In a story that reads as if dictated straight from a liberal handbook, New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters on Tuesday all but rooted for a backlash against the GOP's "harsh" "hardliners," and for the party to take a more "charitable" view of illegal immigration -- once the Republicans make their expected gains in the upcoming Congressional elections ("In Raising Immigration, G.O.P. Risks Blowback After Election.") In other words, after the GOP makes big gains against the Democrats, they're really going to be in trouble. For the record, the word "illegal" cropped up once in the first sentence and never again in the body of the story (a photo caption used it twice).
Immigration is probably the issue where the Times' bias is most blatant, its coverage filled with soppy clichés about drawing innocent illegals "out of the shadows," celebrating the young Dreamers who protest for amnesty, and fawning over "religious conservatives breaking away from the GOP on amnesty." (Usually the same one, Richard Land.)
Peters, a reliable defender of President Obama in his reporting, oddly wondered why the heck the national issue was being discussed in, of all things, a race for the United States Senate.
New Hampshire has one of the smallest populations of illegal immigrants in the country. Only about 5 percent of its 1.3 million residents are foreign-born, and 3 percent are Hispanic.
But tune into the Senate race between Scott P. Brown, the Republican, and Jeanne Shaheen, the Democratic incumbent, and you might think the state shares a border with Mexico, not Canada.
When someone called a talk radio show to ask Mr. Brown about global warming the other day, Mr. Brown immediately started talking about border security. “Let me tell you what I believe is a clear and present danger right now,” he said, brushing aside the caller’s concerns about the environment. “I believe that our border is porous.”
(The fact some illegals were flown to adjacent Massachusetts to await asylum claims brought the issue closer to home, though Peters skipped that angle.)
A political group led by prominent conservatives like John R. Bolton, the former United States ambassador to the United Nations, attacked Ms. Shaheen last week with a video that juxtaposed two alarming images: a horde of people rushing a fence, presumably along the Mexican border, and a clip of Islamic militants right before they beheaded the journalist James Foley, a New Hampshire native. The ad was pulled after the Foley family complained.
Peters insisted illegal immigration was only a "theoretical" problem for most of the country, as if only citizens in states that border Mexico have a right to have an opinion on the issue, while helpfully warning Republicans that the focus may "backfire" in the long term (no matter how well the issue plays for them in this election cycle).
Republicans have long relied on illegal immigration to rally the conservative base, even if the threat seemed more theoretical than tangible in most of the country. But in several of this year’s midterm Senate campaigns -- including Arkansas and Kansas, as well as New Hampshire -- Republicans’ stance on immigration is posing difficult questions about what the party wants to be in the longer term.
Some Republicans are questioning the cost of their focus on immigration. Campaigning on possible threats from undocumented immigrants -- similar to claims that President Obama and the Democrats have left the country vulnerable to attacks from Islamic terrorists and the Ebola virus -- may backfire after November. At that point, the party will have to start worrying about its appeal beyond the conservative voters it needs to turn out in midterm elections.
“You should never underestimate the ability of the Republicans to screw something up and blow an ideal opportunity,” said Ralph Reed, an influential conservative who has battled with hard-line Republicans to take a more charitable view on immigration.
Much of the harsh talk on immigration today may have to do with simple math. In the states that Republicans need to win to retake the Senate, Hispanics are a sliver of the electorate. Nationally, they make up 11 percent of eligible voters. But in the eight states with close Senate races, fewer than 5 percent of eligible voters are Latino, according to a new Pew Research report.
The accurate phrase "amnesty" was placed in scare quotes.
Opposition to the immigration bill that passed the Senate last year (and has languished in the House since) has become a focal point for many Republican candidates who denounce any “amnesty.” And the split between Republicans who support an overhaul and those who do not has led to some awkward moments on the campaign trail.
Republicans who want to see a broad-based immigration overhaul say the debate is unhelpful.
“Those that support the status quo are supporting amnesty,” said Scott Reed, the senior political strategist for the Chamber of Commerce. “And we hope this election is about leadership and governing, instead of all talk, no action.”
It is not just Republican candidates who are focusing on immigration to the concern of many in the party, but outside groups. Citizens United, the conservative political organization, is running ads in states like Arkansas attacking Democrats for being too easy on people who entered the country illegally.
Peters ended by challenging the president of Citizens United, David Bossie about "any long-term damage Republicans could suffer by alienating Hispanics."
A related story in Tuesday's paper, promoted from the web, was the paper's online data and analysis feature "Upshot," with Nate Cohn explaining "Why House Republicans Can Ignore Latinos (for Now)."