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Not So Big a Tent, After All

January 22nd, 2006

The GOP likes to pretend as if it’s a big tent and is tolerant of other opinions, but saying it and doing it are two different things. In a recent political move in response to his getting his ass kicked last election, California Governor Schwarzenegger hired a Democrat as his new chief of staff. So are Republicans okay with the “big tent” in practice? Hell, no. They’re setting up to give Arnie an ultimatum: fire the Democrat, or get kicked out of the party.

Republican activists disenchanted with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Thursday that they will try to strip the governor of the party’s endorsement unless he fires his new chief of staff, Democrat Susan P. Kennedy.

Restive Republicans said they would rally conservatives behind a resolution, to be offered at the state GOP convention in San Jose next month, that may give Schwarzenegger an ultimatum: Dump Kennedy by March 15 or the party will withdraw its backing of his reelection bid.

In the past, Republicans have never really had a big tent. If you oppose the fundamentalist core, then you don’t get to speak at the conventions and you don’t get a voice in the party. The real working policy has been, if you disagree with us, then we’ll let you cast your vote for us, but otherwise shut the hell up and hide in the kitchen when guests come to visit. Heck, I’m surprised they aren’t demanding that Arnold divorce his wife because she’s a Kennedy.

In other GOP news, Republicans are reacting badly to Bush’s “guest worker” program. It’s a proposal to supposedly fight illegal immigration by giving temporary work visas to immigrants as an alternative to coming here illegally.

America has long used illegal immigrants to do labor most Americans wouldn’t do, in particular farm and textile work. These people, often risking their lives to come and take jobs that Americans offer them, are commonly taken advantage of, paid inferior wages while their employers skip their responsibilities to pay taxes. The law has penalized workers when caught, but rarely the Americans who employ them.

I have always believed that we need to admit as a nation that we need these people, and so treat them with respect, granting visas and making sure they are paid decently. But that would require not just the start of a visa program, but also the establishment of harsh penalties and even jail time for employers who hire illegals. Without the latter, any guest worker visa program would be a sad joke. But these are the same people who demand obeisance from the GOP, and so any hope of the GOP cracking down on these people is slim to none.

I’ve stated before that one of the things I admire Bush for is his long-standing stated goal of instituting a guest worker program–though at the time I noted that he’d long talked about it, but never acted on it. Well, after a string of humiliating political defeats and low poll numbers, he finally started doing something… but, of course, he’s not saying anything about the penalty for employers who still hire illegals once the guest worker program is active. And the attempt to gain popularity through such a measure appears to be failing. Neither Democrats nor Republicans like the proposal, for different reasons of course. Some Republicans are vehemently against it, saying that it will only increase crime. And it looks like businesses are set to abuse the program, using it to hire more immigrants in the IT industry so they can displace available American workers who demand to be paid more.

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