I probably owe Sarah Palin a bouquet. The first column I ever wrote was about her. That was almost two years ago — right around the time when John McCain introduced her to the world as his running mate.
She was fresh and inexperienced like I was. We were a natural fit.
Now, four semesters and many more punch-lines later, I can do little but grudgingly acknowledge her as the runaway star of my bi-weekly musings.
I couldn’t help it. She is, in no small way, the ideological trendsetter for the G.O.P., the Tea Party and Fox News right now. Thus, even when her name fades from the headlines, her influence on contemporary political discourse in America is immense.
But nowhere has her influence been more profound — or more heartbreaking — than in instigating the King Lear-esque descent of the once-noble John McCain.
Like many places, McCain’s home state of Arizona is experiencing a renaissance among the lunatic fringe. And, like many conservative politicians, McCain is experiencing considerable pressure to throw in with them.
So McCain, amidst a tough Congressional race with conservative talk radio host J.D. Hayworth, threw his support behind a highly controversial immigration bill just hours before Gov. Jan Brewer signed off on it last week.
Essentially, the bill mandates that police demand proof of citizenship from anybody who falls under their “reasonable suspicion” of being an illegal immigrant. Failure to present immigration documents will be a crime for which one is detained until one’s immigration status is ascertained by federal agents.
In addition, the bill makes it a crime in itself to be an undocumented worker on American soil, which means that police would be obligated to question people who are not engaging in any suspicious or criminal behavior beyond “looking un-American.”
In a state that borders with Mexico and has an estimated 450,000 undocumented workers — and nearly two million documented Hispanic residents — it is not hard to imagine what sort of people will overwhelmingly be suspected of being foreign criminals.
President Barack Obama has already spoken out against the bill, suggesting that it could damage police-community relations if immigrants feel less inclined to co-operate with police for fear of being deported, and that it threatens “to undermine basic notions of fairness.”
No kidding. The bill is “fair” in the sort of way that the treatment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War was fair.
As such, the bill will probably be contested in the federal courts. Firstly, immigration reform is a federal matter. More importantly, many critics, including the President, believe that the bill may violate the Constitution.
Superficially, it is quite ironic that self-described “Constitutional Conservatives” who have spent over a year yammering about Obama’s plot to revoke American liberty would rally behind a piece of legislation that, in practice, can do little but violate civil rights.
But this is not really about “reforming immigration” or “lowering crime,” as the bill’s proponents claim.
If it was, the bill would probably take the holistic (rather than litigious) approach that McCain himself advocated in 2007: “We need to come up with a humane, moral way to deal with those people who are here, most of whom are not going anywhere,” he said. “No matter how much we improve border security, no matter the penalties we impose on their employers, no matter how seriously they are threatened with punishment, we will not find most of them, and we will not find most of their employers.”
Instead, this is at its core a racial issue. Statistically, America is becoming less white. Arizona, for example, is forecast to be a “minority majority” state (fewer white people than non-white people) in the next 10 to 15 years. And some white people don’t like that.
Twenty years ago Chuck D., leader of the seminal rap group Public Enemy, called this phenomenon the “fear of a black planet.” Perhaps we can update this today as “fear of a brown planet” or, more broadly, “fear of a non-white planet.”
Certainly, it is fear of a black White House.
And McCain now knows, as Palin has from the get-go, that fear-mongering gets people to the polls.
But is a Senate seat in Arizona really worth sacrificing your principles?
Sadly, it seems so. McCain has bought in to this last-ditch effort to homogenize America.
And that homogenization is not only physical, but ideological as well.
Just ask Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), who is accused of being a “blackmailed homosexual” because of his recent bipartisan work in the Senate.
Or ask Colin Powell, who is all but despised by the Palin-G.O.P. after speaking out against her and endorsing Obama in the 2008 election.
Or ask David Frum, once a George W. Bush speechwriter and premier conservative columnist, who lost his job at a conservative thinktank after criticizing the Republican reaction to Obama’s health care bill.
At the risk of making a Star Trek reference, Sarah Palin’s takeover of the conservative movement is Borg-like.
Except it is reason, not resistance, that is futile.
And it is only fitting that Obama, a president as dispassionately logical as a Vulcan, should face such an adversary.
I look forward to tuning in next season.
Cody Gault is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He may be reached at email@example.com. Stakes Is High appears alternate Fridays this semester.