Republicans bullied by base
It has been more than a month since the first U.S. presidential debate held in Spanish. So far the republic survives, to the surprise of Republicans.
Just kidding. Besides, it is an exaggeration to say the debate was in Spanish. Univision's anchors asked questions in Spanish, candidates responded in English, then Univision aired voice-over translation; anyone who did not know Spanish could have followed the endless Democratic platitudes with closed-captioning.
And anyway, with the possible exception of Tom Tancredo, none of the GOP candidates is dumb enough to actually think this country is so weak that it will be brought down by a general excess of Spanish speaking.
Then why did every Republican except John McCain turn down the chance to take part in the Spanish debate, leaving the field to Democrats only?
What Republican candidates fear is the likes of "Stuart Jackson" running off his mouth. Stuart Jackson is the name that appears as author of thousands of postings on Google Groups alone, ranting about … well, let us let Stu speak for himself.
About Mitt Romney, for running Spanish-language outreach: "He's a wetback lover … Ads in Spanish are for wetbacks only."
About the former mayor of New York: "Giuliani LOVES illegal aliens. He kisses their (expletive) because their cheap labor makes his business buddies rich."
About the senator from Arizona: "McCain is an open borders whore. I wish he had been killed by the NVA."
Why am I giving this jerk a national platform? Because there are many jerks like him in the Republican base, making GOP politicians tremble.
Back in 1996, during the wave of xenophobia that preceded the current one, Giuliani spoke before Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. "No one should break the law, [but] illegal and undocumented immigrants are going to remain, and even increase," he said. "And nothing that is now being proposed in Washington would realistically change that very much."
Too bad that 11 years later, the Stuart Jacksons of the Republican world bullied tough New Yorker Giuliani into opposing the comprehensive immigration-reform bill that would have secured the border while recognizing the reality that, as he put it, "illegal and undocumented immigrants are going to remain."
But let nobody pretend this is about illegal immigration. Even Democrats at the Univision debate failed to give a straight answer when asked why nobody is saying much about securing the Canadian border, from whence terrorists could just as easily slip in. Certainly, people like Stuart have stopped pretending the issue is illegal immigration. They have let loose a wave of anger against all Hispanics, whether they are undocumented, have a green card or are fifth-generation Americans.
Which Republican candidate is willing to stand up and repeat what Giuliani told the Kennedy School back then, "I believe the anti-immigration movement in America is one of our most serious public problems"? McCain, probably. Anybody else?
Roger Hernandez is a syndicated columnist and writer-in-residence at New Jersey Institute of Technology.