John harris attends Sunday School at the Church of the Savvy

Harris Attends Sunday School

by digby

This Week's round table discussed the absurdity of Huckleberry Graham's Fourteenther Movement in some depth, with Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson leading the charges against the nativists, even going so far as to point out that the people who are allegedly so concerned about the constitution are the ones who want to destroy it. But fear not. There was someone to defend them --- on grounds of political savvy, naturally. And he wasn't even there as a conservative pundit or a Republican politician. He was there as a Villager:

John Harris: In fairness to the ... I mean one argument you could make Michael is that uh, immigration reform is never going to happen unless this issue is at a boil. Perhaps that's what Lindsay Graham is doing. Ok, let's turn this up to a boil and only in that environment ...

Ooooh, how savvy is that! Gin up a race war so that they can get immigration "reform." That's what "grown ups" would do.. And hey, it might even work. They destroyed the Democrats' most valuable voter registration institution with a couple of doctored racist video tapes. Imagine what "compromises" the Dems will agree to with this? Indentured servitude? Mass deportation? The sky's the limit.

Fortunately, a member of the Bush administration was available to pour some cold water on Harris' argument. (Only Republicans have credibility on this issue according to the Village.)

Gerson: That is a deeply cynical approach. To take an issue this sensitive and this symbolic to use that to leverage other political reform, I think that would be very cynical.

But it doesn't even occur to Harris that such a move is cynical and destructive. And he doesn't care. He's just "reporting" the game. The problem, aside from his empty, soulless moral perspective, is that he's reporting it wrong. Graham's cynical all right. But not in the way Harris thinks, as hideous as that is. Graham is trying to get back in the good graces of a bunch of tea party jerks in South Carolina who are squeezing him from the right. If he cared about immigration reform he wouldn't be ginning up what's basically an ethnic cleansing campaign by referring to undocumented pregnant people as animals who "swim across the river" to "drop their babies" in the United States.

The fact is that this immigration issue has been a prominent feature of the Tea Parties here in the west since they began. Howie reported from one of them over a year ago:

I arrived over 3 hours early and spent the day chatting amicably with teabaggers-- it was before they knew what the word meant and proudly referred to themselves as such. They were basically all McCain voters (in a district that had voted 68% Obama) and they all seemed to get the entirety of their information from Fox and from Hate Talk Radio. Once you penetrated beyond the nonsense they had memorized from Glenn Beck's chalkboard, there was no problem whose solution didn't involve "anchor babies."

I certainly grant, as Matt Yglesias does in this interesting op-ed today, that xenophobia, nativism, racism and all the rest often accompany economic fears and dislocation. I've written a whole lot about this, going way back, as well. It's always been a fact of life in America that when the going gets tough the racists come out of the woodwork.

But we live in a very different world than we did just 50 years ago. When my father's generation was growing up the whole culture was divided into ethnic, religious and racial groups. It was literally how they organized their world. I was watching a documentary about Toots Shorr, the NY restauranteur, the other night and virtually every person in it described himself by his ethnic ID, laughingly referring to each other as Dagos, Micks etc,often breaking it down to Jewish, Catholic and Protestant --- and North and South. And it was considered perfectly acceptable to apply racial epithets across the board.

But times have changed. Even old men who spent most of their lives in that world know that it's no longer ok to do this. And their kids, people my age, certainly know better. There's no excuse for any baby boomer or Gen-Xer to turn to xenophobia as an answer to their economic distress. The world we grew up in was tumultuous but it wasn't one that divided everyone on ethnic and racial lines the way it was in father's day and any American who does this is reverting to a world which no longer exists. And anyway, it's always been disgusting to blame people lower on the economic scale for your economic problems. Considering the vast amount of information available and the smallness of our world today it's even more disgusting now than it was in the past.

Harris also tried to say that illegal immigration in places like Arizona has gotten so bad that they just have to act. That is utter nonsense. Not that Harris would know that. After all, he's only the editor of the most influential political news organization in the nation's capitol. Those are the kinds of details best left to wonks and activists who aren't "savvy" enough to know what's really important.