Cleburne Times-Review Column for 21 May, 2006
“He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.”
President Bush’s poll numbers have collapsed, with a nationwide approval rating of 29% that ranks him alongside Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon. Across the country, the President has a net positive approval rating in just three states (Idaho, Utah and Wyoming), and is viewed negatively even in formerly ultra-red states like Georgia (58% disapprove), North Dakota (56% disapprove), and South Carolina (62% disapprove). Former battleground states have swung against him as well: 65% of Ohioans have a negative opinion of this Administration, and 61% of Floridians join them. Even 56% of Texans disapprove of their former Governor; and when you break the numbers down, you begin to see why Bush’s approval ratings have sunk much lower than anyone (including me) would ever have imagined. It is not just that liberals and moderates dislike this Administration; they still do. This latest free-fall is triggered by discontent among conservatives, even religious conservatives, the very people who “elected” Bush in 2000 and re-elected him in 2004. In Texas, for example, only 73% of self-described Republicans and 70% of self-described conservatives support the President. Only 46% of those who claim to attend church regularly and 52% of those who self-identify as pro-life still stand by George W. Bush. This gibes with a recent Gallup poll showing an astonishing 13 percentage point drop in support for the President among Republicans. Bush even lost to, of all people, Bill Clinton, on the issue of trustworthiness! This is incredibly bad news, not just for a lame-duck Administration with limited political capital to begin with, but also for increasingly frantic GOP efforts to hold onto control of Congress, with the public telling pollsters they trust Democrats more on issues like Iraq, the economy and immigration.
So what is turning off Conservatives about an Administration they once so adored? Two issues: spending and immigration. The recent tax cut (which works out to a whopping $46 per year for a family making $45,000 per year, but offers $41,997 to a family making $1.5 million per year) was apparently not enough to disguise the fact that this Congress is spending money like the proverbial drunken sailor on shore leave, with Bush’s threats of a first-ever veto scornfully ignored. On immigration, Bush’s recent proposal truly had something for everyone…to hate, that is. Liberals and moderates scorn the idea of deploying the overworked and thinly stretched National Guard and building a Great Wall of Tax Dollars, and nativist conservatives (a fairly polite term that also includes some pretty blatantly knuckle-dragging racists) despise what they see as “amnesty.” The National Guard, border governors, the Mexican government (which tends to get a little leery when an American army appears on its border) and even the pathetic “Minutemen” have all fallen over one another to denounce the President’s speech. Some of the “Fighting Keyboardists” of the conservative blogosphere are even calling for Bush to be impeached!
And here’s the really sad part of it all: President Bush is right, at least in general. Yes, he fudged some facts during his speech while trying to pander to screeching race-baiting opportunists like Cong. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, but overall he is correct. Mass deportations are a ludicrous fantasy, as is the idea of locking up 12-20 million people. Using “guest workers” along the German gastarbeiter model, without offering the chance of citizenship, gets you a radicalized, marginalized and violent sub-culture. But the President is also correct that border security has to be increased. For one thing, we cannot continue having mass amnesties every 20 years. No matter how you slice it, it isn’t fair to essentially reward people for breaking the law, while enforcing cumbersome bureaucratic regulations on those who play by the rules in trying to lawfully enter the country that was blatantly stolen from Native Americans (old joke: a bright, young sociologist asks an elder Indian, “What did you call North America before the arrival of white men? “Ours,” he replies). For another reason, our national security really is imperiled by having such a porous border. As I reported in a previous column, government investigations have revealed how ludicrously easy it would be to smuggle the components for a weapon of mass destruction into this country.
So, ultimately, a large portion of the 12-20 million illegal aliens currently in this country will wind up on the road to citizenship. At the same time, it is equally essential that we increase our border security, get serious about penalizing employers who hire illegal aliens with impunity, and come up with a realistic plan to help the economies in Latin America (as opposed to the current NAFTA strategy of turning them into mass sweatshops) so the poor and dispossessed in those countries will have opportunities at home more attractive than the long and dangerous journey to El Norte.