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Which 1994 Tricks does the GOP Have Up Its Sleeve?

Feb
6
2006

Embattled by scandal and scoundrel, Congressional Republicans are turning back time to search for a winning strategy. But in trying to decide between the two that worked in 1994 – then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s or California Govenor Pete Wilson’s – they don’t seem to have learned that some dogs just don’t hunt any more.
Twelve years ago when Republicans took control in both Washington and Sacramento for the first time in decades, the achievements came through two markedly different strategies.
On a national level, Congressional Republicans promoted the now-famous Contract With America – based on the core values of balanced budgets, anti-corruption and limiting government powers.
Meanwhile on the left Coast, California Republicans, led by an embattled Governor Pete Wilson, took over the Statehouse on the backs of immigrants—perfecting wedge-issue politics by running on the coattails of Proposition 187, which denied the benefits of government programs to illegal immigrants in the Golden State.
In an unfortunate twist of political fate, Republicans seem to be buying in to the axiom that what starts in California will soon sweep the nation. That’s true. But you have to look at the root causes of those political movements carefully. This time, the GOP will learn that, a decade later, bashing immigrants won’t get you far. Just ask Arnold Schwarzenegger, who briefly turned to the tactic when his “Year of Reform” began to flounder.
If you don’t share anti-Bush-leaning LA Weekly columnist Harold Meyerson’s hunch that, “those Republican incumbents particularly spooked by the prospect of defeat will seize the anti-immigrant low ground,” then you also missed the official response to L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Spanish-language response to the State of the Union by L.A. GOP Chairwoman Linda Boyd.
That’s two languages (?) a lot of responding to responses, so I’ll give you the highlights. Chairman Boyd’s “scorecard” on Villaraigosa’s record blamed illegal immigrants for the City’s failing healthcare system, astronomical high school drop-out rate and prison overcrowding. As a member of Boyd’s Executive Committee of the Republican Party of Los Angeles County, I blushed in embarrassment when she compared Villaraigosa to the dictators Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro.
And if you doubt that immigrant-bashing isn’t on the GOP Agenda in 2006, take a look at the agenda for this weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference. It’s the first, second, third and fourth issue to be discussed.
What’s a pity is that Congress needs more Contract-with-America and less Prop 187 in 2006. But unfortunately for Republicans, the house we’d need to sweep clean would be our own.

Share  Posted by Scott Olin Schmidt at 12:12 PM | Permalink

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