I bought of copy of George W. Bush’s new book Decision Points this afternoon. Eventually, I plan to write a review. Bush was such an omnipresent figure for so many years that it is hard to believe he is gone. I was mostly interested in hearing what he had to say about immigration and his presidency.
In particular, this passage stuck out at me:
“I traveled across the country touting the bill, especially its emphasis on border security and assimilation. Passions ran high on both sides of the issue. As immigrants took jobs across the country, they put pressure on local schools and hospitals. Residents worried about their communities changing. Talk radio hosts and TV commentators warned of a “third world invasion and conquest of America.” Meanwhile, a huge crowd of legalization supporters marched through major cities waving Mexican flags, an in-your-face display that offended many Americans.
The mood on the airwaves affected the attitude in Washington. Congressmen pledged, “We will not surrender America,” and suggested that supporters of reform “wear a scarlet letter A for ‘amnesty.'” On the other side, the chairman of the Democratic Party compared the temporary worker program to “indentured servitude.” The head of America’s largest labor union labeled the reform build “anti-family and anti-worker.”
As Bush recounts the story, the McCain-Kennedy amnesty was within 2 votes of passage in the Senate, but Harry Reid scheduled a premature cloture vote that failed. Republican Senators returned home where they faced the wrath of furious constituents who had been stirred up by talk radio. By the time they came back to Washington, “comprehensive immigration reform” was a dead letter.
Remember that big massive amnesty rally in Los Angeles with the sea of Mexican flags? That was the turning point in the immigration debate.
Americans didn’t suddenly rethink and abandon their core fundamental values. On the contrary, the contempt shown by Mexican illegal aliens for the American flag offended the patriotism of White conservatives, who reacted by making opposition to “comprehensive immigration reform” a hot button issue on talk radio.
That was how we turned the tide on immigration: a racially polarizing national spectacle that was beamed into every conservative household by FOX News and was discussed endlessly on talk radio. The overreaction of the opposition played into our hands.
It was probably that California high school where Mexican students ripped down the American flag and raised the Mexican flag as their standard. That incident emotionally resonated with implicit Whites and connected with their existing values. It created a lasting backlash that changed the political spectrum in our favor.
Similarly, the televised spectacle that happened this year with the Obama Justice Department suing Arizona over SB 1070 played a major role in nationalizing the immigration debate and driving up White turnout at the polls.