The big earthquake of the 2018 primary season so far has been the unseating of powerful Democratic House leader Joe Crowley by 28-year-old democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Ortez in New York. This isn’t a common occurrence, needless to say, but it does happen from time to time, most recently four years ago when an obscure economics professor named David Brat unseated GOP House leader and “young gun” Eric Cantor in Virginia. At that time, much of the chattering class chalked the defeat up to “all politics is local,” saying that Cantor had neglected his district. That analysis was wrong. Brat won because of one very hot issue that was boiling over in the right-wing media: immigration.
This article was originally published at Salon
The right-wing star most responsible for pushing that issue into the GOP mainstream was talk radio host Laura Ingraham.
Before her promotion to Fox News primetime host, Ingraham used her talk radio show to stump for Brat and rail against Cantor. She even went to the district to campaign for Brat, solely on the basis of his hardcore stance against the unaccompanied minors from Central America who were in the news at the time gathering at the border seeking asylum.
Ingraham was on a tear during that crisis, ranting daily about the ungrateful little wretches coming to our sacred borders asking for an undeserved handout. When she heard that some of these refugees weren’t taking to the food in their detention centers she described them as spoiled whiners and mocked them by playing an old TV commercial with the slogan “yo qiero Taco Bell?“. She made this declaration to the kids themselves:
Oh no you won’t. This is our country… Our borders matter to us. Our way of life and our culture matter to us. Our jobs and our wages matter to us. No you won’t.
During this period Donald Trump was seriously considering jumping into the presidential election and he had his friend Roger Stone’s hired hand, Sam Nunberg, listen to thousands of hours of talk radio and report back to him about what they were talking about. He didn’t have any strong feelings about immigration at the time but when he got a strong response at the conservative CPAC gathering that year for saying “we either have borders or we don’t,” he was all in. He rode that anti-immigration wave all the way to the White House.
Meanwhile, the Republican establishment had been trying to tamp down this growing xenophobia because their 2012 presidential campaign “autopsy” made it very clear that the GOP was in grave danger of becoming an all-white party in a country that was becoming less and less white. The lesson that the activists like Ingraham took from that was to try to reverse the trend and rid the country of as many people of color as possible. And they were joined by a faction in the US Congress led by the man who would become one of Trump’s earliest supporters, Senator Jeff Sessions.
In 2015, he and his aide, now Senior White House adviser, Stephen Miller, drafted a document that laid out a plan to end not only illegal immigration but put a stop to all legal immigration as well, arguing that the country could not “absorb” any more people from other cultures. It pointed to the 1924 Immigration Act, which curbed immigration of most non-whites, Catholics, Jews, Arabs, southern Italians for several decades, as its model. From the moment Sessions signed on with Trump (and subsequently submitted to Trump’s ongoing ritual humiliation of him for recusing himself from the Russia investigation), it has been clear that he did so because he saw the best opportunity he’s ever had to advance this nativist and racist agenda.
The Attorney General has no greater supporter in that effort than Laura Ingraham who caused some big ripples again this week with a xenophobic rant on her Fox News show in which she attacked both legal and illegal immigration as “The left’s effort to remake America”:
She went on to describe lurid details of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants in much the same language President Trump commonly uses to paint them as deviant and subhuman. And then she asked the president to give an address to the nation from the Oval Office:
The president can be so persuasive, so give us the whole truth, Mr. President, the good, the bad, and yes, the uncomfortable. This is a national emergency and he must demand that Congress act now. There is something slipping away in this country and it’s not about race or ethnicity. It’s what was once a common understanding by both parties that American citizenship is a privilege, and one that at a minimum requires respect for the rule of law and loyalty to our constitution.
After another round of widespread backlash in reaction to her rant, Ingraham returned to Fox News on Thursday to insist that “despite what some may be contending – I made explicitly clear that my commentary had nothing to do with race or ethnicity, but rather a shared goal of keeping America safe, and her citizens safe and prosperous.”
First, it is not a national emergency. Border crossings are far below what they were a decade ago. And this president is the last person on earth to make a case for the rule of law and loyalty to the constitution since he demonstrates on a daily basis that he has no respect for the first or even a rudimentary understanding of the second.
Nonetheless, this policy is being implemented. The Muslim ban, ICE deportations and the horrifying separation of families at the border are just the beginning. NBC News reported this week that Trump’s unctuous factotum Stephen Miller has written a proposal to “make it harder for legal immigrants to become citizens or get green cards if they have ever used a range of popular public welfare programs, including Obamacare.” The purpose is to reduce the number of immigrants who obtain citizenship and, therefore, the right to vote. That’s what’s known as a “win-win” in the Trump administration.
Yesterday it was announced that Melania Trump’s parents got in just under the wire. Sponsored by their daughter and her husband under the much-maligned “family migration” system they became US citizens. It’s unknown just what “merit” the president believes they have that qualifies them under his new proposals but one can’t help but notice that they are Caucasian. So Laura Ingraham no doubt has little concern that they will be polluting our precious American culture like those little children at the border.