America.” No, not the “crappymation” movie by South Park's founders, the racist anti-immigrant PAC which is bankrolling Kobach's campaign. Obviously, they're limited to $3,000 per campaign, just like you and me, but look how excited they got when Kobach won the primary. Why, Bay Buchanan seems to have fallen in love! And you can be sure that their endorsement has moved some more cash into the race.

This is from a list of ten reasons to end immigration put forward by Team America PAC:

6. We're a nation of 300 million; the Third World population is in the billions. Do the math.

Our country seems large, but its population is tiny compared to that of the Third World. China and India alone have seven times our population.

For whatever reasons, our society has succeeded in creating immense wealth where many others have created only poverty. An American welfare recipient would still be “rich” by the standards of most of the world.

One can't blame the citizens of countries who produce much less wealth per capita than we for wanting to reap the benefits our forefathers have sown for us. But if we open the borders, our island of productivity and prosperity will soon disappear beneath a flood of Third World squalor.

5. American culture is worth preserving. Culture is more than operas and Shakespearian plays--it's the sum total of the customs, beliefs, artistic creations, attitudes, goals, and norms that make a society what it is. It is passed down, as a treasure, from grandparent to parent to child. In other words, culture is what gives us our identity.

Some advocate “multiculturalism”--creating a society in which multiple cultures exist side by side, and believe that “diversity”--having as many cultures as possible, with none dominant—is desirable.

The majority of the media elite believes that we need more multiculturalism and diversity; the majority of the population doesn't. Regardless of how anyone stands on this issue, the fact is that our society is already multicultural and diverse. Anyone who wishes to enjoy, and celebrate, the many cultures now coexisting in America need only visit any American city.

By contrast, genuine American culture--the Founding Fathers, the story of the pioneers and the winning of the West, the Pledge of Allegiance, Columbus Day, the Bill of Rights--is under constant assault. Some of our country's detractors vilify all that is traditionally American, while others would reduce our traditions to one more example of quaint folklore beside those of other nations.

Russian culture can be found in Russia, Mexican culture in Mexico, multiculturalism in any major city... but where can one find American culture? Only in a place where Americans treasure it, and lovingly transmit it from generation to generation. Immigration laws should ensure that those who seek to live permanently on American territory be willing to adopt and preserve its culture. And they are useless unless they are enforced.

4. It's not your father's immigration. Previous generations romanticized immigration. The images are still with us: Starry-eyed Irish, Italian, Jewish, and Polish arrivees toting their bags and trunks onto shore at Ellis Island... The tablet at the base of the Statue of Liberty exhorting other nations to “Give me your tired, your poor...” The native-born American learning to love pizza and bagels.

That was then. This is now.

Yes, there are still many people in foreign lands who harbor the “American dream,” and who seek to come here to realize it.

Millions of illegal aliens, however, have attitudes and motives very different from those of the immigrants in the fading black-and-white photos of yesteryear. It's not fashionable to speak the truth about this group. But the truth must be spoken.

What makes this new breed of “immigrants” different? To begin with, they're not “immigrating” at all--they're sneaking in. They don't have an “American dream” of building this country; rather, though still loyal to their home nations, they want to exploit ours economically. Many even dream of taking over regions of our country, and displacing us. There's already a word for this goal: Reconquista of Aztlan. If the members of this group don't intend to return home, yet have no loyalty to America, what should we call them? Certainly not “immigrants.”

A ‘colonist’ is a better term. Today's colonists, like those of the past, want to build enclaves on American soil from which they can expand their own wealth and power, and that of their homeland, while drawing on the resources that were created by the native population. How can we welcome legitimate immigrants while keeping out colonists? By knowing who is coming here, and why, and only admitting those whose presence is in our country's best interests. In other words, by enforcing immigration laws.

There's so much to comment on there. The paranoia, the implicit racism, the retro impending “yellow peril,” the fear of multiculturalism, the idealization of the past (German immigrants learning to eat pizza when Italians show up is great, learning to eat burritos when Mexicans arrive is evil). But, like all extremist groups, they've also created their own language to fit their ideology. It's an ideology tinged with the paranoia of the militia movement, driven by hatred and fear of anyone unlike them. They believe that the problems of the Third World, the “squalor” above, is in the nature of the people, not their economies. They believe that there is a stealth war, a slow motion invasion. The spread of Spanish speakers, Mexican immigrants going to public schools and getting in-state tuition, anything resembling amnesty, all fuse in their mythology into the “Reconquista.” Illegal immigrants, in this fantasy, are actually the vanguard of a massive, carefully planned invasion by Mexico, an effort to win back what they lost in the Mexican War.

That this is insane is obvious when you step back. One doesn't have to be Marxist to think that people are leaving Mexico because we can afford to pay people more than they could dream of earning in Mexico. These immigrants don't want to turn Kansas into a Mexican state, they're trying to get away from Mexico. They want to live in a country like the US, and Mexico isn't moving that direction very fast. They want their children to get a great education and contribute to their new society. They come here for many of the reasons that my fiancé and her parents came here from Poland. They wanted freedom, liberties, and a way to earn a living.

The American Prospect did an article on some anti-immigrant groups, and KrisWatch profiled them too.

A year ago, Salon.com profiled some other groups associated with Rep. Tom Tancredo, Team America PAC's founder, some of which are hunting immigrants on the Arizona border.

David Neiwert is a journalist covering the right-wing extremist beat. He is a great resource on the various movements on the right-wing, from neo-Confederate racists, to neo-Nazi racists, and anti-immigrant racists, and all the other nonsense hiding in the rightmost fringes of the Republican party. He knows this stuff better than I do, so I'll just let you browse some links. He draws connections between the proposal - supported by Kris Kobach - to use the Army to patrol the Mexican border, violence against immigrants, and the growth of neo-Nazi groups throughout the Midwest. Finally, in this post, Neiwert points to the split in the Republican party between its corporatist element (the part that pushes tax cuts for the rich and busts unions) and the ideological, social conservative element (John Ashcroft, James Watt, etc.).

Kobach is clearly from the ideological faction. The national sales tax, the support of the Club for Growth, anti-immigrant fringe groups, an obsession with secrecy: these are the hallmarks of that wing of the party. We saw it in the Pennsylvania Senate primary, we're seeing it with Jim DeMint, and the odd rumblings from the Bush administration about a national sales tax. That wing is desperately trying to take over the national party, much the way it has done in Kansas, as documented in What's the Matter With Kansas? The ultimate agenda of these people is unclear, but it seems like they are most interested in winning. If they succeed, who knows what they'll do, or whether they'll start fighting themselves.

That Kobach is an immigration extremist isn't even worth denying. He is suing the State of Kansas because we passed a law extending in-state tuition to anyone who attended high school in Kansas for at least 3 years, including undocumented aliens. Why? “It's profoundly unfair to U.S. citizens.” It's unfair because people who didn't spend 3 years in Kansas schools don't get that rate. It's an interesting argument, but legally without any clear merits. Is it unfair that I've been a grad student in Kansas for at least 3 years, but I don't get in-state rates? Sure. Does that mean it's wrong to give in state tuition to someone in a totally different circumstance? No. If I go 70 miles per hour past the Kansas Speedway, I'll get a ticket. If the drivers inside went less than 100, there would be riots. We make rules and enforce them, and people who don't understand the law shouldn't make it.

There was a brilliant moment in one of Michael Moore's TV shows where he got bank accounts under names like “Abortionists for Buchanan,” “Pedophiles for Free Trade” and the “Hemp Growers of America.” He sent contributions for a few hundred dollars to each campaign in the 1996 Republican primary. Bob Dole sent the checks back with a nice note. Pat Buchanan cashed checks from “Abortionists for Buchanan” and the “John Wayne Gacy Fan Club” without a qualm. When the press called him on it, he still kept the money. There's nothing wrong with getting cash from unsavory sources, it's how you handle it and the sources when you get caught that's the test of character. Kris Kobach has received contributions from racists of various stripes, from people listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an extremist to “take note of,” and doesn't blink an eye. That doesn't mean he agrees with them, just that they agree with him. What it says about him is that winning is more important than doing right. Either he agrees with them and welcomes their help, or he's an opportunist who can't pass up a buck, no matter how dirty.

Some people will say that everything above is name-calling or connecting dots that don't connect. The fact is, the dots do connect. If Kobach actually came out and said what these wackos are saying, he couldn't be elected to any office anywhere outside 1950's Mississippi. He's the “pretty face” that they can put out front to ram an extremist, racist agenda through. He doesn't have to be a racist or extremist to do that, but it sure would make it easier.