There are some things to be thankful for.
The woman who puzzled over Hispanics in her audience of high-school students and suggested they looked “Asian” was defeated in her run for the Senate in Nevada. The guy who called Islam a cult was knocked out of the Kentucky gubernatorial race. The bizarre candidate who threatened to “take out” a reporter was brushed aside in his bid for the governorship of New York.
Despite the electoral failures of Sharron Angle, Ron Ramsey, Carl Paladino and a host of others inhabiting what used to be America’s political peripheries, the next Congress will have a decidedly fringy tone. No wonder the wilder types already there are looking forward to the January 2011 legislative session with such relish: so many investigations crying out to be launched; so many dictators and thugs still hanging on in Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela; terrorism in the streets of Portland; foreign terrorists flocking to America; secret government documents splayed across the front pages of our newspapers.
They wonder if the US hasn’t simply become a pitiful, helpless giant. But the rest of us ought to wonder just what kind of politics is going to grow in the strange, rich Petri dish of the new Congress.
Consider just one area that will be a major focus of Congressional interest: immigration, an issue that will gain potency as it melds into the rhetoric of terror.
Foreigners and terrorists: Really, what’s the difference? That the nation has grown and prospered precisely because of adaptive immigration is beside the point, an obvious reflection of someone caught in the old mindset of the September 10th world. Interestingly, though, only about 8% of those who cast ballots in the 2010 election cited immigration concerns as their primary motivator. Of those who did, however, nearly 70% were Republicans.
With their new House majority, the Republicans plan to pay some major attention to that 8% of the motivated electorate. Immigration matters will play out largely in two key House committees, Homeland Security and Judiciary, and critical members of each committee told me they intend to investigate past actions of the Obama administration “fully and completely,” block any kind of comprehensive immigration reform, expose supposed lax enforcement of immigration laws and inadequate resources devoted to—as one Judiciary member put it—“boots on the ground.” Terrorism will play a key role in hearings on virtually all these topics, most dramatically, no doubt, in focusing attention on what Republicans view as a shadowy Latin network of terrorist infiltrators seeking to exploit the US failure to protect its own southern border.