Nativist GOP Doomed By Anti-Amnesty Vote?

Over the weekend, the Times covered the fallout from Bush's failed amnesty-for-illegal immigration bill, finding that the GOP has doomed itself among Hispanics by its harsh talk radio rhetoric, while devoting space to the disappointment of illegal immigrants and Mexicans who want to be, and interviewing two of the few conservative activiststhat actually supported the bill without apparently talking to the myriad conservative activistsaligned against it.

Jennifer Steinhauer's Sunday piece"After Bill's Fall, G.O.P. May Pay in Latino Votes"argued: "But the bill's demise may have greatly damaged the party's ability to meet its enduring goal of attracting a large percentage of the growing number of Hispanic voters - thousands of whom are ostensibly in line with the party on a host of other issues, said many Republican lawmayers, consultants and Hispanic voters."


"In some cases, views of the bill were formed more along regional than party lines, with unlikely allies like businesses interests and immigrants' rights groups. Its champion was a conservative president.

"Yet in terms of the politics of perception, Hispanics may have been deeply alienated by the heated rhetoric that wound around the axle of the debate, most of it stemming from a few Republican opponents and the loud echo chamber of talk radio."

Pro-bill activist Linda Chavez was Steinhauer's first source and was quoted twice in the story. "'There may be some short-term gain from this,' said Linda Chavez, who served in the Reagan administration and is now chairwoman of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a conservative public policy group. 'But in the long term, it is disastrous for the Republican Party.'"


"But the party saw only about 25 percent of Hispanic voters come its way in the midterm elections last year, an alarming trend for the Republicans looking at 2008. Many Republicans fear that loss of essentially half their market share, though they were not willing to say so on the record."

On Saturday, Robert Pear's "Failure of Senate Immigration Bill Can Be Lesson for Congress, Experts Say" contained some of his typical labeling bias.

"Conservative Republican senators, along with the talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, welcomed the result as evidence of a vibrant democracy in which lawmakers had heeded public opinion.

"'When the rubber hit the road, they listened to you,' Mr. Limbaugh told listeners.

"Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican who led opposition to the bill, said, 'Senators heard the voices of their constituents and voted accordingly.'

"When the Senate scuttled the bill on Thursday, after three weeks of debate, supporters said lawmakers had caved in to hateful, nativist, xenophobic sentiments whipped up by conservative talk radio.

Pear at least summarized the arguments made by opponents: "It was not just anger over a provision, which some have called amnesty for illegal immigrants, that sank the bill. Skepticism about the competence of the government was also a factor. Lawmakers repeatedly noted the slow federal response to Hurricane Katrina and the government's inability to issue passports on time."

Randal Archibold and others combined for Saturday's big front-page compilation from across the country (and across the border as well), "Bill Dies, Views Divide and Immigrants Work On."

Julia Preston's short entry profiled Tamar Jacoby of the Manhattan Institute, one of the few conservatives who supported Bush's immigration bill. By contrast, none of the conservative activists (or bloggers) who successfully lobbied against the amnesty bill were interviewed by the Times (some were quoted), even though their side actually won the debate in the Senate.

"Broken Dreams, Broken Families" was the subhead over James McKinley's short piece from Mexico (!), which put the onus on America to solve the economic plight of Mexicans.

"Residents here are used to promises of change in United States immigration laws that never pan out, just as they are accustomed to being separated from family members and to lining up at money-transfer agencies to collect remittances from far-flung relatives.

"'It's the same that they have always done - they say they will do it but they don't,' said René Leon, as he left a Western Union office where he had picked up some money wired by his brothers in New York. 'It's a game to them.'"

Why Mexico isn't taking care of its own citizens is not addressed.

"Palemon Gomez, a local hotel owner, said this town of 11,000 about 125 miles southeast of Mexico City had been watching the Senate immigration bill's fortunes with a mix of fear and hope. Many residents have relatives in the United States who would have benefited from it.

"'There were a lot of people betting that they were going to get their residency papers through this law,' Mr. Gomez said. 'If they had approved this law, the whole world would be happy.'"

Saturday's lead editorial, "The Grand Collapse," apart from the usual overheated liberal rhetoric, dishonestly implied that only mean old Republicans were behind the amnesty bill's collapse.

"The defeat of immigration reform in the Senate this week was appalling, not so much because an ambitious bill died, but because of how stubbornly, to the bitter end, the process remained disconnected from reality. The bill crumpled on the Senate floor on Thursday in a procedural vote, with two-thirds of Republicans swarming to kill it. They shrouded their act with the same rhetorical distortions and ritual incantations - death to amnesty! - that have polluted the debate all along."

And one-third of Democrats, the Times didn't bother to add, including such rock-ribbed conservatives as Sen. Tom Harkin (with a rating of 9 out of 100 from the American Conservative Union) and the Socialist Bernie Sanders (7 out of 100), who caucuses with the Democrats.