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Tilting at Windmills

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August 5, 2010

FROM THE PARTY OF BUSH TO THE PARTY OF JEFFERSON DAVIS.... Looking at the forest instead of the trees, it's rather remarkable to see just how far the Republican Party is willing to go in 2010. Leading GOP officials, with considerable power and influence, have earnestly pushed for a debate on the partial repeal of the 14th Amendment -- and it doesn't occur to the political establishment to point and laugh.

NBC News' First Read noted yesterday morning, "Just askin, but do these Republicans want to be tied to wanting to change this historic, post-Civil War amendment, which made former slaves and their children full citizens in this country? At a time of 10% unemployment and two wars, do politicians really want to debate a Constitutional Amendment from the 19th century?"

As it turns out, yes.

Yesterday added to this truly bizarre push. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) doubled down, characterizing the 14th Amendment as an antiquated relic. Around the same time, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) of Iowa joined the chorus of Republicans endorsing hearings on a possible repeal, issuing a statement suggesting "changes" to the Constitution may be "warranted." Also yesterday, a Fox & Friends host blithely referred to the 14th Amendment as the "anchor baby amendment."

As a procedural matter, this is going nowhere. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee's panel on the Constitution, has dismissed the notion of hearings out of hand. For that matter, even if there were hearings, the notion of getting two-thirds of both chambers to approve such a move is patently ridiculous. Republicans know this, but they're using this to rile up right-wing activists in advance of the elections, exploiting fear, bigotry, and ignorance in the hopes they boost turnout by a percentage point or two.

But that doesn't take away from the astounding fact that these developments are even taking place at all. E.J. Dionne Jr. can hardly believe it.

Rather than shout, I'll just ask the question in a civil way: Dear Republicans, do you really want to endanger your party's greatest political legacy by turning the 14th Amendment to our Constitution into an excuse for election-year ugliness?

Honestly, I thought that our politics could not get worse....

Our politics has gotten worse, and it keeps getting even worse as Republicans push the boundaries of what's acceptable in the American mainstream.

Take a moment to consider what's become fairly common in GOP circles of late. A sitting Republican congressman and governor have openly speculated about secession. A Senate candidate in Nevada has raised the specter of armed insurrection against the United States government. A Senate candidate in Kentucky has spoken out against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota believes states should be able to ignore federal laws they don't like. None of these developments have drawn even mild rebukes from the party establishment.

Indeed, the conversations driving the GOP discourse focus around a series of stories -- Cordoba House, Prop 8, New Black Panther Party, Shirley Sherrod -- that have one thing in common: they're intended to make white voters afraid of "the other," whether that be on the basis of religion, race, or sexual orientation.

And if Republican candidates excel in the midterms, the party will believe the American electorate rewarded the GOP for its divisiveness, bigotry, and demagoguery, making it more likely these tactics will be the centerpiece of future campaigns.

The RNC has a "Political Achievements" page on its website, and oddly enough, it touts "Republicans Passed the 14th Amendment" as one of the party's proudest accomplishments.

The party has come a long way in the last 142 years. That's not a compliment.

Steve Benen 8:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (50)

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Quote: 'Republicans know this, but they're using this to rile up right-wing activists in advance of the elections, exploiting fear, bigotry, and ignorance in the hopes they boost turnout by a percentage point or two.'

No doubt the crazed antics of repugs will rally the wingnut base, but in troubled times like these, more of the electorate are paying close attention to politics that would be the case in more pleasant circumstances. The result is that for every wingnut vote earned by this lunacy, two moderate voters turn from this crowd in horror.

Posted by: BillFromPA on August 5, 2010 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

"Anchor baby amendment?" This is breathtakingly offensive.

Posted by: stacie on August 5, 2010 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

If we were to address the fourteenth amendment, we could talk about corporate personhood, and Gore v. Bush, which were both squeezed into equal protection.

Posted by: jhm on August 5, 2010 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

On the bright side, the Apache, Sioux and Cherokee nations have agreed to call all white so-called Americans "Anchor Babies".

The 14th Amendment? Partly written to overturn the Dred Scott decision that not only upheld slavery but also denied citizenship to ALL Blacks (even freed ones and those born from freed slaves!). Try to recognize the true intent here of the Far Right Wingnuts: they want to overturn the definitions of citizenship, so they can then proclaim anyone they don't like - by race, by gender, by belief, by political party - as non-citizens. They already declare everyone they oppose as "Un-American": Now they want to make it legal!

Posted by: PaulW on August 5, 2010 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

Republican hero Pishtosh "Bobby" Jindal happens to be an "anchor baby." Let's see how that fits into the meme.

Posted by: SusanP on August 5, 2010 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

It is the first step of getting rid of one person one vote, if 42% of the people can be convinced that Obama was not born in the United States then the time is right to make sure that only the privileged will be able to vote. Opposing the mosque in NYC will hopefully allow them to overturn the first amendment if they can get it to the SCOTUS.

Posted by: Fed Up and Tired on August 5, 2010 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

In my memory the Rethugs have always relied on fear, bigotry and prejudice to motivate their followers whether it's on the local, state or national level. The dumbing-down of the country has made it necessary to be far more brazen to get the message across to the salivating lunkheads who make up their base. An intelligent electorate capable of critical thought would laugh them off the stage, but I don't hear much laughter.

The 2010 mid-terms are a measure of how stupid this country has become. In three months we'll know. I'm blowing the dust off my map of Dumbfuckistan.

Posted by: rrk1 on August 5, 2010 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

This part of the 14th amendment was put in to make a purely objective test for citizenship and make sure it did not become a constant political issue. PaulW is absolutely right that without this criterion it would become a political wedge issue in every election cycle.

Posted by: wordtypist on August 5, 2010 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

"Indeed, the conversations driving the GOP discourse focus around a series of stories -- Cordoba House, Prop 8, New Black Panther Party, Shirley Sherrod -- that have one thing in common: they're intended to make white voters afraid of 'the other,' whether that be on the basis of religion, race, or sexual orientation."

Your use of "the other" is too academic and tame. Let's call a spade a spade--literally. Every election cycle, the Republicans need a nigger. Sometimes it's even blacks, as with Nixon's Southern Strategy, Willie Horton and, of course, Obama, but the nigger has also been gays, Muslims, women, liberals and, most recently illegal immigrants--the new black, as it were.

Posted by: Angry Young Man on August 5, 2010 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

While not exactly about the 14th Darrow's speech at the Scopes trial sums up my feelings exactly on this and many an other subject:

“If today you can take a thing like evolution and make it a crime to teach it in the public school, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools, and the next year you can make it a crime to teach it to the hustings or in the church. At the next session you may ban books and the newspapers. Soon you may set Catholic against Protestant and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the minds of men. If you can do one you can do the other. Ignorance and fanaticism is ever busy and needs feeding. Always it is feeding and gloating for more. Today it is the public school teachers, tomorrow the private. The next day the preachers and the lectures, the magazines, the books, the newspapers. After a while, your honor, it is the setting of man against man and creed against creed until with flying banners and beating drums we are marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century when bigots lighted fagots to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightenment and culture to the human mind. ”
-- Clarence Darrow, "Scopes Trial" courtroom speech, July 13, 1925

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on August 5, 2010 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

"Anchor baby amendment?" This is breathtakingly offensive.

Welcome to the republican party where they will have your understanding of manners for luntz .

Posted by: FRP on August 5, 2010 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

As rrk1 observes, it's about fear.

It's all they've got: fear.

They don't think Democratic control of anything government is legitimate. Thus, they try to bring the President down via catcalls and dog whistles.

I thought we were past this. We fought to be free of monarchy, and we fought against totalitarianism. Are we to fight these battles all over again? It appears they really want to go there.

Posted by: terraformer on August 5, 2010 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

Lately it has become quite popular to throw "facts" around with gay (er, gleeful, cheery?) abandon. Apparently there is a booming industry selling visas to pregnant women in foreign lands. (Package deal; hospital and obstetrician included, day trip to Disneyworld)

I'm curious to know-State Department, please-how many of these visas are actually issued. I was under the impression that visas were not all that easy to obtain; harder too, if you are dusky, destitute, and pregnant.

A "fact" I heard the other day was that Obama has deported more illegals that the previous administration. Who knew?

Posted by: DAY on August 5, 2010 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

I suppose that when the RNC apologized for use of the Southern Strategy in 2005, it did so a bit prematurely. These forms of fear mongering on the basis of "otherness" are nothing more than a neo-Southern Strategy.

Posted by: TheTexan on August 5, 2010 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

Fairly sure Charles Krauthammer (though raised almost entirely in Canada) was an anchor baby too.

Posted by: penalcolony on August 5, 2010 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

Our 16 yr old daughter saw through this in 30 sec., shredding the notion with several insights - such as - would citizenship for those who are born here be decided by legislation ? This idea is so stupid that it almost leaves one speechless as to where to start.

And, to add to my hobby of compiling names of people who are/were citizens by birth to imiigrant parents:

Ludwig Gehrig [aka, Lou Gehrig]

Have a nice day.

Posted by: bigtuna on August 5, 2010 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

I will also say that this is a pretty transparent attempt to bring back culture war issues, non-substantive stuff as red meat to keep people occupied and fill up the talking head circuit with material about anything other than Republicans' utter lack of policy ideas to get this country out of our current domestic and foreign messes, and to also keep the uncomfortable fact that Republicans caused them in the first place.

Posted by: terraformer on August 5, 2010 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

All of these Republican outrages and hissy-fits are geared at riling up the base and making sure they're pissed off enough about something to drag themselves to the polls.

Unfortunately, this is how you build "voter enthusiasm."

Posted by: beep52 on August 5, 2010 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

this notion of a cottage industry to bring pregnant women to the us to have their babies was debunked on the abc news last night. they estimated at most there may be 7,000 babies a year born under these circumstances. that would be what percent of all babies born each year? just another bogus talking point.

Posted by: just bill on August 5, 2010 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

"Dear Republicans, do you really want to endanger your party's greatest political legacy by turning the 14th Amendment to our Constitution into an excuse for election-year ugliness?" - Dionne

"A sitting Republican congressman and governor have openly speculated about secession. A Senate candidate in Nevada has raised the specter of armed insurrection against the United States government." - Benen

Yep, Ol' Abe must be turning over in his grave.

Posted by: Marko on August 5, 2010 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

it's the new "No Child Left Behind"

Posted by: andyvillager on August 5, 2010 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

"A baby anchor". These people should be obliterated, really. It's not how far they go either, it's how low and depraved. And as far as American voters are concerned, anyone who would vote for this party's hateline du jour shouldn't be breathing either.

Posted by: Trollop on August 5, 2010 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

The clearly want to be known as the white racist party. It would be nice if the lamestream media would call them on it.

Posted by: cheflovesbeer on August 5, 2010 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

It should read: The republicans clearly want to be known as the white racist party. It would be nice if the lamestream media would call them on it.

Posted by: cheflovesbeer on August 5, 2010 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

What I'm not hearing in these stories and commentary is the response from the Latino community. This one more facet in the attack on them, all to benefit from the racism and fear in the lily-white GOP base. At its core, the GOP doesn't think brown or black people are legitimate citizens. That attitude also lays behind the "obama/clinton wouldn't have been elected without the black vote" whines. It is profoundly racist.

DAY - I dated a mid-wife in NYC, and I know people actually do try to have anchor babies. Some late-term pregnant women have managed to bribe their way onto planes in order to have their kid on American soil. While I know this has happened, the actual number could be in the dozens: it's obviously an expensive, dangerous proposition.

PaulW - outstanding, perfect.

Posted by: Rathskeller on August 5, 2010 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

...and the thing is, having an "anchor baby" does NOT mean you get to stay. I knew a Brazilian couple who were here on student visas, which they cheated on and overstayed for years, had an anchor baby - and they eventually got shipped back to Brazil, complete with their "anchor baby."

Posted by: SusanP on August 5, 2010 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

Dog whistling, pure and simple. This is divide and conquer politics, ripped directly out of Rove's playbook with all the usual suspects towing the same line and it's a bit transparent. (If you ain't white, you're not right.)

Fuck Rove.

Posted by: dbcooper on August 5, 2010 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Man, if they could just get rid of the 14th amendment, all of their boogeymen would be gone. No equal protection under the law for anyone. It would be so much easier to divert tax money to support pet causes, and leave all those unequally (not)protected to fend for themselves!

Don't think their zeal to repeal stops at immigration.

Posted by: jcricket on August 5, 2010 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Take a moment to consider what's become fairly common in GOP circles of late. A sitting Republican congressman and governor have openly speculated about secession. A Senate candidate in Nevada has raised the specter of armed insurrection against the United States government. A Senate candidate in Kentucky has spoken out against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota believes states should be able to ignore federal laws they don't like. None of these developments have drawn even mild rebukes from the party establishment.

And why should they? The national electorate has shrugged every last one of these developments off, and is prepared to give Republicans huge wins at the polls.

Posted by: Steve M. on August 5, 2010 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

Can't wait to see the campaign slogans: "Bring Back Dred Scott!"

(Speaking of which, why hasn't any reporter in the major papers pointed out that the entire reason for the clause defining citizenship in the 14th was to overturn Dred Scott (which held that blacks could no be citizens of the U.S.)? If we repeal that does it mean that blacks are no longer citizens again?

Posted by: Anonymous on August 5, 2010 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

I guess what disturbs me the most about this is the people from whom we are hearing it. If some Faux News babblehead or Pill-Popping Rush says this sort of thing, I don't get too exercised because I expect them to say it. But when someone like Sen Graham, one of the least effing crazy Republicans, says it... that to me is a little shocking.

The silver lining in this, to the extent there is one, is that they are alienating-- and turning into Democrats-- millions of people who fall into the categories they demonize. In the long run the GOP is making itself into a permanent minority party (white, mostly male, racist, homophobic, supposed "Christians.") Within a couple decades people of European descent will be the minority in this country, as they are now in California.

Posted by: wihntr on August 5, 2010 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

The only thing the Republicans want to change is the granting of automatic citizenship to the children of illegal aliens.

Other First World countries have made similar changes to their citizenship laws in the past few years, including Ireland.

I am a Democrat who wants an end to illegal immigration and a reduction in legal immigration. Over the past 20 years we've seen jobs disappear, never to return, while we've greatly added to our population.

We have to stop this.

As I see it, at a minimum we have to have an accurate and tamper-proof ID system for citizens and legal residents and we have to stop making eternal promises to people who shouldn't be here.

We don't have the resources to keep on doing that. We'e burdening future generations with these unthinking, crushing commitments and it's just not right.

Posted by: jerseycityjoan on August 5, 2010 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

This Just In: Republicans Re-Fight Civil War, Switch Sides.

Posted by: CJColucci on August 5, 2010 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans really need help with their mental health.

They have been driven stark raving mad by the unbelievable -- by them -- election of a person of color to the PRESIDENCY! Just by his existing, Obama has driven them off the cliff.

Let us hope they recover their sanity soon, very soon. They are a menace while their delusions and mental imbalance persist.

Posted by: jjm on August 5, 2010 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

The RNC has a "Political Achievements" page on its website, and oddly enough, it touts "Republicans Passed the 14th Amendment" as one of the party's proudest accomplishments.

See how long it takes republicans to accept blame for their failures? I predict in 2160 the republicans will finally accept blame for the current crisis.

Posted by: flyonthewall on August 5, 2010 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

So my GF and I sneak into France and she gives birth, our child is a French citizen?

I realize that the illegal immigration problem is complicated, but come on.

Posted by: agave on August 5, 2010 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

I think the Dems are missing an opportunity.....what better October surprise to hold these hearings and see how well the Republicans can make their case.

Posted by: Jon on August 5, 2010 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

So if the Republicans are successful, millions of citizens, some of whom have lived here for decades, will be immediately disenfranchised? How are we going to accomplish this? Will every person born in the country have to prove their parent's immigration status?

Posted by: Jose Padilla on August 5, 2010 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

"Republicans know this, but they're using this to rile up right-wing activists in advance of the elections, exploiting fear, bigotry, and ignorance in the hopes they boost turnout by a percentage point or two."

Should read: "Republicans know this, AND SO they're using this to rile up right-wing activists ... "

The futility is welcome cover. They get to blow hot air -- their favorite! -- without any risk of consequence.

Posted by: ManOutOfTime on August 5, 2010 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

@Angry Young Man - you are right on, although I'm of a generation that is so averse to the "N-word" that I can barely stand to read it even when used in a context as appropriate as yours.

Having said that, the Fear of the Other, is primal and pre-dates the N-word as the boogie man. Today's bigots and fearmongers are recycling the script we've seen used for gays in the military, minorities in the military, multiple incarnations of the immigration debate -- but the original script dates back to the caves.

So you are right on; and this is the sign of a movement that has nothing of value to say.

Posted by: ManOutOfTime on August 5, 2010 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

This is obviously a Rovian ploy to bring in a divisive social wedge issue in an effort to distract attention away from issues that matter, which of course the republicans are and always be on the wrong side of.

Look to see an attempt to get this question on the ballot in states where the GOP feel they can pick up seats.

Posted by: citizen_pain on August 5, 2010 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

The UK made citizenship contingent on the parents' residency status decades ago when voters were worried about immigrants from former colonies moving to the UK in large numbers to take advantage of Britain's fairly liberal social benefits. This occurred in a period of economic uncertainty which created many of the anxieties which we are now seeing here in the US. This apparent desertion of Britain's former colonial dependents makes the US's hesitation to grant the privileges of citizenship to the offspring of illegal immigrants from countries it has no colonial ties to seem not so unreasonable. The citizenship of native African-Americans is no longer an issue by any stretch of the imagination.

Posted by: bos'n on August 5, 2010 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

I'll say it again: This is ETHNIC CLEANSING, plain and simple.

Posted by: cr on August 5, 2010 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

jerseycityjoan: we have to stop making eternal promises to people who shouldn't be here

Where do I send my donation for the demolition of the Statue of Liberty. I'm sure we wouldn't all that "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses..." stuff left standing around.

Posted by: cr on August 5, 2010 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

@cr: just send it to the RNC - they are happy to take all your liberties away.

Posted by: Marko on August 5, 2010 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

With regard to your recent article about the 14th Amendment, it may interest your readers that I wrote the Heroes and Accomplishments section of the RNC website. See http://grandoldpartisan.typepad.com/blog/2010/01/rncwebsite.html. The information is based on Back to Basics for the Republican Party, my history of the GOP cited by Clarence Thomas in a Supreme Court decision. I also wrote the 2005 Republican Freedom Calendar. The purpose of my book and speeches (in 30 states so far) and email blasts and the Grand Old Partisan blog is to show Republicans that they should appreciate the heritage of the Grand Old Party.

Fighting the good fight,

Michael Zak

www.grandoldpartisan.com


Posted by: Michael Zak on August 5, 2010 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

On Balloon Juice, we regularly refer to the current group using the name "Republicans" as the the "Confederate or Confederacy Party," as that group and those sympathizing with it have jumped through the "Southern Strategy."

And don't think they will not get around to going after African-Americans.

The sad thing is that economic hard times always are periods where Nationalist/Xenophobe rightis parties flourish. Italy post WWI. Germany with the Depression. The Right wrecked the 3rd Republic in France before WWII. In the U.S., partly due to Vietnam, but the percieved rough economic times of the 1970s when compared to the sixties and fifties, led to the coming of Ronald Reagan. Obama's neo-liberalism, and his comfort with Tim Geithner and Larry Summers Finance interest driven economic policies means a loss opportunity to launch a 2d New Deal, the hope and idealism of that effort combatted the anger and fear which we all have in our hearts and which dark forces wish to channel.

Posted by: sherparick on August 5, 2010 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

E.J. Dionne: Honestly, I thought that our politics could not get worse....

E.J., my friend, just when you think there is no line left of civility, good taste or just simple human decency to cross, today's GOP will find a way to cross it; indeed, to trample it in its headlong rush into history's gutter. Let's hope they get there sooner rather than later.

Posted by: electrolite on August 5, 2010 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

Don't know if the best argument to use against repealing part of the 14th Amendment is "How could Republicans want to mess with something enacted in the nineteenth century?". How many of us would love to see the 2nd Amendment clarified?

Posted by: wildone on August 5, 2010 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

The RNC has a "Political Achievements" page on its website, and oddly enough, it touts "Republicans Passed the 14th Amendment" as one of the party's proudest accomplishments. -- Steve Benen

Well.. that makes the 14th Amendment theirs. Theirs to give and theirs to take away. No? Aren't they just like God (or the magical golden fish or whatever)?

Posted by: exlibra on August 5, 2010 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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