On the issue of immigration, there is little difference between conservatives and extremists. Both camps have come to greatly admire Sheriff Joe Arpaio ‘«Ű America's toughest sheriff. To this Arizona lawman, there is nothing wrong with racially profiling red-brown peoples and communities And of course, his supporters applaud his every antic, including the recent public spectacle of humiliating some 220 migrants in Phoenix by parading them in public.
This is arguably why the GOP is dying. Arpaio has become the Bull Conner of our times. For conservative Republicans to embrace him ‘«Ű akin to how extremists embrace him ‘«Ű gives the nation a clear message: the GOP is more interested in preserving its outdated ideology and (racial) heritage, than in expanding its base.
As the economy continues its uncontrolled convulsions, the nation also continues to convulse with an increasing number of ugly cases of racial bigotry and acts of violence against immigrants.
Indeed, this era is now marked by the rise of the New American Bigot. The old one has undergone an extreme makeover; save for lawman Arpaio, the New American bigot is no longer the Aryan extremist or unrepentant segregationist. George Wallace is out and CNN's jolly Lou Dobbs is in.
Don't misunderstand: Racial supremacists and ultra-nationalists are up in arms because of President Obama's historic election. Many are on a gun-buying shopping spree. Others are prophesizing doomsday.
However, among the nation's mainstream body politic, outward displays of racial bigotry are generally now frowned upon. The GOP has a new face, which is but a mask. Witness the election of Michael Steele to head the Republican Party, or what has now become America's far-right, anti-immigrant party. Steele's mission is to convince people generally not attracted to his party that they are now welcome under the GOP's shrinking white tent. With Obama in office, the chance of siphoning off black voters is nil.
Theoretically, sizeable inroads could be made from the expanding Latino/Latina electorate. Yet with racially tinged xenophobia rampant within the GOP, the chances of making inroads there don't look good. Unquestionably, xenophobia is also present within Democratic circles; it's just not trumpeted as loud.
The GOP's inability to attract new voters has little to do with an image or perception problem. As long as their views come wrapped in patriotism, legalese and law-and-order, they believe that their views are appealing to all. Outward displays of racial bigotry are out, but one exception is allowed: "illegal aliens."
Purportedly, the objection to them is not directed at any one racial or ethnic group. It is strictly directed at those who have broken the law; at the brown hordes that have crossed the Mexican border illegally (the Canadian border is okay); at those who refuse to assimilate into the American way of life; and at those who refuse to learn good English (never mind former president Bush).
In their fervor, they forget that almost half of "illegal aliens" do not enter the country from Mexico. The other half enter legally, but overstay their visas. They also forget that refusing to assimilate or to speak English is not an indicator of legality or illegality. Besides, they are seemingly unaware that there are no laws that compel anyone to assimilate (particularly their conservative or extreme right-wing values.)
The "illegal alien"-obsessed Lou Dobbs does not take a backseat to brazen xenophobes such as Arpaio. Dobb's daily rants have made it respectable for Republicans to clamor for a gated, checkpoint society. Dobbs and most of his talking head counter-parts are anything but jolly, speaking with the same venomous tongue. On the airwaves and on the Internet, racial extremism, xenophobia, scapegoating and dehumanization are part of the daily soup. Both extremists and conservatives hold the views that the fewer red-brown peoples in this country, the better‘«™ the less Spanish spoken, the better.
The New American Bigot has a new face, and it, too, is but a mask ‘«Ű a Janus-faced mask.