If President Obama and his remaining Democratic allies get their way, border security may become a new third rail of American politics. He surely won’t touch it except to use it as a wedge issue, and if state governments take any action to deal with it, he has shown that he’ll use the full power of the federal government to compel them to stop. That’s what the Justice Department’s lawsuit against Arizona is all about. If Republicans speak out on the issue, the Democrats will slap them with the “racist” canard, with Obama himself leading the way. And this is in spite of the fact that the border is a national security problem.
It’s life and death issue because while Washington plays politics there is a very bloody war raging in northern Mexico, right across the Texas-Mexico border. The latest: According to the Brownsville (TX) Herald, city residents are still on edge a few days after a major street battle in Matamoros left 47 dead:
A cloud of uncertainty remains over Matamoros as threats of violence continue to disrupt everyday life, four days after the Mexican military killed the head of the Gulf Cartel after a lengthy firefight.
Officials say that southbound traffic into the Mexican city had slowed to a trickle after widespread gunfire over the weekend left an unknown death toll that is still creating controversy.
As a result of the shootouts, the Mexican military announced Friday night the death of Antonio Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen, the man they considered the head of the Gulf Cartel.
Since then, the residents of Matamoros have been living in fear, expecting additional violence and with some of them fleeing the city.
This is just the latest in a string of hyper-violent clashes and attacks that have occurred along the border in recent weeks. In late October, for instance, there were running battles in Mexican cities near Laredo, Texas:
NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico – Mexican soldiers battled gunmen in two cities across the border from Texas on Wednesday, prompting panicked parents to pull children from school and factories to warn workers to stay inside. Assailants in a third city threw a grenade at an army barracks.
The U.S. Consulate in Nuevo Laredo warned American citizens to stay indoors. The statement said there were reports of drug gangs blocking at least one intersection near the consulate in the city across from Laredo, Texas.
The local city government and witnesses reported several more blockades — a new tactic that has emerged in northeastern Mexico, where violence has soared this year amid a split between the Gulf and Zetas drug gangs.
The battles have become so commonplace and so deadly that Texans living in Laredo, once accustomed to crossing into Nuevo Laredo for shopping, dining, and even the inexpensive medical care available there, have either stopped going at all, or if they do cross, they don’t stay any longer than absolutely necessary. With bullets whizzing across the Rio Grande into El Paso from gun battles on the Mexican side, it’s only a matter of time before one of these gunfights crosses into Texas.
The battles’ impact on the Mexican media has been far more profound, as this story from August makes clear:
Two weeks ago, Mexican soldiers clashed here with drug cartel gangsters in running gun battles that lasted five hours. The outlaws hijacked vehicles, including a bus, for use as barricades and battering rams. Terrified residents scrambled for safety. At least a dozen people were killed, including bystanders. Children were wounded in the crossfire.
Not a single word about it appeared in the local news media.
Nuevo Laredo has three television news channels, four daily newspapers and at least five radio stations that broadcast news, but every outlet ignored the biggest story of the year. Nuevo Laredo is not an isolated village but the busiest city along the U.S.-Mexico border, a vital U.S. trade partner with a population of 360,000, professional sports teams, universities and an international airport.
Fearing for their lives and the safety of their families, journalists are adhering to a near-complete news blackout, under strict orders of drug smuggling organizations and their enforcers, who dictate — via daily telephone calls, e-mails and news releases — what can and cannot be printed or aired.
“We are under their complete control,” said a veteran reporter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Editors and managers of news organizations who agreed to speak with the Washington Post insisted that the interviews take place away from their offices, at back tables in empty bars. “The cartels have eyes and ears inside our company,” one editor said.
This death of the free press sounds like something we would hear about coming from southern Lebanon, not northern Mexico.
Looking a little farther to the south, the world may soon learn that Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez has a major role in cocaine trafficking. I’ll give you one guess as to where that cocaine network delivers. Couple that with the possible presence of Hezbollah in Venezuela, and you have the makings of a very serious situation. Yet Obama enjoys warmer relations with the dictator Chavez than with the elected governor of Texas.
So with all of this going on, it bears discussing why Obama appears to be choosing to turn the border into an untouchable, and therefore unsolvable, issue. There are two answers, and they’re related. From his earliest days in community organizing, Obama and his far left allies have seen a coalition of aggrieved minority groups as the key to social revolution — the “fundamental transformation” that he heralded during the 2008 campaign. That coalition depends on racial polarization, and arguments over border security offer the opportunity to polarize. The second answer is the shifting demographics of the border states, Texas in particular, which have been accelerated by the open border. If trends continue on their present course, Hispanics become the state’s majority within a decade or two. Democrats have openly hung their electoral fortunes in Texas on that shift, as opposed to tax issues or jobs or anything that most citizens, Hispanic and otherwise, care about in the here and now. It’s also in spite of the fact that Hispanics tend to self-identify as conservative, while voting Democratic for mostly historic reasons: father and grandfather voted Democrat. Arguments over border security give the Democrats the opportunity to play up the most inflammatory rhetoric on the pro-security side, while downplaying the very real security issues that persist and are worsening (while minting new Democratic voters along the way). They take those opportunities every time they can. That’s what Obama’s “punish their enemies” line prior to the midterms was all about.
There is some reason for optimism that the Obama strategy won’t work, or at least that its effectiveness shouldn’t be taken for granted and that it can be countered effectively. Republican Rep.-elect Quico Canseco won in southwest Texas’ 23rd Congressional District on Nov 2 by emphasizing two issues among his top three: jobs and border security (repealing ObamaCare was the third). He picked up nearly half the Hispanic vote. In a speech in San Antonio this week, Canseco emphasized that wherever he campaigned, Hispanic voters expressed frustration that while they were often third, fourth, and fifth generation Americans who had worked hard for everything they had, illegal aliens could slip across the border without incurring any penalties — and could access the social services that citizens have long paid for. They also expressed frustration that Washington didn’t seem to understand or care just how dangerous the border region has become.
But the Democrats are desperate now. Their policies have earned them a historic beat-down nationally. Ideologues like Obama aren’t deterred by setbacks; in fact, they’re often inspired to become even more creatively destructive when voters reject them. So Obama’s administration will continue to pursue the lawsuit against Arizona, and will take every chance it gets to play the border politically but not practically, and turn it into America’s next third rail issue.
All of this is building now and will be very relevant next year when the new legislatures convene. The Texas lege, for instance, will be the most conservative the state has had in at least 50 years. Among its top issues will be border security, along with the state’s budget hole, redistricting, and voter ID (which is also related to border security). So Texans can expect the same administration that has deployed the EPA against them to work as hard as it can to keep the border porous and ever more dangerous, to polarize Texans around a life-and-death national security issue and play up the hottest rhetoric to emphasize and inflame divisions along racial lines. Other states with new GOP-controlled legislatures and governors can expect the same. After November 2, making the border a third rail issue by polarizing it may be the Democrats’ only hope.