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Belmont Club

Doppelganger

April 8th, 2009 - 11:50 pm

Reuters describes the start of debate on “immigration reform”. This is a subject on which the sparks will fly. The Pew Research underscored to degree to which the middle political ground is vanishing rapidly. “For all of his hopes about bipartisanship, Barack Obama has the most polarized early job approval ratings of any president in the past four decades. The 61-point partisan gap in opinions about Obama’s job performance is the result of a combination of high Democratic ratings for the president — 88% job approval among Democrats — and relatively low approval ratings among Republicans (27%).” What may be “immigration reform” to some will be perceived as “open borders” by others.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama plans to start addressing the thorny issue of immigration reform this year, including the search for a path to legalize the status of millions of illegal immigrants, The New York Times reported on Wednesday, quoting a presidential aide. … Two years ago, Obama, then a Democratic senator, backed immigration reform proposed by former President George W. Bush that sought tougher border controls and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Bush’s fellow Republicans in the U.S. Congress killed the proposal.

During his campaign for the White House, Obama pledged to support immigration reform. He received strong backing from Hispanics in the November election.

“Opponents, mainly Republicans, say they will seek to mobilize popular outrage against any effort to legalize unauthorized immigrant workers while so many Americans are out of jobs,” the Times said.

When Fidel Castro says to the Congressional Black Caucus members: ‘How can we help President Obama?’ that message gets decoded in two distinct ways, depending on the political codebook provided. One set of keys translates this message as “hope and change is working”. The other cleartext is “Castro is rooting for his boy”. Whichever way it goes, one thing is invariant: the disagreement on the desirability of the message which is reflected in the Pew Report statistics.

The problem goes back further than the current election cycle. In 2004, an SF Gate article attributed what it described as the increasing polarization of US politics to the willingness of conservatives “to be lied to” and a reluctance to let even the smallest voice of conscience speak. Not only do the political sides have different perceptions of the present, they have radically varying versions of history.

Here’s what I think most infuriates liberals. They are up against a Republican opposition that has shown no comparable willingness to risk party unity on a matter of conscience — nothing that compares to the sacrifice liberals were willing to make over civil rights and Vietnam. Republicans have had no difficulty swallowing episodes like McCarthyism and Watergate. Indeed, the relentless effort to impeach Bill Clinton was largely retaliation for what conservatives still see as the “persecution” of poor Richard Nixon. Others (like Ann Coulter) are now toiling to rehabilitate Joe McCarthy, including his charge that liberals are traitors. And Ronald Reagan went to his grave this year all but officially pardoned by Republicans for Iran-Contra, the most blatant violation of constitutional government in American history.

We have yet to see any sizable group of Republicans who will admit to a single moral blemish, let alone display a willingness to defect. Hardly surprising, then, that Bush supporters display no discomfort over a war that liberals see as an obvious hoax. Bush’s political base has become so ideologically entrenched that it is willing to offer his administration a blank ethical check.

The question then is not only what they both have in common but whether the gap between the sides will ever begin to shrink, instead of grow as the Pew statistics suggest. Where will it end? Or maybe it’s only just begun.

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