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Politics and Policy .
So, Senate Republicans have rejected Lamar Alexander as Minority Whip, and selected Trent Lott of Mississipi instead, by a vote of 25 to 24.

You might remember that Trent Lott resigned from the position of Majority Leader of the Senate after publication of remarks he made in a celebration of former Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday:

"I want to say this about my state (Mississippi): When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."


Apparantly “these problems” he was referring to, was the “uppity” claims of African Americans for equal rights under the Constitution and enforcement of the Civil Rights Act. Lott defended his comments, saying, in effect, he was just trying to say nice things about an old man.

For those that might not recall, Strom Thurmond was a strong proponant of segregation througout the middle part of the 20th century, and an opponant of integration and affirmative action. In 1948 Strom Thurmond ran for President under a third party ticket called the “Dixiecrats”, consisting of southerners who were disenchanted with the nascient leanings of the Democratic Party towards civil rights, but could not bring themselves to vote for Republicans, known in the south as the Party of Reconstruction.

Lott himself has made a reputation for himself in this area. As a Congressman, he has voted against the continuation of the Voting Rights Act and the establishment of the Martin Luther King national holiday, and has been a member of some controversial conservative organizations. Source:

So, just yesterday the Republicans were loudly criticising Murtha’s nomination in the 2nd seat for the Senate Democrats as being contrary to Pelosi’s call for higher ethics in Congress. Apparantly they are referring to Murtha being implicated in the Abscam scandall a quarter century ago, where he was offered but rejected a bribe from undercover FBI agents, but didn’t strongly close the door to considering it in the future.

So apparantly the infighting for control of the Republican party after the 2006 election disaster is over. The “moderate reformers” who wanted to push the Republican party back towards the center, and to try to include more racial minorities within their ranks, has lost. Instead, the ones who argue that the only mistake they made in 2006 was “not being Republican enough”, echoing Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing extremists, have won. In the course of that movement, any attempt to woe minority voters has been rejected. We can expect a return to a renewed, and perhaps more forcefull, effort to create divisions among the American people, as the Republicans try to re-coup their “base” by creating fear among the white middle class at the prospect of being overcome by minorities and illegal immigrants.

But the immigration issue created a scism within the Republican Party. No matter how much Bush genuinly desires a comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, the Republicans were too split between themselves to put one together. On the one hand, lots of Republican candidates (both incumbent and challengers) hoped to use the fear of illegal immigrants as a wedge issue against the Democrats. But the business and agricultural interests which provide the financial base of the Republican party need the cheap and compliant work force provided by illegal immigration to enhance their profits. (Not only do illegal immigrants work for far less than others, but they hold down wages and benefits generally by simply being available as an “option”, and unstated threat to legal workers who might otherwise push for higher wages and benefits).

So the result in 2006 was the Republican Congress passed legislation which took a “position” against illegal immigration (authorizing building a fence across portions totalling about 60 miles of the Mexican border), but intentionally gave it no teeth. No money was appropriated to pay for it, it only covers a small portion of the border, and no additional agents will be hired to patrol the fence. As Jay Leno said, it’s like building a 360 mile bridge to Hawaii – a symbolic start, but it hardly has any real impact.

Now that they are in the minority, the Republicans can avoid taking any position on illegal immigration, and criticize the Democrats in anything they do on that issue. Steps which were seriously considered by the Republicans in Congress a couple of months ago (amnesty, guest worker programs, expedited citizenship programs, credits for social security taxes already paid) will be criticized as “crazy’ and “treasonous” by the Republicans, and collected as campaign fodder for the 2008 election season. As a result, the problem may well be put off until after the 2008 elections. The Republicans will complain that the Democratic Congress “did nothing” to solve the problem, but they won’t get as much traction from that issue as they would if the Democrats actually voted on any of the serious proposals for immigration reform.

Of course, this will only further alianate the Hispanic voter block from the Republican party, but apparantly the Republicans have decided that they will never get those votes, so there is no use in trying for them. The party is apparantly trying to re-energize its base among white, conservative, middle-class voters from the South, even if it excludes others. The problem for the Republicans, however, is that in the long term this is a losing strategy. The numbers of white-anglo-saxon-protestants in this country continues to decline in the face of immigrants (both legal and illegal) with much higher birth rates. Illegal immigrants may not be able to vote, but that is not true of their children who are born in this country. If the Republicans keep campaigning against those racial groups, then their voting base will shrink every year.

(Posted by RHP6033)
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