I occasionally have the audacity to urge the party to say something, and even to do something…perhaps even a few things that our opponents in the other party don't like—and might criticize us for!
Example: Twice a year we have our meeting of the State Executive Committee. It is always on Saturday and is preceded on Friday evening by a big banquet and an address by a party notable.
Naturally we look for sponsors to help with expenses. Two years ago, one of the sponsors was…the Alabama Education Association—the liberal hard core of the Alabama Democratic Party, just as the National Education Association is the liberal hard core of the national Democratic Party.
(The AEA's table at the banquet, preferentially placed directly below the speaker's stand, stood empty all night. Having given the money, apparently, no-one from the AEA had any interest in what we Republicans might have had to say.)
In a newsletter two years ago to Party members I pointed out that by taking the AEA's money we might be allowing them to co-opt us.
The leadership grumbled.
Nevertheless, I wrote and sponsored a resolution which called on the Party to stop taking money from the AEA, and to urge candidates and officeholders to do likewise. It collided with a stone wall erected by the leadership. And on subsequent attempts it failed again and again. Earlier this year, though, it did pass in slightly modified form and today it is the policy of the Party.
Moral: When we have the facts on our side, persistence can pay off.
But the AEA resolution was not the Big One this year. The Big One was a resolution (also drafted by me) condemning illegal immigration and asking that remedies be taken. [See TODAY'S LETTER: An Alabama Reader Reports New GOP Resolution, in 2002]
Once again the Alabama GOP leadership lacked appreciation for the convictions of the hinterland. [Contact the Alabama Republicans] The try-and-fail scenario was repeated. The motion for the resolution was tabled several times without debate.
One hundred thousand is a lot of watts—sufficient, it turned out, to light up several good Republicans of influence.
And with that—voila, on June 18th the resolution passed. It passed with a loud "yes" voice vote from the 300 members, and with only a feeble "no" vote.
Moral: persistence is good—but bolstering it with 100 kilowatts of friendly power doesn't hurt a thing.
The resolution itself reiterates all the known ills of the enormous wave of illegal immigrants flooding into the country, and calls on the federal government to seal the borders against these law breakers, and to refrain from giving amnesty to the millions who are already here.
During the debate on the resolution, one of the more curious turns came when a recently-retired state legislator took the podium and argued that we should not pass the resolution because it might "show up in headlines." This provoked a chorus of "Good! Good!" from the floor.
And of course it would be good. We want it to be widely known that we Republicans stand foursquare against illegal immigration.
So far, however, the media coverage has been disappointing. The Birmingham News gave the resolution a single sentence at the end of a lengthy article in which most of the ink went to Paul Hubbert, the head of the AEA. [Republicans blast AEA, contributions, By Tom Gordon, June 19, 2005]
The Decatur Daily did much better. It devoted generous space to the resolution. [State GOP: Seal border against illegals, By M.J. Ellington]
The rest of the media have so far been mute.
This does not mark the end of this fight. But, to paraphrase Mr. Churchill, maybe it's the beginning of the end—or at least the end of the most irrational and frustrating beginning recently seen.
How could any good Republican draw back from denouncing illegal immigration? Not only is reform sorely needed but every poll shows that every segment of American society demands it. As I say in the resolution the Party passed, reform "would be a healthy confluence of doing what is right and doing what is politically wise."
There is no political cost to opposing illegal immigration. On the contrary there is only political payoff.
Ellington's Decatur Daily piece reports that the state Party's executive director, Chris Brown, [send him email] "does not believe illegal immigration will become a big issue is state politics in next year's political races." The article also says that he "sees the issue more as a symbolic gesture than a hard-line political stand."
So we're not to destination yet. These sentiments apparently reflect our leaders' residual squishiness left over from attitudes of a few months ago.
This is unfortunate, but natural. Epiphanies don't always occur in an instant, but take time. I think any lingering reluctance in this instance can be overcome in the near future.
I hope so. Russ and Dee may have to tune up their 100 kilowatt rig again.
Step by step, immigration is inexorably entering American politics.