Let’s Not Ignore the Overt Calls for Violence from the League of the South

Since FebruaryPRA has been covering the emergence of theocratic, white nationalist candidates from both major parties running for public office in Maryland. Now, two of them, Joe Delimater and Michael Peroutka, are, respectively, the Republican candidates for sheriff and county council. Peroutka, a wealthy attorney and 2004 Constitution Party presidential candidate, has a good chance at winning in his historically Republican council district. The controversy over his candidacy has become hot in the media and in state politics—but there is still an elephant in the room.

Leading Democrats, Republicans, and editorial writers in Maryland have called on Peroutka to disavow the neo-Confederate agenda of, and his personal involvement in, the white nationalist, secessionist League of the South. (Peroutka was a member of the board of directors of the League in 2013, and remains a defiantly proud member.). A conservative columnist recently worried that Peroutka will be a drag on the national Republican Party in 2014.  Others have called on the GOP to decide if it will stand by and allow Peroutka to win his race for county council in his historically Republican district.

Michael Peroutka. Photo via The American View.

That is a useful discussion.  But there is an eerie silence about other obvious aspects of the vision of the League, Peroutka, and his closest religious and political associates.  The fact is that they are involved not in an eccentric nostalgia for retrograde racial politics and wishful thinking about secession of the Southern states so much as a revolutionary vision of theocratic, white nationalist violence.

Peroutka certainly holds views that are far beyond anything that could be described as “conservative.” But let’s consider the views of his close friends and allies in the League of the South, the organization he used to lead and which he refuses to distance himself.  For example, his friend and ally Michael Hill, the president of the Alabama-based League of the South has, among other things, called for the formation of death squads to take out American government officials and journalists and for white men of all ages to become “citizen soldiers” in a great modern defense of archaic notions of Christendom. 

On July 15, just a week after Peroutka’s upset win in the primary for the GOP nomination for Anne Arundel County Council, League president Michael Hill published an essay on the organization’s web site.  Hill’s essay advocated for the deployment of death squads in the context of guerrilla civil war, in which “the lines between the military and the political, economic, cultural, and social are blurred past the point of recognition.”  This essay, titled “A Bazooka in Every Pot,” describes this effort as featuring “three-to-five-man” units with a hair-raising mission: “The primary targets will not be enemy soldiers,” Hill wrote.  “Instead, they will be political leaders, members of the hostile media, cultural icons, bureaucrats, and other of the managerial elite without whom the engines of tyranny don’t run.”

On July 25, Hill followed up with an essay in which he calls on the young men of “Christendom” to become “citizen-soldiers” in the battles against the tyranny of our time.  He sees himself and his comrades as part of a long line of such men, invoking historic battles with Islamic armies going back to the Battle of Tours in the 8th century.  His role models for warriors for Christendom, however, are the White Westerners who fought against Black liberation movements in Southern Africa in the 1970s.  “So if Western men in past times were willing to fight for their civilization in remote areas of the world,” he asked, “shouldn’t we expect them to be just as willing to fight for that civilization here at its very heart—the South?”

“The traditions and truths of Western Christendom are anathema to the [Obama] regime,” he concluded.  “The tyrants’ regime and Western Christendom cannot co-exist—that is not possible.  One must win and the other must disappear.  It is indeed the ultimate Zero Sum game.”

In his 2102 keynote address at the League national conference, Peroutka declared:  “I don’t disagree with Dr. Hill at all that this regime [apparently referring to the Obama administration] is beyond reform, and I think that’s an obvious fact, and I agree with him.”  Then he added a glimpse of his own theocratic vision for what might come next:

“However, I agree that when you secede, or however the destruction of the rubble of this regime takes place and how it plays out, you’re going to need to take a biblical world view, and apply it to civil law and government. That’s what you’re still going to need to do.  We’re going to have to have this foundational information in the hearts and minds of the people or else liberty won’t survive the secession either.”

The Past is Prologue

Michael Hill epitomizes the escalation of the open expression of violent ideologies, as I discussed in an essay in The Public Eye in June titled “Rumblings of Theocratic Violence.” One of the featured characters was David Whitney, who leads a small church in Pasadena, Maryland, and is Peroutka’s pastor and business partner in the Institute on the Constitution.  Whitney has justified the assassination of abortion providers—calling it “biblically justifiable homicide.”  He has also called for establishing theocratic governance under Biblical law; restricting citizenship to Christians of the right sort; forming citizen militias to resist governmental tyranny; and leading imprecatory prayer against the White House staff—including, presumably, against President Obama.  Whitney is the chaplain of the Maryland chapter of the League of the South.

On July 8, Peroutka e-mailed Hill asking him to help get League members to support his campaign.  (Hill posted the e-mail under the headline: “A political victory for us in Maryland!”)  Peroutka wrote, “I ask you to ask the membership for prayers and for whatever financial support they can muster. I am grateful for our friendship and for the work of LS. [League of the South].”  (Apparently the members came through, because the League has already sponsored telephone polls in his district.)

Peroutka and his running mate, GOP candidate for county sheriff Joe Delimater, provide the League a measure of democratic legitimacy for its anti-democratic, revolutionary aims.  But Hill’s vision of armed resistance to the alleged tyranny of the state and federal government and his open call for covert teams of assassins make Michael Peroutka’s claim to oppose racism seem like a small bit of political spin in a gathering political storm of far greater consequence.

From the Florida League of the South’s Facebook page, posted on May 25.

Unsurprisingly, the League is a political home for other would-be violent revolutionaries.  Former Green Beret Michael Tubbs, for example, was a League leader in Florida when Intelligence Report, the magazine of the Southern Poverty Law Center, revealed in 2004 that Tubbs was actually a convicted “Aryan” terrorist.  Tubbs had been arrested with arms, explosives, and a hit list that included newspapers, television stations, and businesses owned by Jews and Blacks.  As the SPLC’s profile on the League reports, “When these embarrassing facts were revealed, Hill and other league leaders allowed Tubbs to stay on, saying he’d paid his debt to society.”

So far, the political community has been eerily silent about the explicitly violent intentions of the emerging Peroutka faction of American public life.  Hill’s recent call for the formation of death squads has been reported only by Jonathan Hutson at the Huffington Post and Van Smith at the Baltimore City Paper.  This explicit and specific call for violence is part of several related trends involving ideologies and actions related to the ideas of nullification and secession, as well as related ideologies of theocratic violence among elements of the Christian Right.  We are seeing one manifestation of these trends on vivid display in Anne Arundel County. Some of us, that is.

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Into the Whirlwind

Walter B. Reeves speaks at Emory University

Walter B. Reeves speaks at Emory University

The emergence of the Tea Party and its de facto takeover of the GOP have been a shock to many mainstream pundits and politicos. The domination of Tea Party ideology is complete enough to have forced a partial government shutdown, raised the threat of a default on the nation’s debt obligations, and precipitated a potential Constitutional crisis. For many, the great mystery is how this came to pass.

As someone who has spent years researching and organizing against the Far Right, for me the answer is simple and unsurprising. This outcome has been brewing for decades. The research conducted by the Georgia-based Neighbors Network in the late-1980s and the 1990s provides a localized snapshot of a larger national dynamic. It was apparent from our work that the Far Right was operating with two distinct but related trends. The first was a revolutionary impulse that encouraged resorting to violence; the second was a long-term political effort to insinuate itself into the larger conservative movement. The first has received a fair amount of media attention. The second has passed largely unnoticed.

The revolutionary trend has been ascendant since the rise and fall of Robert Jay Mathews’s White-supremacist terrorist gang, The Order, in the mid-1980s. Mathews led the group through a campaign of violent crime—including armored car robbery, counterfeiting, and the murder of Denver, CO, talk show host Alan Berg—before dying in a shootout with federal agents on Whidbey Island, WA, in 1984. The first significant sign of the resurgence of this political trend came with the 1992 presidential campaign of Patrick Buchanan, whose base of support included not only the Religious Right but direct involvement by White supremacists.

At the same time, Georgia politics was being shaped by a cause dear to White supremacists: defending the use of the Confederate Battle Standard in the state’s flag. Gov. Zell Miller called for the removal of the Battle Standard. In response, Klansmen and the state Populist Party formed the Committee to Save Our State Flag, which was an early expression of the so-called Southern Heritage Movement. This controversy persisted through Miller’s tenure, from 1991 to 1999, as well as that of his successor, Gov. Roy Barnes. The issue provided a point of convergence between the Far Right and mainstream conservatives, playing a high-profile role in the 2003 election of Sonny Perdue, the first Republican governor in Georgia since the Reconstruction era.

Conservatives and the Far Right also found common ground in 1994, during the run-up to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The Republican-dominated Cobb County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution labeling the homosexual “lifestyle” as incompatible with community values. Cobb was slated to host an event for the Olympics, touching off a political firestorm. The episode’s long-term significance lay in its bringing together White supremacists, conservatives, and Christian Reconstructionists in a common, homophobic front. It may well have inspired the subsequent bombing of the Olympics by the right-wing terrorist Eric Rudolph.

The burgeoning militia movement in the mid-1990s provided yet another point of convergence for Georgia’s Far Right and mainstream conservatism. In Georgia, the movement held monthly mass gatherings at an upscale motel/conference center in Atlanta. Ostensibly for the purposes of information sharing and networking, these gatherings resembled a right-wing flea market, where various Far Right groups peddled their wares and White supremacists, anti-Semites, and theocrats rubbed shoulders with conservative Republicans.

What is remarkable about this period of ferment and convergence is the complete failure of Georgia’s GOP to repudiate the Far Right. Rather than pushing back against elements that were entering the party from the fringe, they pandered to them. Some even defended them as being unfairly smeared and persecuted. Notably, Sean Hannity, then a rising star of right-wing talk radio in the Atlanta market, adopted this line.

The Republican Party’s pandering created a welcoming environment for the Far Right. Given our ongoing federal crises, there is every reason to believe the dynamic we observed in Georgia has been replicated on the national level. The GOP establishment was confident it could control the Far Right elements that it tapped during the 1980s and 1990s. It believed it could practice the politics of resentment with impunity. The apocalyptic nihilism of the Tea Party has proven them catastrophically wrong. We may all pay the price.

Having sown the wind, they are reaping the whirlwind.


Walter B. Reeves, a native Georgian, is a researcher, writer, poet, activist, and trade unionist. He has fought extensively against the resurgent Ku Klux Klan. This article appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of The Public Eye.  Click here to read an extended interview with Walter Reeves by PRA associate fellow Spencer Sunshine.

EXPOSED: How the Right’s State-Based Think Tanks Are Transforming U.S. Politics



Two networks of conservative, state-level think tanks have matured rapidly over the past three decades. By crafting public policy, collaborating with Republican state legislators, and fostering new leadership for the Right, they have significantly shaped recent U.S. politics. And their work has only just begun.

***

 

Via the 2013 SPN Annual Meeting promo video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbyBqRKDLvc

Screencap of 2013 SPN Annual Meeting promo video, via Corey Burres

The Democratic Party’s wins in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, and its modest successes in recent Congressional elections, have obscured a series of setbacks for the party in the states. As National Journal put it, the GOP “wiped the floor with Democrats” in the 2010 midterm elections, setting a record in the modern era by picking up 680 seats in state legislatures. The next-largest harvest of legislative seats was the Democrats’ 628-seat gain in the Watergate-dominated election of 1974.[1]The 2010 landslide gave the GOP the upper hand in the subsequent Congressional redistricting process, allowing Republicans to tilt the playing field in their favor and shape U.S. elections for years to come. In the meantime, conservatives have used friendly, GOP-dominated state legislatures to ram their agenda through legislatures—in “red” states and even some states that lean “blue”—on a range of issues: imposing harsh voter restrictions in North Carolina, for example, and passing dramatic anti-labor legislation in Michigan.

The roots of this debacle go far deeper than one or two election cycles and cannot be explained by the normal ebb and flow in electoral fortunes of the two major parties. The seeds were actually sown in the late 1980s, when strategists in the conservative movement came to an important realization. If they were successful in their efforts to devolve much of federal policy-making authority to the states—a key goal of the “Reagan revolution”—they would need relevant resources to elaborate their vision, and the organizational capacity to implement it. The two networks of state-based think tanks that emerged from that realization amount to one of the great under-reported stories in modern American politics. We are just now seeing the implications of the networks’ work, and of the conservative strategists’ vision.

Though several Washington, D.C.-based think tanks were profoundly important in President Ronald Reagan’s administration, few state-level groups existed at the time. Reagan encouraged the creation of think tanks in state capitals, and two related networks of policy shops and advocacy groups emerged from this idea.[2] Both have become part of the deep infrastructure of the conservative movement, and they play a critical role in taking the movement’s agenda to the states, where a fierce battle over the role, size, and scope of government is playing out.

The State Policy Network (SPN) comprises think tanks that are modeled after the Heritage Foundation, in that they conduct research and make policy recommendations to government agencies and legislative bodies. SPN currently comprises 63 member organizations—at least one in each state. SPN members vigorously promote a “free market,” anti-labor agenda, and they are joined in this mission by dozens of conservative and libertarian groups with which they liaise, including national institutions like the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, Alliance for School Choice, Americans United for Life, and the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights.[3]

The second network comprises organizations that are modeled on the Family Research Council (FRC), one of the foundational organizations of the Christian Right that was, for several years, the public policy arm of Focus on the Family (FOF). These think tanks are called Family Policy Councils (FPCs), and they take policy research and political advocacy to state capitals the way the FRC does in Washington, D.C.[4] They focus primarily on reproductive rights, traditional “family values” (especially marriage), and, increasingly, religious liberty. This is in keeping with the agenda of the 2009 Christian Right manifesto, the Manhattan Declaration.[5]

Though the individual institutions tend to command our attention, the influence of the networks is much greater than the sum of their parts. Comprising part of the core infrastructure of the conservative movement, they create synergies by sharing information, resources, and best practices. These synergies allow even the smallest members to rely on the same research as the networks’ largest and best-endowed institutions. Crucially, they also equip the Right with a common set of talking points and understandings, even as the individual institutions maintain the flexibility to tailor their strategies to state-level circumstances.

“The states are our first and final frontiers of liberty,” an SPN video declares. “Just as the pioneers journeyed to the wild west to discover new frontiers and stake their claim for a new life, we must stake a claim for freedom for us and the generations yet to come. Moving the locus of power from DC to the 50 freedom frontiers requires fortitude, bold strategies and a network of equipped trailblazers.”[6]

Division of Labor

In a speech at the Heritage Foundation in 1989, Republican political operative Don Eberly outlined
how the networks would operate, explaining that there would be a business-oriented group (the Commonwealth Foundation) and a Christian Right group (the Pennsylvania Family Institute). “We have organized a leadership team,” he said, “that is implementing . . . the Pennsylvania Plan.” He explained that the Commonwealth Foundation, of which he was founding president, would function as the state-based equivalent of the Heritage Foundation, while the Pennsylvania Family Institute, where his wife Sheryl was on the board, would be the equivalent of the Family Research Council.

“We now have both economic and social issues coalitions on the state level that meet regularly and are developing agendas,” Eberly continued. “This September [1989], we had our first statewide conservative conference for local leaders and activists, patterned after [the Conservative Political Action Conference] in Washington. The conference, which will become an annual event, attracted 320 people from all across the state and sent shock waves throughout the political establishment.”[7] The conference is still staged annually and it has served as a model for similar conferences held elsewhere—for example, in North Carolina.[8]

The Pennsylvania Plan was a model for two incipient national networks of think tanks—one wing focusing on economic issues, the other primarily on social and cultural concerns—that would share a common free-market ideology and sometimes a common agenda. Initially, both Pennsylvania groups were substantially underwritten by right-wing philanthropist Richard Mellon Scaife and other “strategic funders” of the Right, as journalists called them at the time.

The State Policy Network was formed in 1992 to coordinate the activities of the business wing, and it was underwritten by South Carolina businessman Thomas Roe. A small predecessor—the Madison Group, which included Roe’s South Carolina Policy Council, Scaife’s Commonwealth Foundation, and the Independence Institute, underwritten by the Adolph Coors Foundation and other Coors interests—became the core of the SPN. Roe, Scaife, and Joseph Coors—the Colorado beer magnate who led his family into political prominence—were all major funders and board members of the Heritage Foundation at the time.[9]

In recent years, members and associates of the State Policy Network have been the recipients of massive infusions of cash that have come largely from secretive, donor-advised funds serving as financial funnels for individuals, corporations, and foundations. According to the Center for Public Integrity, Donors Trust and the related Donors Capital Fund have quietly funneled nearly $400 million from about 200 private donors (including the ubiquitous Koch brothers) to free-market causes since 1999. The Center also reported, in 2013, that Donors Trust had given $10 million to the SPN over the course of the previous five years, and that in 2012 “SPN used the money to incubate think tanks in Arkansas, Rhode Island, and Florida, where it hosted its yearly gathering in November.”[10]

An investigation by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) in November 2013 unearthed an internal list of SPN’s major funders for 2010. It included Donors Capital Fund and Donors Trust, as well as such major corporations as BMO Harris Bank, Microsoft, Facebook, and the tobacco companies Altria (formerly Phillip Morris) and Reynolds American.[11]

SPN spends about $5 million annually to support existing groups and help start-ups develop the management and leadership skills of their staff and board; recruit and mentor staff; teach strategic marketing and branding; and network with other think tanks to leverage knowledge and resources. Thomas Roe, SPN’s late founding chairman, wanted it that way. “We still do it today,” said Lawrence Reed, president emeritus of the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “It keeps us knowledgeable about what everyone else is doing, it keeps us talking, and it stops us from reinventing the wheel over and over again.”[12]

SPN member organizations have used this strategic capacity in the fight for a range of major initiatives, notably anti-labor legislation.[13] According to a 2011 report in Mother Jones, SPN’s affiliates have led the charge at the state level in the Republican Party’s “war on organized labor. They’re pushing bills to curb, if not eliminate, collective bargaining for public workers; make it harder for unions to collect member dues; and, in some states, allow workers to opt out of joining unions entirely but still enjoy union-won benefits. All told, it’s one of the largest assaults on American unions in recent history.”[14]

In Michigan, for example, the Mackinac Center made four policy recommendations to give unelected ‘emergency managers’ more power to terminate union contracts and fire municipal elected officials “in the name of repairing broken budgets,” Mother Jones reported. “All four ended up in Governor Rick Snyder’s ‘financial martial law,’ as one GOP lawmaker described it.”[15] A writer for Forbes called it “one of the most sweeping, anti-democratic pieces of legislation in the country,” investing Snyder with the power “not only to break up unions, but to dissolve entire local governments and place appointed “Emergency Managers” in their stead [emphasis in original].”[16] The legislation became law in March 2011.

Some SPN institutions are small but exert disproportionate influence by keeping a high media profile. Other institutions, like the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) and the Mackinac Center, have multimillion dollar budgets and large staffs, and they play an outsized role in state politics by partnering with other institutions, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Since 1975, ALEC has developed model, business-oriented legislation in cooperation with a national network of state legislators and began a more formal and coordinated relationship with SPN and member organizations beginning in the mid-2000s. A study by the Center for Media and Democracy found that two dozen SPN groups, including the SPN itself, are organizational members of ALEC and serve on one or more of its legislative task forces. CMD identified several areas of ALEC’s policy foci in which SPN members play a role: privatizing public education and public pension systems; rolling back environmental initiatives; disenfranchising people of color, the elderly, and students; and attacking workers’ rights.[17]

Several SPN members have shepherded bills through the process of becoming official ALEC “model” bills. For example, Arizona’s Goldwater Institute and the Mackinac Center were responsible for ALEC adopting five model bills targeting public-sector unions.[18]

According to an investigation by the Institute for Southern Studies, the Civitas Institute and the John Locke Foundation—SPN member organizations in North Carolina—published more than 50 articles, op-eds and blog posts fomenting unfounded fears of voter fraud. These helped catalyze passage of a strict photo ID law, an end to same-day registration, and a shorter early voting period in 2013.[19] The legislation will likely suppress turnout among African Americans and young people. The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit to block enforcement of key provisions of the law.[20]

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in many ways personifies how SPN provides infrastructure, develops personnel, and hatches ideas for the conservative movement. Prior to his election to the Senate in 2012, he served as a senior fellow with TPPF’s new Center for 10th Amendment Studies. In 2010, he co-authored a report that became the basis of ALEC’s model legislation to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).[21]

The SPN’s recent mixing of Tea Party activism (largely funded by the Koch brothers) with more buttoned-down business conservatism is not without its challenges. An SPN “ToolKit” featured on its web site in 2013, for example, urged members to avoid language that smacks of “extreme views,” advising: “Stay away from words like radical, nullify, or autonomy,” and especially “states’ rights.”[22]

Origins of a faux news network

The State Policy Network has now been developing and deepening its capacity—not only to do research and policy work, but also to absorb and integrate new projects—for more than two decades. At the same time, it has faced new challenges and taken advantage of new opportunities in an era of digital activism and new media.

SPN’s adaptability in the new era is illustrated by its development of a news network. Three dozen SPN affiliates now field their own “investigative reporters” on behalf of a recently created member, the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which describes its mission as “exposing government waste, fraud and abuse.”[23] It seeks to fill a void created by the loss of a third of the nation’s journalism jobs since 1992. The Center was created by the now-defunct Sam Adams Alliance, which began as a Tea Party organization and was folded into SPN.

SPN’s state news websites collectively produce Watchdog Wire, which publishes work by “citizen journalists.” As the website describes the project, “by covering stories in your local community that are otherwise ignored by the establishment media, you can make a difference!”[24] The Franklin Center claims that it “already provides 10 percent of all daily reporting from state capitals nationwide.”[25] The basis for the claim is unclear, but whatever its truth, it does speak to the Center’s ambitions.

The Sam Adams Alliance also separately created three websites modeled on Wikipedia: Judgepedia, Ballotpedia, and Sunshine Review. They offer right-wing analysis of (respectively) the judiciary, election issues, and governmental performance. These projects have since been folded into the Lucy Burns Institute, an SPN member based in Madison, WI.  Like many SPN organizations, it has extensive ties to the Tea Party and funding from the Koch brothers.[26]

The Franklin Center and the Lucy Burns Institute are part of a surge of recent development in SPN’s infrastructure that has expanded its capacity to influence both media and public policy, as well as the range of ways by which it carries out its mission. Donors Trust has funneled cash to both the Franklin Center and to many SPN affiliates for their “news” operations. Its $6.3 million donation to the Franklin Center constituted 95 percent of the Center’s revenue in 2011.[27]

This network has had some success. While some affiliates do little more than blog off of Associated Press stories, others feature established conservative journalists. In Oklahoma, the former editorial page editor of the Oklahoman newspaper, Patrick B. McGuigan, serves as the local bureau chief, and he has a weekly segment on the CBS affiliate in Oklahoma City, called Capitol Report. [28] And stories in the Pennsylvania Independent, a Franklin Center online publication supported by the Commonwealth Foundation, have been picked up by mainstream outlets, including the Philadelphia Inquirer.

To date, though, the network has shown little capacity to stand on its own and depends almost entirely on funding through Donors Trust. As of August 2013, the Pennsylvania Independent had only one ad—for the Commonwealth Foundation’s own campaign to privatize state-owned liquor stores.[29]

Building for the future

While the State Policy Network has mostly limited itself to the role of influencing public policy through the traditional work of think tanks—research, media work, and lobbying—the Family Policy Councils are more explicitly involved in mobilizing the Right’s grassroots base to become active in electoral politics.

There are 36 state FPCs, which typically have the word “family” in their names, such as the Massachusetts Family Institute, Louisiana Family Forum, and the Family Foundation of Virginia. Others are less obvious, bearing such names as the Center for Arizona Policy and the Christian Civic League of Maine, but they are all outgrowths of the original Reagan era plan to take the Christian Right’s agenda to the states.

A change in the federal tax law in 2004 required 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations to be less political than they had been, necessitating separately incorporated political action arms. As a result, FOF formed Focus on the Family Action, which later changed its name to CitizenLink for the sake of clarity.[30]

While the Family Research Council and its feisty spokesmen, Tony Perkins and Jerry Boykin, disproportionately make headlines, CitizenLink quietly cultivates the grassroots. Spending about $13 million annually (as of 2012), CitizenLink coordinates the work of the FPCs, ensuring accreditation and compliance and providing services to increase the capacity of the institutions to carry out their mission.[31] It also does candidate trainings and works primarily for Republicans in national elections. CitizenLink reportedly spent $2.6 million on independent expenditures in 2012, mostly on behalf of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.”[32]

The network has played an important role in the political development and subsequent raw political power of the Christian Right. Many of the older FPCs have been active for more than two decades, crafting an activist religious-political culture, affecting electoral outcomes, and ultimately developing the clout to influence legislation and policy outcomes on such matters as abortion and LGBTQ rights.

Indeed, FPCs have often been leading actors in the state-level battles over marriage equality. The Christian Civic League of Maine played a central role in the seesaw battle over same-sex marriage, which was endorsed by the legislature and repealed by the voters in 2009, then restored by a second referendum in 2012. The League’s executive director and one of its board members[33] launched a new political action committee, Protect Marriage Maine, to carry out the political organizing and advertising drive against the ballot initiative, collaborating closely with the National Organization for Marriage.[34] Such collaborations have been a hallmark of the FPCs from the earliest days.

An important trend in recent years, indicating the significance of the role of the FPCs in the wider Christian Right, has been the gradual adoption of the integrated, three-part agenda of the Manhattan Declaration. This is evident in many ways, including the way that “guest posts” from FPC leaders are introduced on the national web site. For example: “CitizenLink is proud to work with The Family Foundation of Virginia and other family policy organizations across the country to stand for marriage, life and religious freedom.”[35]

“These councils are independent entities,” according to CitizenLink, “with no corporate or financial relationship to each other or to Focus on the Family.”[36] But if FOF and CitizenLink are legally separate entities with different tax statuses, they are best viewed as two parts of the same organization. They share the same offices, board of directors, top executives, and president, James Daly.[37]

There is a method to the disclaimers, though, because stretching the rules regarding federal tax-exempt status of the member agencies has been an issue over the years. Many of these groups engaged in lobbying and electoral activities—such as the dissemination of biased voter guides—beyond what the privilege of federal tax exemption allows. Quietly coming into compliance with the law, and becoming more sophisticated regarding how best to use the several relevant legal categories available for politics and public policy, has been a trend for both state networks, following the lead of The Heritage Foundation and the Family Research Council.

The creation of separate-but-related groups that can legally carry out various political, lobbying, and electoral functions is an important development in the history of these groups at all levels. For example, the Family Institute of Connecticut (FIC), which has focused on anti-marriage equality, antichoice, and pro-school privatization issues in recent years, has divided into three closely related but legally distinct entities: FIC itself; FIC Action (a 501(c)(4) lobbying group); and the Family Institute of Connecticut Action Committee, a political action committee (PAC) that focuses on candidates for state-government offices.[38]

Efforts to draw bright lines for legal purposes notwithstanding, the lines still sometimes blur. “Needless, to say,” wrote Jim Daly in a joint Focus on the Family/CitizenLink annual report, “2012 was extremely busy for our CitizenLink staff as they were actively involved in multiple state legislative and election efforts. More than 2 million emails were sent to CitizenLink constituents regarding important issues. In addition, CitizenLink produced mailers for the November election that went to more than 8 million homes in 16 swing states. And that was just the beginning!”[39]

Two paths converge

Member organizations across both networks share some common issues, such as school privatization and the idea that public education should be controlled locally, though there are often differences of emphasis. The Boston-based Pioneer Institute primarily promotes corporate-style charters and makes little mention of homeschooling, for example, while the Massachusetts Family Institute (MFI) is primarily interested in homeschooling. “The public schools here have become a primary battleground in the culture war,” MFI declares, “with homosexual activists using them to indoctrinate students with their agenda.” Consequently, “MFI supports the restoration of decision-making authority over school policy and finance to parents, locally elected school committees and taxpayers.[40] In Louisiana, both networks have mobilized to promote and defend Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal’s controversial voucher program, which extended vouchers even to marginal religious schools, some of which use crackpot textbooks to teach science. One claims that the Loch Ness Monster is both real and a proof against evolution.[41] The Pioneer Institute has promoted New Orleans—where 80 percent of the public schools after Hurricane Katrina became charters—as a model for Boston.[42]

Cross-network collaborations are facilitated by having seasoned leaders who share a common vision and are able to mobilize the resources to carry it out. In creating the State Policy Network and the Family Policy Councils, the conservative movement’s strategists sought to create a deep infrastructure that would be build capacity over time, both in terms of policy development and electoral strength. They were also developing a talent bank of research and policy experts and organizational executives who would create synergies for the movement and shape the priorities of the Republican Party.

And in fact, SPN affiliates sometimes serve as governments-in-waiting for Republican administrations in the states, in much the way that Republican administrations in Washington, D.C., often draw staff from such national think tanks as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. In Massachusetts, Gov. William Weld “hired almost everybody” out of the Pioneer Institute following his election in 1994. Succeeding governors Paul Cellucci and Jane Swift also appointed Pioneer staff or board members to crucial positions that enabled them to implement their ideas, notably in shaping the state’s charter school policies. Cellucci, for example, appointed Pioneer executive director James Peyser as chairman of the state board of education.[43]

SPN think tanks have also provided leadership opportunities for policy professionals and politicians. Veterans of the board of directors of Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Foundation include former Lt. Governor William W. Scranton III and current U.S. Senator Patrick J. Toomey (R-PA). Three members of Congress—Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and former U.S. Reps. Mike Pence (R-IN) and Tom Tancredo (R-CO)—ran SPN member groups before coming to Congress.

Likewise, the FPCs serve as talent-development agencies. Ron Crews, who led the Massachusetts Family Institute from 2000 to 2004, rode the notoriety he gained in the wake of the historic 2003 Goodridge v. Department of Public Health decision (in which the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court legalized same-sex marriage) to an unsuccessful run for Congress in 2004. Tony Perkins was the executive director of the Louisiana Family Forum before coming to the Family Research Council. Brian Brown directed the Connecticut Family Institute before leading the National Organization for Marriage.

All of this is important because the cumulative experience of these two networks—in fostering leaders, working with government officials, creating collaborations, and becoming part of the furniture of public life in state capitals around the country—is transforming American politics from the state level up. The networks’ growing ability to craft and influence public policy, working in tandem with the American Legislative Exchange Council, corporate interests, and Republican state legislators, has justified the persistence and long-range ambitions of conservative strategists three decades ago, when the movement was just beginning its long march to state power.



[1] Jeremy P. Jacobs, “Devastation: GOP Picks Up 680 State Leg. Seats,” National Journal, Nov. 4, 2010, www.nationaljournal.com/blogs/hotlineoncall/2010/11/devastation-gop-picks-up-680-state-leg-seats-04.

[2] John J. Miller, “Fifty flowers bloom: Conservative think tanks—mini-Heritage Foundations—at the state level,” Hey Miller, Sept. 16, 2009, www.heymiller.com/2009/09/fifty-flowers-bloom. Republished from the National Review, Nov. 19, 2007. See also John J. Miller, “Safeguarding a Conservative Donor’s Intent: The Roe Foundation at 39,” Foundation Watch, Capital Research Center, May 2007, http://capitalresearch.org/pubs/pdf/v1185478634.pdf.

[3] “Directory,” State Policy Network, www.spn.org/directory/organizations.asp.

[4] Frederick Clarkson, “Takin’ It to the States: The Rise of Conservative State-Level Think Tanks,” Public Eye, Summer/Fall 1999, www.politicalresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2013/02/PE-Summer-Fall-1999.pdf. In addition to the pieces cited in this essay, see Jason Deparle, “Right-of-Center Guru Goes Wide With the Gospel of Small Government,” New York Times, Nov. 17, 2006, www.nytimes.com/2006/11/17/us/politics/17thinktank.html?_r=0&pagewanted=all; and Lee Fang, “The Right Leans In: Media-savvy conservative think tanks take aim and fire at progressive power bases in the states,” Nation, Mar. 26, 2013, www.thenation.com/article/173528/right-leans#.

[5] Frederick Clarkson, “Christian Right Seeks Renewal in Deepening Catholic-Protestant Alliance,” Public Eye, July 23, 2013, www.politicalresearch.org/christian-right-seeks-renewal-in-deepening-catholic-protestant-alliance.

[6] “SPN Annual Meeting Promo 1,” YouTube, www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbyBqRKDLvc.

[7] Don E. Eberly, “The States:  The New Policy Battleground, Lecture # 225,” The Heritage Foundation, Oct. 27, 1989, www.heritage.org/research/lecture/the-states-the-new-policy-battleground.

[8] “Conservative Leadership Conference,” Civitas, http://clc2014.com.

[9] Clarkson, “Takin’ It to the States: The Rise of Conservative State-level Think Tanks.”

[10] Paul Abowd, “Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states: Nonprofit group lets donors fly ‘totally under the radar,’” Center for Public Integrity, Feb. 14, 2013, www.publicintegrity.org/2013/02/14/12181/donors-use-charity-push-free-market-policies-states.

[11] “EXPOSED: The State Policy Network, The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government,” Stinktanks.org, Center for Media and Democracy, Nov. 2013. http://stinktanks.org/national.

[12] John J. Miller, “Safeguarding a Conservative Donor’s Intent:  The Roe Foundation at 39,” Foundation Watch, Capital Research Center, May 2007, http://capitalresearch.org/pubs/pdf/v1185478634.pdf.

[13] “EXPOSED: The State Policy Network, The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government,” http://stinktanks.org/national.

[14] Andy Kroll, “The Right-Wing Network Behind the War on Unions,” Mother Jones, April 25, 2011, www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/04/state-policy-network-union-bargaining.

[15] Kroll, “The Right-Wing Network Behind the War on Unions.”

[16] Erik Kain, “Michigan Governor Plays Fast and Loose with Democracy, Invokes Radical New Powers,” Forbes, March 11, 2011, www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2011/03/11/michigan-governor-plays-fast-and-loose-with-democracy-invokes-radical-new-powers.

[17] EXPOSED: The State Policy Network, The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government, http://stinktanks.org/national.

[18] Paul Abowd, “ALEC anti-union push includes key players from Michigan, Arizona think tanks,” Center for Public Integrity, May 17, 2012, www.publicintegrity.org/2012/05/17/8890.

[19] Sue Sturgis, “Special Investigation: How Art Pope helped turn back the clock on voting rights in North Carolina,” Institute for Southern Studies, Aug. 2013, http://www.southernstudies.org/2013/08/special-investigation-how-art-pope-helped-turn-bac.html.

[20] Charlie Savage, Justice Department Poised to File Lawsuit Over Voter ID Law,” New York Times, Sept. 30, 2013, www.nytimes.com/2013/09/30/us/politics/justice-department-poised-to-file-lawsuit-over-voter-id-law-in-north-carolina.html.

[21] Mary Tuma, “Ted Cruz Used Texas to Create ALEC’s Anti-Obamacare Legislation,” Current, Oct. 16, 2013, http://sacurrent.com/news/ted-cruz-used-texas-to-create-alec-s-anti-obamacare-legislation-1.1569056; Ted Cruz,  “Texas Public Policy Foundation report gives states options for pushing back on federal overreach,” Texas Public Policy Foundation, Nov. 18, 2010, www.texaspolicy.com/press/texas-public-policy-foundation-report-gives-states-options-pushing-back-federal-overreach; Ted Cruz and Mario Loyola, “Reclaiming the Constitution Towards and Agenda for State Action,” Texas Public Policy Foundation, Nov. 2010, www.texaspolicy.com/sites/default/files/documents/2010-11-RR11-TenthAmendment-mloyola-posting.pdf.

[22] “A Tool Kit to Keep Government Local People, Local Decisions, Local Solutions,” State Policy Network and State Budget Solutions, 2013, www.federalisminaction.com/wp-content/uploads/Federalism-In-Action_Toolkit_FINAL.pdf.

[23] Jason Stverak, Media Shield Law Doesn’t Protect First Amendment, Free Press, The Franklin Center, Sept. 16, 2013, http://franklincenterhq.org/8258/media-shield-law-doesnt-protect-first-amendment-free-press.

[24] “About Watchdog Wire,” The Franklin Center, Watchdog Wire, May 25, 2012, http://watchdogwire.com/about-the-franklin-center.

[25] “Driving the News:  How right wing funders are manufacturing news and influencing public policy in Pennsylvania,” Keystone Progress, Aug. 2013, www.scribd.com/doc/159802911 (subscription required).

[26] Sara Jerving, “The Lucy Burns Institute (Publishers of Ballotpedia, Judgepedia and WikiFOIA) and Her Right-Wing Bedfellows,” The Center for Media and Democracy, Nov. 26, 2012, www.prwatch.org/news/2012/11/11791/lucy-burns-institute-publishers-ballotpedia-judgepedia-and-wikifoia-and-her-right.

[27] Abowd, “ALEC anti-union push includes key players from Michigan, Arizona think tanks.”

[28] McGuigan reported on SPN’s national convention in Oklahoma City without disclosing his relationship to the Franklin Center or the Franklin Center’s relationship to the SPN and the host affiliate, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. See “Capitol Report: National gathering in Oklahoma City focuses on public policy,” YouTube, Sept. 30, 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8OuSdH75tU.

[29] “Driving the News: How right wing funders are manufacturing news and influencing public policy in Pennsylvania,” Keystone Progress, Aug. 2013, www.scribd.com/doc/159802911/Driving-the-News (subscription required).

[30] Electa Draper, “Focus on the Family rebrands political arm as CitizenLink,” Denver Post, May 20, 2010, www.denverpost.com/news/ci_15121872.

[31] “CitizenLink,” Charity Navigator, www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.profile&ein=200960855#.Um6pAvmkpoE.

[32] “Exclusive: Largest Dark Money Groups Share Funds, Hide Links,” OpenSecretsBlog, Sep. 10, 2013, www.opensecrets.org/news/2013/09/exclusive-largest-dark-money-donor-groups-hide-ties-using-new-trick.html.

[33] In the run-up to the 2012 initiative, Emrich was employed by the Family Research Council as its new “Northeast Field Ambassador”: “Bob Emrich joins Family Research Council,” Christian Civic League of Maine, Oct. 27, 2011, www.cclmaine.org/bob-emrich-joins-family-research-council.

[34] This followed a split with former League executive director Mike Heath, whose extreme statements were seen as counterproductive. The split also led to a rebranding in which the League sought to become known as the Maine Family Policy Council. The change apparently didn’t take, and the organization is now known by both names. Brian Tashman, “Ron Paul’s Iowa State Director Dedicated His Career to Fighting ‘Evil’ Gay Rights,” Right Wing Watch, Dec. 30, 2011, www.rightwingwatch.org/content/ron-pauls-iowa-state-director-dedicated-his-career-fighting-evil-gay-rights.

[35] See Frederick Clarkson, “Christian Right Seeks Renewal in Deepening Catholic-Protestant Alliance.”

[36] “Family Policy Councils,” CitizenLink, www.citizenlink.com/state-groups. Individual FPCs rarely mention their close connections to FOF, or CitizenLink, or FRC, which maintains a similar, but not identical, list of affiliates. FRC Action, the 501(c)(4) political arm of FRC, also lists the FPCs as state-level affiliates.

[37] For example, see “Focus on the Family and CitizenLink 2012 Annual Report,” Focus on the Family, http://media.focusonthefamily.com/fotf/pdf/about-us/financial-reports/2012-annual-report.pdf. A separate annual report for CitizenLink is at www.citizenlink.com/uploads/2013/04/2012-CitizenLink-Annual-Report.pdf. Rev. Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is also a member of both boards.

[38] “Latest FIC Action Committee’s 2010 Endorsements,” Family Institute of Connecticut, 2010, www.ctfamily.org/FIC%20Action%20Committee%20Endorsements%202010.pdf.

[39] “2012 Annual Report,” Focus on the Family.

[40] “Parental Rights and Education,” Massachusetts Family Institute, www.mafamily.org/issues/parental-rights-and-education.

[41] Bruce Wilson, “Nessie a Plesiosaur? Louisiana To Fund Schools Using Odd, Bigoted Fundamentalist Textbooks,” Talk to Action, June 17, 2012, www.talk2action.org/story/2012/6/17/9311/48633.

[42] Jim Stergios, “6 Takeaways on New Orleans’ charter initiative,” Pioneer Institute, Oct. 19, 2013, http://pioneerinstitute.org/charter_schools/6-takeaways-on-new-orleans-charter-initiative.

[43] Paul Dunphy and Nikhil Aziz, “The Pioneer Institute: Privatizing the Common Wealth,” Political Research Associates, July 2002, www.publiceye.org/libertarian/pioneer-institute/index.html; Frederick Clarkson, “Takin’ It to the States: The Rise of Conservative State-level Think Tanks.”

Conservative Ideology Not Overtly Racist, But More Insidious

Photo Credit: Pat Bagley of the Salt Lake Tribune. Published with permission

Photo Credit: Pat Bagley of the Salt Lake Tribune. Published with permission

More and more, we’ve seen U.S. conservatives unabashedly propagate revisionist historical narratives while shrugging off accusations of racism.  Over the past year, public policies and political ideologies targeting communities of color—cuts to assistance programs, opposition to immigration reform, efforts to abolish the 14th Amendment, and voter ID laws have all gained mainstream acceptance within the Republican Party. Conservatives in Congress, state legislatures, and in the courts have embraced policies that disproportionately target and hurt communities of color, even as they seek to discount or dismiss the racialized implications of such policies.

As Allison Kilkenny, co-host of Citizen Radio and a blogger at The Nation, recently said:

“It’s clear [Republicans] know they can’t be overtly racist anymore … but they try to talk in code now. So instead of attacking minorities, attacking poor people of color, they attack programs that benefit those people.”

In order to divert attention away from their own rhetorical and legislative attacks on communities of color, and in an attempt to make their own racist public policies appear tame in comparison, many of these conservatives loudly condemn organizations or individuals whose overtly racial rhetoric or acts can provide them political cover.

For example, one of the Far Right’s favorite straw men is the Nazi Party and the “threat” of America devolving into a Third Reich state. This particular flavor of demagoguery helps conservatives create distance between themselves and more openly-racist ideologies, as they ostensibly disown racism while perpetuating it through public policy.

Leith, a small town in Grant County, North Dakota, has become the latest purveyor of straw men examples for the Far Right. Craig Cobb, a White supremacist who, in 2010, was charged with promoting hate for running a White supremacist website, has begun buying up property to create what he describes as a “Pioneer Little Europe” where other neo-Nazis could have the “freedom” to be White. After 300 protesters rallied against him, many of whom were Native Americans, Cobb said of them, “They’re loud, so what? They’re literally not human to me.”

Stories like this one allow more “mainstream” conservatives to declare, “See? That’s what racism looks like.” Ultimately, though, these stories hide these conservatives’ more veiled—but perhaps even more insidious—attempts at perpetuating discrimination and institutionalized racism though court rulings, public policies, and legislation. While the influence of neo-Nazis in Leith is largely limited to a small city with only a few dozen residents, Republican-supported congressional legislation cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), for example, has a devastating impact on communities of color throughout the country.

In the 2010 midterm elections, conservatives gained enough seats in the House to regain majority control of that body, and they’ve since done their best to oppose progressive social and economic legislation, from Obamacare to immigration reform.  As progressives committed to ending all forms of oppression and racial injustice, we must oppose not only the racism of neo-Nazi ideology but also the ways in which such rhetoric is repurposed by “mainstream” conservatives for the sake of legitimizing more insidious and targeted attacks on communities of color.

**Eric Ethington contributed to this post**

Profiles on the Right – Jim DeMint

Jim DeMint

Jim DeMint

Jim DeMint is the current president of The Heritage Foundation and a former Republican U.S Senator from South Carolina. In 2010, DeMint spearheaded Tea Party action. He looked to align the decentralized movement, calling it “part of an American awakening” and asserting people can “take back their government” and “No state is out of play.” Putting these words into action, DeMint then founded the political action committee, Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF). The SCF closely aligned itself with the Tea Party, raising $9.1 million to back successful first-time candidates Pat Toomey, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Ron Johnson, and Marco Rubio in the 2010 U.S. Senate election. DeMint resigned from the Senate on New Year’s Day 2013 to become President of the Heritage Foundation. In this current role, he has arguably more power than he ever did as a politician. Most recently, DeMint played a crucial role in both shaping public opinion against the Affordable Care Act and accelerating the subsequent federal shutdown.

Despite his moderate demeanor, DeMint has been regarded by supporters and enemies alike for his staunch conservative viewpoints, even receiving a 100% rating from the American Conservative Union in 2012. DeMint’s time in Congress made apparent his radical policy stances and adamant refusal to compromise.  In addition to helping the likes of Marco Rubio in 2010, DeMint supported Ted Cruz’s Senate bid in 2012. Cruz acknowledged DeMint’s influence, claiming “I would not be in the United States Senate if it were not for Jim DeMint.” And there is no doubt that DeMint benefited from such relationships as well—upon being sworn into the Senate, Cruz hired five former DeMint aides to his personal staff. As exemplified by his backing of candidates like Rubio and Cruz, DeMint is passionate in his far-right views and adamant to rid the Republican party of the few left who are willing to find common ground. Divisive behavior like this makes DeMint one of the most dangerous leaders on the far Right. Benjy Sarlin summed his legacy perfectly in noting “DeMint embodied the “party of no” label the GOP earned over the last four years, frequently leading filibusters to stymie President Obama’s agenda and often threatening to scuttle deals reached between the White House and Republican leaders.”

After being disillusioned by Democratic electoral success in 2012, DeMint elected to use a new approach to push conservative values. His work as a market researcher and his time in both Senate and Congress made him well aware of the impact major political lobbies and outside organizations have on U.S policy. The Heritage Foundation, a non-profit think tank whose mission is to “formulate and promote conservative public policies,” is a powerhouse for far-Right ideologies. The think tank has been prominently cited by many conservative policy makers, including John Boehner, Robert Novak, and Mike Lee. In addition to being widely cited, within the past two decades, the Heritage Foundation helped George W. Bush’s defend his nomination of Michael Mukasey for Attorney General and helped Newt Gingrich build a Republican majority in Congress back in the 90s by advising him on his “Contract With America.”

Despite earning over $75 million in annual operating revenue, the Heritage Foundation remains a tax-exempt organization. Though advertising itself as an independent research group, the Heritage Foundation’s work has been accused of being intentionally biased and lacking credibility. This, along with the $800,000 increase in salary, made the Heritage Foundation very attractive to DeMint. He accepted the nomination to “President of the Organization,” resigning from Congress in the middle of his term.

DeMint is highly aware of the power his new position grants him in implementing the conservative agenda. In a recent interview, he told NPR  “There’s no question in my mind that I have more influence now on public policy than I did as an individual Senator.” As one of the first politicians to claim that President Obama “gutted welfare reform”, he has continued this rhetoric through the Heritage Foundation, making him a key player in the recent federal government shutdown. He has also spoken at the annual “Value Voters Summit” hosted by the Family Research Council, a radical Christian-right organization whose anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ stances have caused extensive damage.

Perhaps one of the most dangerous of DeMint’s strengths is his ability to portray himself as a moderate, despite extreme conservative views, an appearance he has worked to manufacture. As a political speaker, he tends to avoid radical rhetoric most often associated with the Tea Party, preferring to use assets such as the SCF to forward his ideologies. By presenting himself as rational and moderate, and regular appearances on liberal media programs such as The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, he has found success promoting the radical policy agenda of the far-right—as opposed to politicians like Michelle Bachmann or Allen West, who run a higher risk of alienating more moderate voters. His persuasive speaking abilities enable him to raise massive amount of money for conservative causes and candidates, greatly increasing his sphere of influence.

Next Profile*Britt Moorman contributed to this profile.

The Facts and the Healthcare Debate – Debunking 3 Conservative Myths

tea party obamacare

As America begins to feel the impact of the federal government shutdown, I felt compelled to take a deeper look at some of the main arguments in the debate over health care reform.

Although the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) was signed into law over three years ago, the conservative-led House of Representatives have refused to pass any annual budget or continuing resolution which does not defund Obamacare (or at least temporarily delay it), a measure which has no chance of finding favor with the Democrat-led Senate or White House. As a result, most federal government agencies and programs have temporarily lost their funding, which translates to almost a million people out of work. Despite losing the past two presidential elections, and losing seats in both the Senate and the House in 2012, conservatives have continued their claims of “acting on the will of the American people.” In the new-age of media spin—apparently—one can claim a citizen mandate despite not having majority of citizen support.

There has been a continuous stream of narratives and talking points floated by conservatives in their ongoing attempt to derail any effort at healthcare reform. Though many of their points could be classified as—to some extent or other—inaccurate, I would like to focus in on three particular points, all of which were created by a seemingly deliberate distortion of the Affordable Care Act. Though misleading and almost entirely false, they have been nonetheless effective in mobilizing opposition to Obamacare.

  1. Obamacare will lead to a government takeover of the health care system
  2. Obamacare is a job killer
  3. Obamacare is Socialist

Most alarming to those of us who study public policy is the lack of effect evidence and facts to the contrary of these false theories have had in derailing their use in political discourse.

MYTH 1- The Affordable Care Act is a “Government Takeover of the Healthcare System”

A frequently cited claim by Republican politicians and conservative pundits (including in the past few weeks leading up to the shutdown of the federal government), this statement alludes to a belief that Obamacare will result in the private healthcare industry being overtaken by the federal government, removing the individual right to choose a personal healthcare plan, and instead turning over that choice to some fictitious bureaucracy within the federal government. People tend to associate a term such as ‘government takeover’ with coups and revolutions. It creates a relation of healthcare to a dictatorial government, and a removal of individual freedom. As a result, people view Obamacare as being an ‘anti-American’ bill.

But the claim is almost entirely untrue. While it is true that the government will take a more active role under the Affordable Care Act, the law’s implementation of insurance markets (exchanges) actually encourages greater access to the private health insurance market, setting up a system where the maximum possible amount of citizens can/will obtain health insurance through the private market. The narrative that the government will come between individuals and their choice of healthcare plans was deemed ‘Lie of the Year’ by Politifact.com in 2010. In their article exposing the misleading claim and its political impact, the site noted that “uttered by dozens of politicians and pundits, It [the ‘government takeover’ myth] played an important role in shaping public opinion about the healthcare plan”. The strategy was an effective one, created by GOP strategists. Using fear to advocate their cause rather than facts, and knowing the value that many Americans put on individual rights, they were successful in mobilizing millions of citizens behind the claim. There are even many who believe (myself included) that this false claim about the health care system played a major role in helping the Republican Party win a majority in the House of Representatives in 2010.

But even as researchers and analysts continue to discredit their argument, conservatives continue to use it three years later. Even New Jersey Governor Christ Christie, who is considered a political moderate (at least by modern conservative standards), publicly made the claim multiple times in 2011. The rising threat of a government shutdown brought with it an influx of Republican attempts of linking the law to socialism, communism, and other derogatory comparisons and innuendo such as the loss of individual freedoms.

MYTH 2: The Affordable Care Act is a Job Killer

Many opposed to Obamacare cite their objection from a fiscal standpoint. There is some legitimate debate over the costs of reforming our healthcare system, and the possible impact the bill could have on our nation’s debt issues. But many conservatives shifted the debate, leveraging those natural concerns into a scarier myth that would cause an instant reaction with the American public—that implementing Obamacare will result in a dramatic loss of American jobs. Though the recession has officially ended and the economy is steadily (if slowly) recovering, the job market is still quite vulnerable and when the public is repetitively being fed the notion that Obamacare would destroy more jobs, rationality goes out the window.

The claim became a focal point in the GOP-House’s case against Obamacare; in one of the many attempts to repeal the law, the Republican bill to repeal it was titled “Repeal the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act”. One would think that if you were going to name a bill after a talking point, then the talking point should be well backed by evidence. But even the claim the Republicans rallied so passionately behind was an inaccurate and purposely misleading claim.

This entire myth is based on a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Report which claimed the Affordable Care Act would result in a labor reduction of over one half of one percent of the American labor force, which equates to roughly 800,000 jobs. Republicans have cited this as the “proof” that Obamacare will destroy thousands of jobs. But they got to this conclusion by deliberately misreading the language of the report. The CBO report does not make any correlation that Obamacare will lead to the destruction of American jobs. Rather, the report claims that the provisions created by the act can potentially result in a reduction in the use of labor by the economy, at a decline of about half a percent. This does not allude to Americans being laid off. It instead suggests that with the Medicaid expansion and other provisions created by Obamacare, these new resources may encourage some laborers to work fewer hours, or “withdraw from the labor market” by retiring. The “reduction of labor” would not be a result of the cutting of American jobs, but by people voluntarily reducing their influence in the labor force. If anything, more people retiring or voluntarily working less would likely create job opportunities rather than get rid of them. Republicans took the report entirely out of context to make their claim, which became a central component to their economic objection to Obamacare.

The claim was repeated throughout the 2012 election cycle in ads that ran across the country. In particular, the U.S Chamber of Commerce ran numerous campaign ads citing the CBO report as proof that “Obamacare would kill jobs and limit future job creation”. The idea that Obamacare would directly result in the loss of jobs for hardworking Americans was a continued attempt at portraying the bill as being bad for our economy. Just like the “government takeover” myth, the fact that their claim was discredited does not prevent them from continuing to make it a central component of their case against Obamacare.

MYTH 3- Obamacare is Socialist

The word “socialism” has become almost like white noise in today’s political discourse, thanks in large part to its constant use by so many conservatives—everything these days is either socialist or [insert scandal here]-gate.

Of course, the realities of the policies within the Affordable Care Act are anything but socialist. Rather, the entire system is actually a promotion of, and boost to, the private market. In the current private insurance market, insurance companies rarely directly compete against each other, their prices are their prices and if they were to choose to raise them (as they frequently do) individuals have little choice but to just eat the increased cost. Under the new healthcare law, however, the insurance marketplaces create a central portal where private companies have to directly compete for the business of consumers, which, rather than being socialist, is actually the very foundation of free market principles.

The “socialist” option (sort of) would have been to enact a single payer healthcare system, where the government provides its own insurance plan directly to the general public, competing directly (assuming a public/private version of single payer) with private health insurance companies. There are, of course, many people who still argue that this would have been the better option, as it would have created a standard against which private insurers would have had to compete against, forcing price competition and benefiting consumers.

It’s worth pointing out that the United States is one of the only western democratic societies which doesn’t provide universal healthcare to all citizens. Most western countries, such as Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and even the Vatican have long since recognized that healthcare should be a fundamental right, and the inherent evil of a supposedly moral society allowing their own citizenry to fall ill and/or die from diseases easily cured.

*Eric Ethington contributed to this article.

Whither the Christian Right? How Religious Conservatives Succeeded and Failed in the 2006 Elections

Co-authored by Chip Berlet

 

Chip Berlet is a former senior analyst at Political Research Associates. He authored Eyes Right! and Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort (with Matthew N. Lyons) and is a frequent contributor to Talk2Action and Huffington Post.

Worshipers at the pre-election Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC. (Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

Worshipers at the pre-election Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC. (Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

It was a scant five weeks until the 2006 midterm elections, and photogenic Christian Right leader Tony Perkins gripped the podium and smiled confidently at the 1700 activists gathered at the Values Voters Summit. Perkins predicted that his new coalition of Christian Right stalwarts would tip the scales for the Republicans in the upcoming midterm elections. He was, of course, wrong.

The Christian Right did turn out and vote for Republicans, as it has in the past, but in this election slightly more Christian evangelicals voted Democrat, perhaps to send a message to Republicans that they were tired of the war in Iraq, offended by corruption, distressed by scandals, and seeking change. The Christian Right, however, remains a large and powerful social movement, and it is already retooling for the 2008 elections.

Post-election analyses of voter demographics revealed that while American voters do sometimes vote in blocs, the specific mobilization of these groups is more complicated, and an informed understanding more nuanced, than conventional wisdom might suggest. What Perkins and his colleagues tried to mobilize is a subset of Christian voters, the core group of politically active, conservative, white evangelicals who respond to electoral campaigns that focus on a narrow definition of “family values,” a frame that has proved successful for getting out the vote since the late 1970s.

Reviewing how the new Christian Right mobilized its base in 2006 will help us understand and anticipate what they might do in the next two years.

Family, Faith, & Freedom: To Protect the Children

Attending the late September Values Voters Washington Briefing were a mix of heartland cultural warriors, grassroots Republican political activists, and local church staff, including ministers and lay ministry workers. The crowd was a typical representation of the predominantly white and Protestant evangelical Right today. Predicting “Washington will never be the same!” Perkins then introduced the conference speakers, politicians and pundits alike, some of whom, like Republican candidates George Allen and Rick Santorum, (who appeared by video) turned out to lose their races a few weeks later.

The rising or falling fortunes of the Republican Party in any election cycle do not determine the size and vibrancy of the Christian Right as a social movement.

Tony Perkins established the main frame of the event when he said, “we are facing threats from within and from without.”

The threat from within came from liberals, same sex marriage, and abortion. The threat from without was terrorism. By focusing on the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the speakers tried to leap over criticism of the war in Iraq, other specific military interventions, the economy, and other issues.

The ultimate goal for many in this aggressive effort is to “restore” America as a Christian nation-a politicized, theologically-based worldview dubbed by critics of the Christian Right as “dominionism.”1 The tendency toward dominionism has clearly influenced public policy in both the domestic and foreign policy arenas, as seen in the domestic gay marriage and the international abstinence-untilmarriage debates.2

This type of Christian Right pre-election voter mobilization conference used to be hosted by the Christian Coalition, with the title “Road to Victory.” Now that the Christian Coalition has unraveled as a national group, a new coalition has stepped in to fill the void. The conference was coordinated by FRC Action, the political action arm of the Family Research Council, with Tony Perkins at the helm. Cosponsors included the political action arms of three other Christian Right groups: Focus on the Family Action (Dr. James Dobson), Americans United to Preserve Marriage (Gary Bauer), and American Family Association Action (Donald Wildmon). Most of these groups have close historical ties. Dobson’s Focus on the Family created the FRC to lobby Congress before it was spun off as a separate entity. Gary Bauer ran the FRC from 1988 to 1999. The wild card in this coalition is Wildmon, known for his inflammatory anti-gay rhetoric and occasional detours into veiled anti-Semitism. His American Family Association pulls this coalition further to the right.3

The polite and attentive crowd was treated to one speech after another in the hotel ballroom, in a didactic style and hierarchical format typical of Religious Right rallies-tightly orchestrated logistically, skillfully crafted in framing and messaging. The visual aesthetic was slick, modern, and high tech, clearly reflecting how the coalition sank considerable resources into this event. The coalition partners also sponsored other pre-election regional events, like the anti-gay marriage “Liberty Sunday.” The four cosponsors were positioning themselves as the unified national voice of the Christian Right. How successful have they been?

Success and Failure: What the 2006 Election Results Show

The Christian Right mobilization of voters was not able, on its own, to counter an unpopular war or an unpopular party, the incumbent Republicans. Even before the election, Professor Mark Rozell pointed out that in 2006 both the Republicans and the Democrats realized that moral values and religion help shape how elections turn out:

We have motivated groups, both on the right and the left, trying to mobilize their constituencies, in large part because they believe values matter but they also understand that the two political parties are very closely competitive in Congress right now.

He correctly forecast that, “Affecting a few electoral outcomes could be the difference between Democratic and Republican party control.”4

According to the National Election Pool exit polls commissioned by major media outlets, white evangelicals did turn out to vote and comprised 24% of the electorate, the same proportion as in 2004 when mobilizing these voters in certain key states helped reelect George W. Bush.5

This figure can easily be misleading, since not all white evangelicals are conservative, and not all white conservative evangelicals consistently identify with the Christian Right. When successful, the Christian Right can consistently mobilize a core group of about 15% of American voters. They are joined by roughly 10% more of white conservative evangelicals who generally align with the Christian Right and vote Republican, but who sometimes shift their allegiance or sit out elections.

Swimming in Subtext

The Values Voter Summit in September 2006 was overripe with subtle messages designed to direct, motivate, and reassure the audience. Here is a sample:

    • Godly Christians must be involved in politics to take back America from the Godless secularists and liberals. Godly Christians must vote, and vote for candidates who win our approval and these candidates must come to us; we do not go to them begging. We may not always agree with the Republican leadership, but we need them on our side to win our cause. Aware of being criticized for being too partisan toward Republicans, Tony Perkins issued a statement claiming that, “The Washington Briefing…was not an opportunity for us to endorse candidates but rather an opportunity for candidates to endorse us and our values.”
    • Our version of Christianity is correct, dominant, triumphant, defines the political center, and is politically powerful. Every other worldview is wrong, and unconnected to the real God. This is a struggle between good and evil. Our opponents are witting or unwitting agents of Satan. Former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris — famous for her role in the 2000 Florida Presidential election fiasco and now an elected U.S. Representative running for the Senate16 — planted herself firmly in the dominionist wing of the Christian Right.17 At the final banquet of the conference, Harris emphasized the importance of the proper candidates winning in November, and suggested it was a battle against “principalities and powers.” Many in the audience surely recognized thisas a Biblical reference to “spiritual warfare” — in their view a struggle with the demonic agents of Satan.18 Just in case they missed the point, the emcee closed the banquet by reminding the audience that they were engaged in “spiritual warfare.”
    • Our faith, our moral superiority, and the fact we are persecuted by our opponents justify hatred of the enemy, and even violent resistance. Our God may be merciful, compassionate, and the God of justice; but our God is a zealous and vengeful God, and we are his agents on earth. Sin invokes punishment. This worldview emerged from several speakers. Colin Hanna, President of Let Freedom Ring, a 501(c)(4) anti-immigration group, reinforced his interpretation of this dual nature of a Christian God when he said that mercy and justice must be blended in public policy. He described amnesty for undocumented immigrants as “sin without consequences” and that “Amnesty is therefore not Christian.”
    • We need a Christian counter-culture to overcome the depravity of secularized modern life. One of the most secularized arenas for evangelicals has been Hollywood. For instance, Donald Wildmon’s AFA was founded to address immorality in the entertainment industry. At the Summit, an especially high energy panel, “Holly-wood in the Heartland,” introduced the audience to the work being done by Christian film producers and the alternate infrastructure that will support this counter-culture. Ted Baehr, who runs the Biblically based film review service, MovieGuide, high-lighted the work he and others have undertaken to steer Christians towards more acceptable, family friendly popular culture. Rev, Tommy Tenney previewed his new film, a reworking of the story of Esther, “One Night with the King,” and the audience learned that Hollywood has specific Christian movie studios, like FoxFaith.
    • We will win, because God is on our side.

“It looks like the white evangelical base of the Republican Party pretty much held firm,” reports John C. Green, expert on religious Americans’ voting trends, from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.6 Yet he notes there were small and ultimately significant shifts teased out in exit polls. In 2004, white evangelicals voted 74% for Republicans and 25% for Democrats. In 2006, white evangelicals voted 70% for Republicans and 28% for Democrats. This slight shift alone is enough to shape the outcome in tight elections.7

This reminds us that despite the visibility of their leadership, especially on the Christian airwaves, the Christian Right core voting block is not consistently large enough to secure a GOP win in key states with tight races. The usual Christian Right allies among the broader white evangelical electorate sometimes shift and vote Democratic. The white evangelical voter base includes Republicans, Independents, and Democrats. They do not vote as a monolithic bloc. Along with Democratic Party and progressive voter mobilization efforts, targeting women, people of color, organized labor, immigrants, and other constituencies, the Christian Right can be outvoted.

And while a small number of white Christian evangelicals shifted away from the Republicans, a significant number of Catholics and mainline Protestants also shifted. More information is needed to tease out the influence of the Catholic vote, 26% of all voters, a group comparable in size to the white Protestant evangelical electorate. And not enough information is currently available to determine exactly which segments of Latina/Latino and Spanish-speaking voters are shifting, and whether or not that is correlated with being Catholic, Protestant, or secular.

After the election, conservatives bemoaned their losses but tried to say that not much had changed. Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist’s group, described the election as “Democrats Dressing up as Republicans,” referring to the relative conservatism of some Democratic winners.

The Christian Right mobilization of voters was not able, on its own, to counter an unpopular war or an unpopular party, the incumbent Republicans.

Tony Perkins acknowledged that Americans had spoken but insisted that there was no new direction despite the shift in party support. Distancing himself from the losers and referring to his followers as “integrity voters,” he said, “Democrats won mainly because they seized on a platform largely forsaken by the GOP-social values. When ‘integrity voters’ saw the Republicans had abandoned their principles, they ultimately abandoned the GOP.”8 “This should be a clear message to both Parties that values voters vote values, not party. Their focus is not on party politics, but rather on government guided by core values.”9

The day after the election, conservative columnist Michael Medved recognized that,

The numbers from every corner of the country make it clear that the American people meant to send a message to their leaders, and the future of the conservative movement depends on an accurate reading of the substance they meant to communicate, and a realistic reassessment of the current state of our politics.10

But it remains to be seen if these analysts are correctly reading their constituency. Medved interpreted the figure that 59% of voters disapproved of the war in Iraq as an indication that “many (if not most) of those voters dislike Bush’s policy because they feel it’s not aggressive enough.”11 This seems a dubious contention.

Democratic Party leaders are now debating how to handle the issue of religion and people of faith-sometimes constructively and sometimes opportunistically. In Ohio and Pennsylvania, Democratic candidates actively referred to their faiths. Ted Strickland, the new Ohio governor is a Methodist minister, and Bob Casey, Rick Santorum’s successful opponent for the Senate in Pennsylvania, is a Catholic. More targeted analysis needs to happen in selected states to learn the details of religious voters’ influence. For instance, conservatives and liberals alike will study the data on same sex marriage bans, which passed with considerably smaller point spreads than in 2004, to see if their presence on the ballot made a difference in the candidates’ results. The same scrutiny will apply to the minimum wage ballot measures that pro-labor groups designed with a frame of economic justice aimed at enticing people of faith to consider other values than those stressed by the Christian Right.

What’s the Matter with “What’s the Matter with Kansas”?

Demographic election analyses notwithstanding, it’s not so easy to describe white evangelicals accurately. Thomas Frank, in his book What’s the Matter with Kansas, nimbly navigated the conservative scene on the ground in Kansas, but slipped when he implied that people in the white working class who vote against their apparent economic self interest did so because they didn’t really understand the complex issues, or were easily swayed by fundamentalist preachers and opportunistic politicians. Some, we are led to believe, are simply addled.12

There is no evidence that white evangelicals are any more stupid or crazy than anyone else. Nor are they simply the manipulated puppets of a Karl Rove strike force.

There is no evidence that white evangelicals are any more stupid or crazy than anyone else. Nor are they simply the manipulated puppets of a Karl Rove strike force.

Large groups of white evangelicals are mobilized through the rhetorical style of right-wing populism, which suggests that liberal elites and welfare queens are eroding conservative American values.13 Jean Hardisty refers to this process as mobilizing resentment.”14

Many white working class voters and white middle class voters can be persuaded at times to vote against their apparent immediate economic interests through appeals to their sense of morality that cast “traditional family values” and “moral values” in terms of societal struggles over issues such as gay rights, same sex marriage, abortion, stem cell research, and pornography. In elections, sometimes economic issues trump social issues, and sometimes social issues trump economic issues-and how Republicans and Democrats are perceived by Christian evangelical voters weighing the pull of those sets of issues can determine the outcome of an election.15

Whither the Christian Right?

The rising or falling fortunes of the Republican Party in any election cycle do not determine the size and vibrancy of the Christian Right as a social movement. Members of the Christian Right are more committed to their issues as they define them than they are to any political party. Like any social movement, they align with political entities that they believe will bring about the changes they seek.

Black, Hispanic, and Asian evangelical voters and Roman Catholics of all kinds have responded to various campaign strategies aimed at religious voters, most notably around abortion and gay issues. On occasion, Christian Right and Republican efforts can erode the historic preferences among these groups to vote Democratic as happened in 2004. While some in these groups shifted back to vote Democratic in 2006, it remains to be seen how well subsequent mobilizations will fare in specific races. State-based analysis is key.

Every few years-following an electoral defeat of Republicans, the collapse of a Christian Right organization, or an expose of a leader’s shady past-the death of the Christian Right is announced in the media. Reports of its death are, as they say, greatly exaggerated, and complacency would be a mistake. The Christian Right will survive, and remains a powerful factor in the social, cultural, and political life of the United States.

Keep an eye out for the next hot button issue coming to your state.

Endnotes

1 Dominionism is a tendency within the Christian Right to assert that Christians are mandated by God to take control of secular political institutions. See: Frederick Clarkson, “The Rise of Dominionism: Remaking America as a Christian Nation,” The Public Eye Magazine, Winter 2005; Michelle Goldberg, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism (New York: W.W. Norton, 2006); Chip Berlet, “The Christian Right, Dominionism, and Theocracy,” The Public Eye online, http://www.publiceye.org/christian_right/dominionism.htm. While Christian Reconstructionism is the most militant form of dominionism, it is a common error to imply that all dominionists are Reconstructionists or desire a full-blown totalitarian theocracy.
2 Kaplan, Esther, 2004, With God on Their Side: How Christian Fundamentalists Trampled Science, Policy, and Democracy in George W. Bush’s White House (New York: The New Press); Geoffrey C. Layman and John C. Green, “Wars and Rumors of Wars: The Contexts of Cultural Conflict in American Political Behavior,” British Journal of Political Science (36)1, (January 2006), pp 61-89; Herman, Didi, The Antigay Agenda: Orthodox Vision and the Christian Right (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997); Katha Pollitt, “Earthly Rewards for the Christian Voter,” Subject to Debate column, The Nation, December 6, 2004, http://www.thenation.com/doc/20041206/pollitt; William Martin, With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America (New York: Broadway Books, 1996); Sara Diamond, Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States (New York: Guilford Press, 1998).
3 Institute for First Amendment Studies, “Religious Leaders Denounce Wildmon’s Anti-Semitism,” Freedom Writer, June/July/August 1989, at http://www.publiceye.org/ifas/fw/8906/wildmon.html.
4 Banks, Adele, “With Election Looming, ‘Values Voters’ Are Back in the Spotlight,” Religion News Service, Wednesday, September 20, 2006, http://www.presbyterianchurch.org/pcnews/2006/06482.htm .
5 Goodstein, Laurie, “Religious Voting Data Show Some Shift, Observers Say,” New York Times,November 9, 2006, P7.
6 Ibid.
7 Cooperman, Alan, “Democrats win bigger share of religious vote: Parties disagree on why the gap has narrowed,” Washington Post,MSNBC, November 11, 2006, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15662295; PBS, “Perspectives: Election Analysis,” Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, (#1011), Transcript, November 10, 2006, http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week1011/perspectives.html .
8 “America Cleans House,” Family Research Council Washington Update listserv email, Wednesday, November 8, 2006.
9 “Integrity Voters Reveal Values Gap,” Press release Family Research Council, November 8, 2006, at http://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=PR06K02.
10 Medved, Michael, “Uncomfortable lessons from a disastrous night,” Townhall.com, November 8, 2006, http://www.townhall.com/columnists/
MichaelMedved/2006/11/08/uncomfortable_lessons_from_a_disastrous_night.
11 Ibid.
12 For examples, see Frank, Thomas, What’s the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2004), pp. 160-161, 205, 213, 226, 238-251.
13 Berlet, Chip, and Matthew N. Lyons, Right-Wing Populism in America (New York: Guilford, 2000), pp. 1-18. See also Margaret Canovan, Populism (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981); Michael Kazin, The Populist Persuasion: An American History (New York: Basic Books, 1995).
14 Hardisty, Jean V., Mobilizing Resentment: Conservative Resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise Keepers (Boston: Beacon Press, 1999).
15 We discuss this at greater length in Running Against Sodom and Osama: The Christian Right, Values Voters, and the Culture War in 2006, HTML: http://www.publiceye.org/christian_right/values-voters/vv-toc.html; PDF: http://www.publiceye.org/pdfs/Running_Against_Sodom_and_Osama.pdf.
16 Gumbel, Andrew, “Something Rotten in the State of Florida,” Common Dreams, September 29, 2004, originally from The Independent, http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0929-26.htm.
17 “Katherine Harris,” interview, Florida Baptist Witness, August 24, 2006, http://www.floridabaptistwitness.com/6298.article.
18 Arnold, Clinton E., Powers of Darkness: Principalities & Powers in Paul’s Letters,(Downers Grove Intervarsity Press, 1992); Sara Diamond, Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right (Boston: South End Press, 1989).

Back to the Future: GOP Revives Anti-Gay Marriage Campaign for ‘06

An anti-gay marriage protestor in Boston. (Michael Springer, Getty Images)

An anti-gay marriage protestor in Boston. (Michael Springer, Getty Images)

As George Bush’s approval ratings on the Iraq war and the economy continue their slide downward, the Republican Party is determined to use the gay marriage issue and other punitive anti-gay measures to retain control of Congress in the 2006 mid-term elections, and defend their one-state control of state legislatures. Why revive the anti-gay marriage fight? Because it works.

Along with homeland security, electoral gay-bashing was key to the Republicans’ 2004 sweep of the presidency and both houses of Congress. As former Clinton campaign strategist and CNN talking head James Carville summed up the Republicans’ message in his post-election analysis, “I’m going to protect you from the terrorists in Tikrit and the homos in Hollywood.”

The lynchpin of Karl Rove’s anti-gay strategy in 2004 was to increase turnout by social conservatives through a crusade against gay marriage. Surfing on the huge anti-gay backlash after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the “sodomy” laws that made gay sex illegal, the GOP and its Christian Right shock troops mobilized. They placed referenda to ban gay marriage on the ballot in 11 states, including four of the “battleground” states.

Not only did the anti-gay marriage forces make a clean sweep of all eleven states, they succeeded in using the issue to drive up turnout among both Evangelical and Catholic voters, overwhelming the Democrats’ best-ever get-out-the-vote drive. Even in supposedly “liberal” Oregon, the ban on gay marriage passed by a whopping 14 points. And in Ohio (the state on which the presidential race turned), two-thirds of those who came to the polls voted against gay marriage—including not only the 24 percent of the state’s voters who self-identified as “born again,” but majorities of the nominally Democratic ethnic and largely working-class Catholics who are the swing vote in the Buckeye State’s cities and suburbs. That’s how John Kerry lost Ohio.

In Washington, the GOP proposed a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. It failed, but four of the Democratic senators who helped defeat it were themselves defeated at the polls that fall. Florida, South Dakota, Louisiana and South Carolina all sent Republicans to Washington instead.

This year, the GOP is rolling out the same strategies—and also trying out some new ones.

Anti-Gay Tactics in Washington

First off, the Republican leadership has revived the Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution to ban same-sex unions, with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist scheduling a vote for June. Once again, the objective is not so much to pass it as to get Democratic Senators on record as voting against it, so that the vote can be used to help defeat them.

The GOP is well aware of just how frightened the Democrats are of the gay marriage issue. For example, centrist Dems like California Senator Diane Feinstein have blamed the Democrats’ ‘04 defeat on gays who wanted “too much, too fast, too soon,” as she put it. Another example: well-known Democratic party operative Paul Yandura—who served in the Clinton White House as well as on the staff of the Clinton and Gore presidential campaigns — created a stir among party activists, both gay and straight, by sending an open letter on April 20 to gay Democrats criticizing Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean and the party for not getting involved in state ballot measures seeking to ban gay marriage. Dean’s response? Less than a week later he fired the party’s gay outreach advisor Donald Hitchcock — who was Yandura’s domestic partner (a move Yandura described as “retaliation, pure and simple”). Knowing the Democrats won’t stand up to defend gay marriage from electoral and ballot attacks has encouraged the Republicans in their insidiously clever anti-gay strategy.

Moreover, since ’04, the Bush Administration has strengthened the GOP’s electoral hand, and its anti-gay strategy, beyond electoral tactics by funneling huge amounts of political patronage to allies in conservative churches. These “faith-based initiatives” underwrite proselytizing campaigns by the Christian Right and tear down the wall separating Church and State.

Even better for electioneering purposes, faith-based initiatives widen the power and local visibility of recipients, which helps conservatives during campaign season. Religious groups now play a huge role in public housing, receiving 24 percent of grant money from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s housing subsidies. A quarter of the $15 billion the White House originally pledged to fight AIDS was diverted to sexual abstinence programs run by religious organizations. And this year, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) upped that earmark for abstinence-only-until-marriage education to 33 percent. The deficit reduction bill that Bush signed in February channels $500 million into programs to promote and strengthen heterosexual marriage.

In Bush’s five years in the White House, he has reshaped the bureaucracy to institutionalize these patronage flows to religious groups. Eleven government agencies have set up religious offices, ostensibly to help coordinate the provision of social services by faith-based organizations. In reality they channel the money to Republican allies among the religious. In early March of this year, the President even established a religious office in the Department of Homeland Security—with churches and church-related institutions getting a majority share of the monies allocated for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

This massive ladling out of religious patronage by the Republicans guarantees that churches, priests and preachers will be oh-so enthusiastic in carrying the anti-gay message to their flocks and in encouraging parishioners to vote on the basis of “moral” and “family values”—the prime target, of course, being gay-friendly Democrats.

Beltway Tactics Beyond the Government

We now know that in 2004, a GOP front group in Washington also proved innovative in directing strategy— and money flows—to the grassroots. A study released in January by the Institute on Money in State Politics, “The Money Behind the 2004 Marriage Amendments,” showed that of the $6.8 billion filed as legal campaign contributions to support referenda banning gay marriage, “contributors affiliated with conservative Christian organizations gave $2.2 million. Nearly $2 million of this amount, or 89 percent, came from members of the so-called ‘Arlington Group,’ a coalition with close ties to the Bush White House.”

The Arlington Group—so secretive it doesn’t even have a website—was formed in 2003 by a key White House Christian Right ally, the Rev. Donald Wildmon. Wildmon is head of the Tupelo, Mississippi-based American Family Association, which—through its broadcasting arm, American Family Radio—runs a network of more than 200 Christian radio stations and affiliate groups. The Arlington Group was formed in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down the sodomy laws, and in expectation that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court would hold gay marriage to be a civil right (as indeed it did in 2003).

It is unknown to the public and rarely surfaces in the press, but the influential Arlington Group’s membership includes not only such well-known Christian Right groups as James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, Paul Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation, and the Family Research Council, but also a raft of 57 other little-known but potent entities like Catholicvote.org, the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, the American Association of Christian Schools, the Coalition of African-American Pastors, the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board, the National Religious Broadcasters Association, and the National Association of Christian Evangelicals. The last is headed by the Rev.Ted Haggard, pastor of the immense, 11,000-member New Life Church in Colorado, who—as Jeffrey Sharlet reported in a May 2005 Harper’s magazine profile of the powerful preacher —personally talks to Bush or his advisers every Monday. Many of the Arlington Group’s members have benefited from the Bush administration’s religious patronage.

Politicians are also in the Arlington Group circle, including Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State, Kenneth J. Blackwell. Blackwell not only served as co-chair of Bush’s 2004 campaign in Ohio, he was the public servant responsible for an election system which pushed Bush to victory by depressing the black, pro-Kerry vote in the state. A 2005 study confirmed that black voters waited three times longer than whites to vote and were more likely to be asked—illegally—by poll workers for identification.

In a December 2004 column, Weyrich —a key ideological leader of the Christian Right—boasted that “the effort to put marriage on the ballot in eleven states emanated from the Arlington Group. And the resources to go full-tilt in Ohio were raised from participants in the group.” The Institute for Money in State Politics report notes that, “campaign contributions from member groups of [The Arlington Group] went most heavily to Ohio, totaling $1.18 million, nearly all of the money given to support Ohio’s amendment and 59 percent of the $1.99 million in contributions given by organizations or individuals connected with the Arlington Group.” Not only did Arlington Group member organizations funnel financial resources to Ohio, but they also gave heavily in two other states considered to be presidential battle-grounds—$546,600 in Michigan and $138,360 in Oregon.

The direct contributions required to be filed by state election laws for the anti-gay marriage referendum campaigns represent only the tip of the iceberg. Not included are many in-kind contributions. For example, the Washington Post reported that leaders of the Arlington Group had jointly hired or loaned several full-time staff members to work on the gay-marriage issue in ‘04. Moreover, Arlington Group members undertook advertising campaigns targeting House and Senate candidates on the marriage issue in at least six of the states with ballot measures on the issue: Arkansas, Louisiana, North Dakota, Michigan, Ohio and Oklahoma. But this advertising was not included in the referendum campaign filings.

Complete records of contributions aren’t available until after elections, but rest assured the Arlington Group will work the money flows equally well in 2006.

The Church is in the Fight

The role of Catholics in the anti-gay marriage crusade has been seriously under-reported. But one of the most successful Arlington Group associates in the ‘04 referenda was the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP), founded in 1973 by American Catholics. C. Preston Noell III is on the TFP board of directors and is editor of Crusade, a TFP magazine. He also is a member of the Arlington Group. TFP was behind the Traditional Marriage Crusade ballot committees formed in nine states in ’04; as its website proclaims, it is already gearing up for this year’s election cycle.

In the battleground state of Michigan, $1 million for the ‘04 referendum campaign came directly from seven Roman Catholic dioceses in Michigan. Their contributions to a committee supporting the same-sex marriage ban represented 36 percent of the total contributions raised by the anti-gay marriage amendment committees in Michigan.

The Catholic Church’s role in the anti-gay marriage fight is sure to strengthen in 2006 under the new Pope Benedict XVI (formerly the anti-gay zealot Cardinal Ratzinger). In February, theologians and jurists, including many Americans, took part in a five-day seminar on how to legally ban gay marriage, organized by the John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and the Family at the Vatican’s Lateran University in Rome. And when the Pope made an American and long-time ally—San Francisco Archbishop William Levada— a cardinal and gave Levada his old job as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it signaled that the fight over gay marriage in the United States will be getting a lot more Vatican attention.

One Church’s Example

Rarely do the efforts of local churches and pastors to turn out the anti-gay vote attract the scrutiny of state election authorities. One of the rare instances is in Montana.

There, as the Associated Press reported this March, Montana State Commissioner of Political Practices Gordon Higgins ruled that Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church in East Helena violated state law by not reporting, to his office, the church’s in-kind support of a state constitutional ban on gay marriage. The church held meetings and collected signatures to put the ban on the ballot, becoming, according to Higgins, an “incidental political committee.” The gay marriage ban passed by a 2-1 margin in ‘04.

Multiply that Montana church by thousands of other churches across the country whose anti-gay organizing is not legally reported and is off the media radar screen, and one begins to get a truer picture of the role of religious institutions in the anti-gay marriage fight. The pulpit is a powerful forum for getting out the anti-gay vote.

Tactics for 2006

Anti-gay organizing for the ‘06 election is well under way. Months before Congress voted on the anti-gay marriage amendment to the US Constitution, the Alliance for Marriage announced it will organize retribution against those who oppose it.

In Iowa, Arlington Group member Focus on the Family ran full-page newspaper ads targeting Democratic state legislators for blocking debate on a proposed state constitutional ban on gay marriage, preventing Iowans from voting on the amendment. The ads’ demagogic slogan? “Iraqis Have the Right to Vote, Why Don’t Iowans?”

Legislatures in Maryland, West Virginia, and New Hampshire all blocked Republican attempts to put anti-gay marriage amendments to their state constitutions on the fall ballot. But Republican propagandists are gearing up to use those votes against the amendments to beat Democrats. And in Washington, Colorado, Wisconsin, Virginia, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Illinois, and a half-dozen other states, constitutional same-sex marriage bans either have been or are being put on the ballot for this fall by the legislatures or by petition.

In Minnesota—which already has a law on the books defining marriage as between a man and a woman—St. Paul-Minneapolis Catholic Archbishop Harry Flynn has urged his priests to participate in a statewide campaign by Minnesota for Marriage to activate religious leaders in support of a constitutional ban on gay marriage and civil unions. At the same time, a church-based group called Minnesota Citizens in Defense of Marriage ran radio, print and direct mail ads all Spring targeting a dozen state senators who oppose the ban.

In February, Catholic theologians and jurists took part in a five-day seminar on how to legally ban gay marriage.

Minnesota is also the testing ground for a new GOP tactic: a CD-ROM devised by the Minnesota Republican Party to build support for the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Featuring clips from born-again GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty and other statewide office-holders, the mini-documentary has another purpose: building up a voter database. To watch the video, a person has to go to an Internet site and punch in an ID code that tells the Party who is viewing it. Once the video is going, viewers are asked questions on subjects like abortion, gun control and Party preference. But it contains no warnings saying that data is collected and transmitted to the Republican Party, nor does it indicate what other data about the user is being collected once the Party is connected to one‘s home computer.

Electronic privacy groups have condemned this covert data-collection as “sneaky” and “dangerous.”

In Congress, the Republicans have more arrows in their quiver than just the Federal Marriage Amendment. They introduced House bills saying no state constitution can be construed to require legalization of anything but “normal” marriage between a man and a woman. And even before the Defense of Marriage bill is passed, let alone ratified by the states, the House Republicans introduced a bill that would safeguard from judicial review its provision allowing states to refuse recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states. Finally, they sought to ban same-sex marriage in the District of Columbia.

Another anti-gay innovation for the 2006 campaign: In Ohio and 12 other states, the GOP has introduced legislation to ban adoptions by same-sex couples.

After a March 2006 Pew Poll purported to show a decline in opposition to gay marriage from 63 percent to 51 percent, some in the gay community waxed optimistic, and some Democrats began to surmise that the gay marriage issue was losing its hot-button status in electoral behavior.. But, as Jeff Soref, a former Democratic National Committeeman who chairs the Empire State Pride Agenda in New York, commented when it was released:

That’s in the absence of any sort of very focused and negative advertising campaign about gay rights and marriage equality. When the Republicans start to really organize around it—through the pulpit and churches and advertising and people on the ground —you will probably see opinion move again.

Moreover, a subsequent Gallup Poll released in April this year reported that opposition to gay marriage had actually risen to 68 percent, as compared to 55 percent in a poll Gallup had taken the year before. So, there is little cause for optimism; 2006 is shaping up as yet another dangerous year in the anti-gay culture wars.

Pulling Up the Ladder: The Anti-Immigrant Backlash

This article first appeared in the Summer 1995 issue of The Public Eye magazine, and has been updated by PRA staff, with permission of the author, to reflect developments since that time.

“Many persons who have spoken and written in favor of restriction of immigration, have laid great stress upon the evils to society arising from immigration. They have claimed that disease, pauperism, crime and vice have been greatly increased through the incoming of the immigrants. Perhaps no other phase of the question has aroused so keen feeling, and yet perhaps on no other phase of the question has there been so little accurate information.” (Jenk and Lauk 1912)

These words, written in 1912 by Jeremiah Jenks and W. Jett Lauck, who had been part of the United States Immigration Commission, sound surprisingly contemporary. Today there continues to be a popular argument that immigrants are responsible for many, if not all, of the problems facing our country. This theme has been struck before in U.S. history. It has arisen in recent years in part because many right-wing organizations have promoted immigrants as a group targeted for blame. For example, an organization prominent in this right-wing campaign, the American Immigration Control Foundation (AICF), in a 2000 mailing, lists immigrants as the culprits behind high taxes, wasted welfare dollars, lost jobs, high costs for education, and rising crime. AICF claims that immigrants are driving up health care costs by grabbing free care while also bringing disease into the United States. Interestingly, previous versions of this annual letter reduce their earlier claim of 13 million undocumented immigrants to 6-8 million, and finally to “an unknown number of illegal immigrants” in 2000. As Jenks and Lauck conclude in the above quote, the debate is still characterized more by angry talk than by documented facts.

An important ingredient in the success of the Right’s anti-immigrant campaign is its ability to deflect anger about any negative effects of the U.S. economic, environmental or cultural situation onto the scapegoat of immigrants. This tactic nests within a larger goal of capturing political gain by exploiting a popular issue. This is nothing new, but rather is a practice rooted in a long-standing history of reaction to immigration, nurtured in the recent past by a cluster of right-wing political organizations dedicated to this single issue.

With the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon apparently in part by undocumented foreign nationals, anti-immigrant groups and politicians have used the heightened fear of terrorism to promote limiting noncitizens’ civil liberties. The aftermath of this attack, in combination with the economic recession, will undoubtedly provide new fuel to the immigration restriction movement. At the time of updating, the repercussions of the September 11 attacks are still unfolding and will certainly require more analysis as the situation develops.

History and Context

The History of U.S. Immigration

It is impossible to understand the current wave of anti-immigrant sentiment without some historical perspective. Indeed, excepting the Native American population, it is often said that the United States is a nation of immigrants. Certainly, the role of cheap immigrant labor has been critical in building the U.S. economy. Immigration has been both voluntary and forced. In early U.S. history, territorial and economic expansion was a magnet for persons fleeing poverty and political repression. There was also forced immigration in the form of the slave trade and the annexation of one half of Mexico by the Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo, signed in 1848, at the end of the Mexican-American War. This, not traditional immigration, is the reason that a significant number of Chicanos in the Southwest live in the United States rather than in Mexico.

By the turn of the 19th century, territorial expansion was no longer a major force fueling immigration. The new magnet was the industrial revolution, which was in full swing and in need of labor. Today, as the United States is going through another economic shift to a service- and information-based economy heavily influenced by globalization, immigration is once again a factor.

The United States has historically had a complex reaction to immigration. On the one hand, immigrants have been crucial to U.S. economic progress at certain junctures in our economic development. On the other, there has been considerable hate and anger directed toward immigrants, based on xenophobia, religious prejudice, and fear that immigrants will take jobs from native-born workers. It is revealing to take a brief look at some of this history of immigration as told by Howard Zinn in A People’s History of the United States.

In his description of the colonies in the 1700s, Zinn notes that the colonies grew quickly as English settlers and Black slaves were joined by Scottish, Irish, and German immigrants. Immigration was causing the larger cities to double and triple in size, but often urban poverty grew apace. “As Boston grew, from 1687 to 1770, the percentage of adult males who were poor … [and who] owned no property, doubled from 14 percent of adult males to 29 percent. And the loss of property meant loss of voting rights.” Indeed this often-romanticized period of U.S. history was a time of far harsher immigration conditions than those of today.

Civil War era immigration occurred in an even more hostile environment. The Contract Labor Law of 1864 allowed companies to sign contracts with foreign workers in return for a pledge of 12 months’ wages. This allowed employers during the Civil War not only to recruit very cheap labor, but also strikebreakers. Predictably, this resulted in conflict. “Italians were imported into the bituminous coal area around Pittsburgh in 1874 to replace striking miners. This led to the killing of three Italians, to trials in which the jurors of the community exonerated the strikers, and bitter feelings between Italians and other organized workers.”

At the turn of the century, the immigrant population had changed from largely Irish and German to Eastern and Southern European and Russian, including many Jews. Zinn again describes the impact well, citing the role of immigration of different ethnic groups as contributing to the fragmentation of the working class. He discusses how the previous wave of Irish immigrants resented Jews coming into their neighborhoods. At this time, there was also the added fear that immigrants would bring with them socialist ideas that would undermine the principles of this country (Zinn 1980).

While nationality, religion, and political ideology were the main basis for resentment of immigrants in urban areas during the first half of the 19th century, race was the issue when Chinese immigrants arrived, brought in to fill a labor gap and then later to work as construction workers on the railroads in the 1860s. Indeed the first anti-immigrant law, passed in California, targeted the Chinese. In 1882, the United States passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was not repealed until 1943. Even then, immigration quotas for Chinese were only raised above 105 per year by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The late 1800s were difficult for Chinese in the United States – the growing trade union movement based part of its organizing strategy on advocating deportation of Chinese immigrants. Race riots on the West Coast were the response of angry Whites who blamed Chinese for their woes (Daniels 1988).

In 1917 and again in 1942, the United States initiated guest labor programs, commonly known as the Bracero programs, that brought Mexican workers into the Southwest to work as noncitizen farm workers and fill an alleged labor shortage. Up to half a million workers were enrolled in the program at its height. The flow of undocumented Mexicans grew during this time, prompting a government effort to stem the tide by “drying out the wetbacks” – an effort to convert undocumented immigrants into braceros. When that failed, “Operation Wetback” was launched with the deployment of a military style border patrol. The Bracero programs effectively exposed thousands of poor Mexicans to the wealth of the United States and contributed to immigration pressure. It also displaced Chicanos from rural agricultural jobs, fueling their exodus to urban centers (Briggs 1983; Garcia y Griego 1983).

The role of racism in anti-immigrant sentiment seemed to have dimmed by the late 1970s, at least according to Lawrence Fuchs, who served for two years as director of the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy. Commenting on responses to a 1984 survey, Fuchs stated that the immigration policy “had been transformed to one virtually free of considerations of color, nationality or religion” (Fuchs 1990). Fuchs attributed this decline in anti-immigrant racism to the Civil Rights Movement and an expansion of the spirit of pluralism that it forced. This optimistic reading of U.S. tolerance for ethnic, racial, and religious diversity parallels the optimism of that period.

Intolerance, however, was just below the surface of American politics. The appearance of a hospitable melting pot that had an accepting attitude toward immigrants proved illusory. It took only the arrival of immigrants who were politically unwelcome for government policies of exclusion to become explicit again.

Immigration, Today & Yesterday

Today there is a tendency to revise history, to extol the virtues of past immigration, specifically that which includes our ancestors, while saying that now the country is full and can hold no more. But as we have seen, the pattern of resistance to immigration was, if anything, more severe during earlier waves of arrivals. Indeed immigration today is about equal, in absolute numbers, to the peak of entries around 1910. And the rate of immigration as immigrants per 1,000 U.S. residents is several times lower than at any time during the period 1850-1930, because the U. S. population as a whole is so much larger (Simon 1992).

Anti-immigrant groups have had to endorse historical immigration because the vast majority of U.S. citizens are descended from immigrants. What they do not state directly, but imply in cleverly constructed arguments, is the one thing that clearly is different today. In 1900, 85 percent of immigrants came from Europe (only 2.5 percent came from Latin America and Asia combined). By 1990, Latino and Asian immigrants accounted for more than two-thirds of all immigrants (Lapham 1993). Because recent immigrants tend to settle in five or six states, these increases have contributed to areas where people of color are in the majority. The population of Hispanics in the United States is projected to reach 96 million by the middle of this century, while the Asian population will rise to about 34 million. By 2050 about half the U.S. population will consist of people of color (Population Projection Program 2000).

The United States has been a majority-White country and immigrant labor in the early part of this century was White, although, as we have seen, ethnic, national, and religious distinctions were critical in that time as the basis for defining immigrants as different and threatening. The current influx from Third World countries faces the added dimension of race, a powerful factor throughout U.S. history. Thus the current sentiment is as much the political twin of the racist history of exclusion of the Chinese as it is the resistance to White immigration.

The Immigration Debate & the Issue of Race

It is helpful to take a step back and consider the development of race as a concept. Race is intimately associated with both the development of the United States and with immigration policy. This is not surprising since this country was built on dislocation of the indigenous population and the enslavement of Africans. Such deeds are hard to justify against persons that you hold as equals. In the 19th century, the dominant view was that Africans, Asians, and Native Americans were separate and inferior species. This was based variously on interpretation of the Christian scriptures and on “scientific” comparisons of cranial capacity.

“Louis Agassiz, the greatest biologist of mid-nineteenth-century America, argued that God had created blacks and whites as separate species” (Gould 1977). On the other hand, head measurements “matched every good Yankee’s prejudice – whites on top, Indians in the middle, and blacks on the bottom; and, among whites, Teutons and Anglo-Saxons on top, Jews in the middle, and Hindus on the bottom” (Gould 1981). Most scholars now identify race as an artificial construct. Andrew Hacker writes, “There is no consensus when it comes to defining ‘race;’ the term has been applied to a diversity of groups.” For example, racial designations sometimes include Hispanic as an option and at other times include it as an ethnicity under “White.” On another level, for most Asians and Hispanics, “images of their identities are almost wholly national” – Chinese or Japanese, Puerto Rican or Mexican for example (Hacker 1992).

In the early part of this century, the terrain of defining racial differences shifted to measurement of IQ, and this was used to justify differential restriction of peoples in immigration. In the 1970s, the Pioneer Fund underwrote research by William Shockley and Arthur Jensen, who set the next stage for the modern IQ and race issue. They proclaimed that Blacks have lower IQs than Whites. It is not surprising to note the resurgence once again of this idea in the publication of The Bell Curve in 1994 by conservative social scientist Charles Murray and the late Harvard Professor Richard Herrnstein. The book develops an argument that intelligence is largely hereditary. Since Blacks score below Whites on such tests, this leads the authors to draw conclusions in favor of, “ending welfare to discourage births among low-IQ women, changing immigration laws to favor the capable and rolling back most job discrimination laws” (Lacayo 1994).

It is bitterly ironic that this was published in the same year that the movie Forest Gump became a smash hit by showing the basic humanity and common sense wisdom of a low IQ White man. The Bell Curvehas been reviewed by sociologist Christopher Jencks as “highly selective in the evidence they present and in their interpretation of ambiguous statistics.” And psychologist Richard Nisbett states that their work “wouldn’t be accepted by an academic journal – it’s that bad” (Beardsley 1995).

Immigration and Globalization

Another significant factor in the immigration debate is globalization, as it affects regional economies and migration patterns. Immigration has often followed a pattern of growth from parts of the world in which the United States is heavily involved militarily or economically, often developing countries. In recent years, immigration has increased from South East Asia, Eastern Europe and the Central America/Caribbean region. This sometimes results from granting entry for persons fleeing official enemies of the United States, such as Cuba or Vietnam, but also draws people from countries allied with the United States, such as the Philippines, Hong Kong, or El Salvador. As global trade relationships have grown through treaties such as NAFTA and FTAA, so has immigration increased.

These agreements have also allowed U.S. business to move freely without being tied to local labor forces; consequently, corporations are relocating overseas to find cheaper labor and lax environmental laws. The rise of an information and service-based economy has contributed significantly to the dislocation of U.S. workers (Mead 1994; Bernstein 1991). It generates far more low-paying jobs that new immigrants are willing to take but are unacceptable to middle-class workers who are seeking jobs that allow a more affluent and secure lifestyle.

Between 1983 and 1995, the bottom 40 percent of households lost 80 percent of their net worth, adjusted for inflation, while the top 1 percent increased theirs by 17 percent. In 1999 even after nine years of economic growth, average workers were still earning less, adjusting for inflation, than in 1970. In contrast, the top 1 percent of households have more wealth than the entire bottom 95 percent (Collins, Leondar-Wright, and Sklar 1999). Displaced workers, along with others who fear for their livelihood, are fertile ground in which to sow anti-immigrant sentiment, since angry and frustrated people often seek some target on which to blame their problems. The Right wing has organized and manipulated such anger and resentment, turned it away from corporations, and directed it against the government, decrying high taxes and the inability of the state to solve problems such as social deterioration, homelessness, crime, and violence. In addition to the target of “failed liberal policies,” immigrants make a convenient and tangible target for people’s anger. Racial prejudice is often an encoded part of the message.

Right-wing populist themes are particularly effective at attracting working people disenchanted with the system. A February 1996 issue of Border Watch, a publication of the American Immigration Control Foundation, argues that “Immigration is enriching the business elites that seek cheap labor” and creating “unpleasant low-paying jobs that do not sustain an American standard of living.” The article concludes, “for ordinary middle-class and working-class Americans, immigration has brought alienation, culture-clash, and loss of jobs.” An anonymous letter in Border Watch, identified as from a worker, captures the anti-immigrant sentiment: “[w]hen the Mexicans get powerful enough in a job situation, they kick out the ‘gringos’ so their buddies can take over” (1993).

Patrick Buchanan, in his 2000 presidential candidacy on the Reform Party ticket, softened his anti-immigrant rhetoric while continuing to blame immigrants for the problems of the least skilled native-born workers. In a January 18, 2000 speech, “To Reunite a Nation,” Buchanan proclaimed that many immigrants’ “contributions to Silicon Valley are extraordinary,” but that most immigrants are unskilled and are bringing wages down. He claimed, “Americans today who do poorly in high school are increasingly condemned to a low-wage existence; and mass immigration is a major reason why.” He also blamed mass immigration for threatening the country’s “common language,” “common culture,” and “common identity” (Buchanan 2000). Buchanan’s anti-globalization stance goes hand in hand with his xenophobia and White supremacism. In 2001, under Buchanan’s leadership, the Reform Party voted to support a ten-year moratorium on immigration (Bottorff 2001).

The Modern Anti-Immigrant Movement

In the 1980s and 1990s right-wing anti-immigration groups placed the 1965 Immigration Act at the center of a campaign to promote anti-immigrant sentiment and built upon it. In the 1965 Act, Congress repudiated the infamous 1952 McCarran-Walter Act, which followed 1920s-era legislation in parceling out immigrants’ visas based on country of origin. Under the banner of humanitarian values, Congress decided to allocate visas primarily on the grounds of kinship. Its provision that exempts spouses, dependent children, and parents of U.S. citizens from any numerical limits particularly drew the wrath of the Right (Gillespie 1994).

In the 1980s, anti-immigrant sentiment grew during the debate over immigration reform. Supporters of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 argued that immigrants were stealing jobs and draining the economy and that political turmoil in Mexico and Central America would spill over into the United States. Defenders of immigrants argued that immigrants were, in fact, a positive force in the American workforce and that the United States is historically a nation of immigrants.

The final law was intended to shut the door on the further flow of undocumented immigrants, while ostensibly supporting immigrants by offering legalized status to undocumented immigrants already in the United States. The Immigration Reform and Control Act contained sanctions against employers who hire undocumented immigrants and included provisions for guest workers who are allowed to work in the United States, but are denied rights or benefits. (The “guest worker” provisions were touted by Pete Wilson, then a Senator from California.) Although many immigrants entered the legal citizenship process, despite significant obstacles, the law laid the basis for the 1996 debate over how to effectively seal the border. Further, the guest worker program, which George W. Bush is currently seeking to expand, contributed to the flow of immigrant workers to the United States who have no possibility of becoming citizens.

In 1996, the Republican-controlled Congress responded to the economic downturn and heightened anti-immigrant sentiment by passing three laws that seriously diminished immigrant rights (Discussed further in this paper under “The Republican Party’s Use of Anti-Immigrant Themes.”) Although the family-based immigration preferences so maligned by the Right survived, they were fettered by new economic sponsorship requirements, and the laws were a decisive victory on other fronts for the anti-immigrant cause.

The Messages of the Right Wing

To attract different constituencies, the anti-immigrant movement uses multiple messages that focus on a range of issues, from economic and environmental to cultural and social. For example, Dan Stein, Executive Director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, claims that a public consensus has emerged “in the face of Haitian boats, the [1993] World Trade Center bombing, Chinese boats, international immigrant-smuggling and crime syndicates, persistent illegal immigration from Mexico and high profile tales of immigrant-related welfare rip-offs.” Stein states that in the face of this assault we need to cut the total number of immigrants, documented and not: “the country needs a break to absorb and handle its critical social and internal problems… .We have to limit immigration significantly to preserve the nation” (Stein 1994).

In an advertisement that ran in Mother Jones, FAIR claims that “mass immigration has become America’s most environmentally destructive policy” (Federation 1999). On the other hand, an advertisement in the conservative news weekly Human Events says “Immigration is the common ground for those who want to undermine our values and undermine the middle class!” (Federation 1997). In a brochure, FAIR writes:

Today’s challenges are very different from those faced by earlier generations. We no longer have a vast frontier to tame. In fact, we must protect shrinking forests, wetlands and farm lands…. We no longer need to encourage an influx of new workers as we did to fuel the industrial revolution. (Federation n.d.)

Overall, the message of the anti-immigrant forces is that things have changed. At one time immigration was a good thing for this country, but no more. There is, in this view, no longer enough to go around and immigrants are cutting into the share of what could be had by good patriotic Americans.

Furthermore, anti-immigrant advocates raise the specter of new immigrants failing to assimilate and forcing their culture on everyone else – a prospect that, they argue, could lead to separatist scenarios resulting in the “Balkanization” of the United States. For instance, Chronicles, a rightist monthly cultural magazine, devoted its June 1993 issue to the subject of cultural breakdown in the United States resulting from immigration. The cover, a cartoon depiction of the Statue of Liberty, features immigrant characters (with pointed ears to indicate their demon status) clawing their way to the top of the statue, whose face is grimacing in pain and alarm. The thrust of the article is the dual threat of cultural adulteration of the Anglo-Saxon American heritage and the overwhelming inferiority of Third World alternative cultures. Feature writer Thomas Fleming writes, “Arab and Pakistani terrorists, Nigerian con artists, Oriental and South American drug lords, Russian gangsters – all are introducing their particular brands of cultural enrichment into an already fragmented United States that increasingly resembles Bosnia more than the America I grew up in.” This message not only pervades right-wing anti-immigrant rhetoric, but also can be found in the mainstream media and the rhetoric of both political parties.

Eugenicists Fund Anti-Immigrant Groups

FAIR, is directly tied to more virulent racists by the funding it has received from the Pioneer Fund. Between 1982 and 1996, the Pioneer Fund gave over $1 million in grants to FAIR, and $183,000 to the American Immigration Control Foundation (Institute for the Study of Academic Racism 2001). FAIR clearly had no qualms about receiving such funding from a group that has funded segregationists, eugenicists and much of the research cited in The Bell Curve.

It is also of note that heiress Cordelia Scaife May supports FAIR, U.S. English, the Center for Immigration Studies, and others to the tune of $2.5 million. May’s political agenda is made clearer by her foundation’s underwriting in 1983 of the distribution of The Camp of the Saints by Jean Raspail, a book in which immigrants from the Third World invade Europe and destroy its civilization. Raspail’s novel has fueled anti-immigrant sentiment on the Far Right since its distribution in the United States by the American Immigration Control Foundation. It is instructive to read even a short passage from that book. It describes the masses threatening the White, and naturally civilized world as:

All the kinky-haired, swarthy-skinned, long-despised phantoms; all the teeming ants toiling for the white man’s comfort; all the swill men and sweepers, the troglodytes, the stinking drudges, the swivel-hipped menials, the womanless wretches, the lung-spewing hackers… . (Raspail 1987)

These “five billion growling human beings” are threatening the “seven hundred million whites” (Raspail 1987). Although this fear of “brown hordes” overrunning Whites is an undercurrent in the rhetoric of most anti-immigrant groups, it is rarely so explicitly stated.

The English Only Movement

Language is a key issue in the immigration debate. At the same time that there is concern that students are not learning second languages, there are attempts to make sure that young immigrants do not retain their native language. A plausible explanation is that immigrants have the wrong language: Spanish, rather than French or German. The opposition to “other” languages seems to reflect both disdain of foreign cultures and fear of the loss of English as the dominant U.S. language and is closely associated with the racist aspects of immigrant bashing.

The language issue is often falsely framed as a concern that immigrants are not learning English and are not integrating into society. In fact, immigrants today are learning English as rapidly as previous generations of immigrants, despite longer and longer waiting lists for adult English classes due to government cutbacks. The hidden political agenda of English Only advocates is clear in their attacks on bilingual education and bilingual ballots. When English Only laws have passed, it has emboldened employers to restrict non-English languages at work and cities to outlaw commercial signs in various languages. It has fueled anti-immigrant sentiment, extending to citizens, legal residents, and the undocumented alike, as long as they “look like immigrants.”

The danger of official English initiatives comes from their subtlety and ability to win over middle Americans who are unaware of the larger agenda. In fact, U.S. English is a flagship organization of the Right’s anti-immigrant campaign. Because U.S. English is occasionally characterized as seeking to designate a state or national language that is no more threatening than an official bird or flower, liberals are sometimes puzzled or shocked to read claims that the English Only movement is racist.

Then U.S. English Chairman John Tanton wrote a memo in 1988 that dirtied the clean public image that the organization had sought to maintain. In the memo, Tanton wrote, “[a]s Whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night?” And, “[o]n the demographic point: perhaps this is the first instance in which those with their pants up are going to get caught by those with their pants down!” (Tanton 1986). The ensuing uproar led to the resignation of then-director Linda Chavez and board member Walter Cronkite.

U.S. English has made a strong comeback in the wake of that crisis. They have over a million members across the United States thanks to their ability to reach huge numbers of persons through mass mailings and advertisements, and they can point to some 26 states that have passed official English laws, 10 since 1990. Their prime objective today is to change the U.S. Constitution and they have legislation that has gathered some support in Congress. In addition, they have continued to oppose transitional bilingual education and Puerto Rican statehood.

Public Opinion Is Against Immigrants, But Also In Flux

In the mid-1990s, public opinion was swayed by the arguments and the enormous media access of anti-immigrant organizations. A Business Week/Harris Poll in 1992 found that while 59 percent of those surveyed thought immigration has been good for the United States historically, 69 percent of non-Blacks and 53 percent of Blacks thought present-day immigration was bad. Among the reasons cited were taking jobs away from American workers (over 60 percent) and using more than their fair share of government services (about 60 percent) (Power 1992).

More recent polls though indicate a shift in public opinion about immigration. Throughout the 1980s and the early 1990s a majority of those polled favored decreased levels of immigration. In March 2001, however, only 43 percent preferred a decrease. In 1993, 56 percent said immigrants cost taxpayers too much but by 2000 this number was down to 40 percent (Gallup New Service 2001). Factors influencing such shifts include the economic boom of the late ‘90s and the decreasing need for scapegoats, the success of the 1996 anti-immigrant legislation, which may have satisfied some anti-immigrant fervor, and a liberal backlash against Proposition 187.

Not surprisingly, a Zogby poll released by the Center for Immigration Studies and conducted within two weeks of the September 11 attacks found most respondents disagreeing that “the government is doing enough … to control the border and to screen people allowed into the country,” and agreeing “that a dramatic increase in resources devoted to border control and enforcement of immigration laws would help reduce the chances of future terrorist attacks” (Center for Immigration Studies 2001).

Milestones of the Anti-Immigrant Movement

Proposition 187 in California

The Republican Party scapegoated immigrants for some time, but in the mid-1990s immigration moved to the center of the party’s agenda and became a platform to advance its political fortunes. David Nyhan, writing in The Boston Globe, points to California Governor Pete Wilson’s reelection campaign as the flash point of the rise of immigrants as an official enemy in the Republican’s electoral strategy. Nyhan writes, “Wilson looked done in by a combination of recession… defense cuts, population growth, job loss… and a plague of natural calamities… and the Los Angeles riots.” Then Wilson found a way to invigorate his political prospects. “He pursued an increasingly harsh policy toward illegal immigrants and was reinforced at nearly every turn of the media page by the increasingly polarized electorate” (Nyhan 1994).

Closely linked to the 1994 gubernatorial election in California was Proposition 187, a statewide referendum that was a paradigm of the state-level strategy of the anti-immigrant movement. When the voters of California approved Proposition 187 by a margin of 59 to 41 percent, they mandated that teachers, doctors, social workers, and police check the immigration status of all persons seeking access to public education and health services from publicly funded agencies, and deny services to those in the United States without documentation. Those who voted in the 1994 election were 80 percent White, despite the fact that 45 percent of California’s potential voters were people of color, and despite widespread protests from the Latino community.

The proposition, championed by an organization called Save Our State (SOS), was promoted as a cure-all that would reverse the many crises facing California and enjoyed widespread support. While Governor Wilson staked his successful reelection bid on endorsing the initiative, prominent Democratic elected officials voiced only muted opposition, and offered up their own plans to strengthen the Border Patrol.

Elizabeth Kadetsky found that SOS was “a ragtag movement replete with registered Greens, Democrats, Perotists, distributors of New Age healing products and leaders of the Republican Party.” There is little question that SOS had a grassroots base that “right-wing figures have shown up to exploit.” Among key financial backers were Rob Hurtt, a millionaire who helped bankroll the Christian Right’s campaign for the state legislature, and then-state legislator Don Rogers, who was associated with the White supremacist Christian Identity movement. But SOS raised most of its modest budget from small donations. While FAIR and SOS did not work together, FAIR did endorse the measure and was linked to the issue by Alan Nelson, a former INS director under Reagan, who later wrote anti-immigrant legislation in California for FAIR before writing Proposition 187. Kadetsky found that, “SOS’s visible advocates personify either fringe populism or cynical manipulation of public sentiment for political gain” (Kadetsky 1994).

After the passage of Proposition 187, reports of discrimination against Hispanics became rampant. The Hispanic Mayor of Pomona was stopped by the INS and told to prove his citizenship. In Bell Gardens, a teacher asked students for their immigration papers. In Los Angeles, a bus driver yelled at passengers that they could no longer speak Spanish or Armenian. And a car accident victim was denied emergency services when he couldn’t prove his legal status, to name just a few examples. Columnist Jose Armas called this “one of the most hate-charged laws ever passed” and called for support of the growing boycott of California products and tourist and convention visits (Armas 1994). Proposition 187 was struck down in the courts by U.S. District Judge Mariana R. Pfaelzer based on a 1982 Texas decision, Plyler v. Doe, that undocumented children have a right to public education under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Despite this setback, the proposition’s ultimate impact was felt in the Republican Congress that in 1996 responded to frustrations and fears exploited in the Proposition 187 campaign with a series of laws that placed severe restrictions on the rights of all noncitizens.

Groundwork for Proposition 187 was laid in 1986 by Proposition 63, a successful referendum to make English the official language of the state. A local affiliate of U.S. English, the California English Campaign, led the campaign in California. U.S. English provided the campaign with between $800,000 and $900,000 for the initial signature drive, and continued to heavily fund the campaign. Other national organizations collaborated to coordinate the campaign, with U.S. English taking the lead. It was an early use of the statewide referendum to tap anti-immigrant sentiment and was a precursor to 187 (Colorado Coalition, n.d.).

The Republican Party’s Use of Anti-Immigrant Themes

Nyhan accurately predicted that Wilson’s reelection “will nationalize the anti-immigrant debate, which is becoming the most incendiary issue in presidential megastates like Texas, Florida and New York” (Nyhan 1994). Indeed, Wilson briefly ran as a candidate for the 1996 Republican presidential nomination, promoting California’s anti-immigrant policies as a national “solution.” And after the 1996 elections, the Republican-controlled Congress, rallying behind the “Contract With America,” took up the issue of immigration. Over the course of five months it enacted three laws that severely infringed on immigrants’ civil liberties and access to a public benefits.

The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, enacted in April 1996, resulted in the indefinite detention of deportees from particular countries, the long-term detention of some asylum seekers, the deportation of legal immigrants for sometimes very old non-violent offenses, and the dramatic increase in the incarcerated immigrant population. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) or the Welfare Reform Act, enacted in August, which made citizenship an eligibility requirement for a range of federal benefits, allowed states to discriminate against noncitizen immigrants in administration of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and Medicaid and greatly reduced eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and food stamps. Cutting benefits to immigrants accounted for $23 billion or half of the savings the act was expected to generate. One month later, Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) with the stated aim of decreasing “illegal” immigration. It increased Border Patrol and penalties for immigration violations while also increasing the earning requirements of those legally sponsoring new immigrants and requiring them to sign legally-binding Affidavits of Support.

While previously the laws had seen the primary distinction as between documented and undocumented immigrants, in 1996 a harsh distinction was also drawn between citizens and noncitizens in relation to their access to public benefits, their due process rights and other civil liberties. It put into effect many of the provisions that California’s Proposition 187 had sought, but ultimately failed, to enact.

Advocates sponsored the Fix ‘96 campaign in an attempt to roll back the harshest components of the ‘96 laws. One important victory came in June 2001 with three Supreme Court decisions which barred indefinite detention for those who cannot return to their home country, ended the deportation of noncitizens convicted of crimes before 1996 and restored judicial review to those facing deportation. After the September 11 attacks, the USA PATRIOT Act (standing for “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism”) gave broad powers to the Attorney General to detain and deport noncitizens with very limited judicial review. For example, the Attorney General can detain a noncitizen if he certifies that he has “reasonable grounds to believe” that the person would endanger “the national security… or the safety of the community.” Someone charged with an immigration or criminal offense can be held indefinitely if the Attorney General reviews the detention every six months. The law also defined a new crime of “domestic terrorism” that can be applied to civil disobedience that results in violence and greatly expanded the governments’ surveillance powers eliminating much of the legal checks created after the McCarthy era. In addition, George W. Bush signed an executive order allowing for noncitizens, including U.S. residents, to be tried by secret military tribunals which need not meet constitutional standards. For example, the tribunals may use evidence gained by hearsay or torture. On Dec. 6, 2001, Attorney General Ashcroft told the Senate Judiciary Committee that those who criticize the administration’s measures “aid terrorists” and “give ammunition to America’s enemies.”

The Ambivalence of Liberals

Republicans and Democrats are not cleanly divided on the issue of immigration. Ideological positions on the issue are murky, among other reasons because both dominant political parties created the economic and political problems we are facing; thus, a popular scapegoat is useful to both. Gregory Defreitas, writing in Dollars and Sense, identifies an example of ideological divergence within conservatism: nativist Republicans want to curtail or stop immigration, while conservative libertarians endorse open borders. On the liberal side, a significant number of unionists and environmentalists have seen immigration as a threat to jobs and the environment (Defreitas 1994).

The issues of jobs and the environment make liberal organizations susceptible to the Right’s anti-immigrant campaign. For example, within the Sierra Club, a six-year battle culminated in a 1998 referendum seeking to change the Club’s neutral position on immigration (which the organization had reached in 1996) to a position of immigration restrictions as part of a national population program. Although the referendum was defeated by a 20 percent margin, the campaign was extremely divisive, further alienating people of color from the mainstream environmental movement. Sierrans for U.S. Population Stabilization, a leading proponent of the new policy, simplistically argued that reducing immigration levels was more feasible and broadly popular than reducing overconsumption or average U.S. birthrates. More recently, efforts by anti-immigrant groups to blame suburban sprawl on immigrants have tempted some environmentalists to accept the scapegoating.

Conversely, conservative organizations have used liberal arguments to take advantage of this ambivalence and attract a liberal constituency. The Center for Immigration Studies has put out numerous position papers expressing concern that immigration is harming African Americans and the poor. One article pulls together quotations from various 19th and 20th century civil rights activists to “remind us of the logic underlying black Americans’ heritage of protest against mass immigration as a fundamental impediment to black economic progress” (Center for Immigration Studies 1996). Blaming immigrants for the widening wage gap, CIS also argues that labor’s support of immigrant rights mean that workers “have lost the support of the most effective champion they ever had” (Briggs 2001).

The ambivalence of liberals over the issue of immigration has allowed the views of the political Right to become mainstream. As has been said earlier, liberals were part of setting economic policy, and can no more explain away what they have done than can the Right. Upper-level workers, primarily White and unionized, are often a base for liberalism’s themes of tolerance and diversity. Despite union campaigns to recruit immigrants, which silenced some anti-immigrant sentiment among the rank and file, such workers are not immune to lapses of racism, and have blamed immigrants for their own economic problems. Others have created unnecessary divisions in designing what they hoped would be winnable strategies on immigrant advocacy questions. For instance, during the Proposition 187 campaign, liberals split and many scapegoated undocumented immigrants while claiming to support documented immigrants. Because relatively few recent immigrants are voters and immigrants do not have their own PACs, they hold limited influence in the electoral arena, despite lip service from Democrats.

Finally, the George W. Bush administration has offered some Democrats a way to “support” undocumented workers by allowing them to remain in the United States through proposed guest worker programs. These programs were also part of an attempt to counter the anti-immigrant image of the Republican Party and to attract Latino voters. With the recent terrorist attacks it is unclear what will come of these guest worker programs, but it is unlikely that legalization proposals will have enough support to pass. At the same time the Bush administration’s pro-immigrant message has gotten lost as the focus has shifted toward increasing the appearance of security and immigrants of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent become the primary scapegoat. Unless liberals call for protecting the civil liberties of citizens and noncitizens alike and discourage blaming immigrants en masse for the actions of a few dozen people, then again immigrants will suffer as the country seeks to assign blame.

Final Words

An atmosphere of fear, a competitive mentality and a sense of increasingly scarce resources create a fertile soil for anti-immigrant advocates who raise the alarm that newcomers will take your job, your home, and your culture, or worse threaten your sense of safety. Fear is very real, and the decline in the economic position of the average American and the threat of violence are understandable motivators of fear. But to blame immigrants as the source of these problems is to scapegoat an easy, unpopular target and, at times, divert responsibility from more culpable parties. Unfortunately, the message that immigrants are the problem has been all too successful.


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