In one of the uglier developments of the 2010 mid-terms, Idaho Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick is lashing out at his Latino Republican opponent, Raul Labrador, for being "soft" on immigration.
Labrador, an immigration attorney and Republican state legislator who has been endorsed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, can hardly be called a champion for immigrants. Still, Minnick is giving Labrador the full Tancredo treatment.
This is a far cry from 2008, when Minnick was an advocate for comprehensive immigration reform – a policy supported by a whopping 88 percent of voters in Idaho’s first Congressional District. His opponent at the time, Republican incumbent Bill Sali, was an immigration hardliner who advocated a deportation-only approach. While Minnick argued for immigration enforcement, he also included a common-sense system for undocumented immigrants already here to pay a penalty and get legal.
Minnick rightfully said Sali’s mass deportation plan would "overwhelm the courts and cripple Idaho's agricultural economy, which relies on migrant labor," while Sali argued that Minnick promoted amnesty to no avail.
But this time around, Minnick is looking a lot like Sali, blasting his opponent with a relentless barrage of absurd attacks on immigration in television ads and statements. This week, Minnick’s campaign is even touting support from the extreme anti-immigrant group, NumbersUSA - the Internet organization founded by the alleged white nationalist John Tanton.
NumbersUSA and its director Roy Beck go to great lengths to distance themselves from their more blatantly racist sister organizations and supporters, but Beck actually worked as the Washington editor of the white nationalist-linked journal published by the Social Contract Press, labeled a hate group by the non-partisan Southern Poverty Law Center. Under Beck’s leadership, the Social Contract Press published a variety of disturbing titles such as one titled: "Europhobia: The Hostility to European-Descended Americans" in which authors blamed "multiculturalists" and immigrants for "hatred and fear" of whites. Today, NumbersUSA mobilizes its internet followers to bombard Congress with messages blaming immigrants for any number of national ills.
So, what changed? A tough political year can make politicians do crazy things, but the polling, policy and even Minnick’s own experience should have led his campaign toward a very different strategy.
His state is changing, and changing in a way that will help his future political endeavors -- if he could simply resist the urge to be a bigot. Yet Minnick has decided, for no obvious reason, to run a hateful campaign.
Minnick had it right on immigration in 2008, so it’s even more disappointing to see him hurtling off the deep end in 2010.