Thursday, July 22, 2004

Kansas Right Plays Nativist Card

Thomas Frank's much acclaimed What's the Matter With Kansas examines how the right-wing in Kansas and nation-wide has used abortion and other social issues to mobilize voters into supporting the economic agenda of big business. Frank argues that what he calls "backlash populism" is not based on racism.

Senator Sam Brownback and Wichita Congressman Todd Tiahrt, both favorites fo the Christian Right, have taken relatively enlightened, though far from perfect, views on immigrant/Hispanic issues. Whether this is out of loyalty to President Bush, the big business interest in a exploitable and cheap labor force, or simply a response to the rapidly growing Hispanic population in the state is hard to say. If you are a strong anti-abortion candidate, there would be a certain political logic in reaching out to this growing, largely Catholic voting population.

But now in the tightly contested primary race in the state's Third Congressional District, Kris Kobach--with an assist from FAIR-- is playing the anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic card. Kolbach, a former aid to Attorney General John Ashcroft, faces ex-Air Force pilot Adam Taff, who narrowly lost to Congressman Dennis Moore in 2002 and a third candidate.

A report on the race at Our Congress says that Kolbach's "radio ads feature 2 issues: keeping Kansas safe from terrorists (we were all kinda worried about that, what with all of our undefended ports) and protecting Kansans from the scourge of gay marriage. Yep- he's the Xian Right's candidate in this race."

What is especially interesting is that instead of following its customary practice of flooding mailboxes and airwaves with anti-immigrant messages like those aimed at Texas Congressman Martin Frost, FAIR has filed a lawsuit--with Kolbach as attorney--against a new Kansas law allowing children of some illegal immigrant to qualify for in-state tuition at state colleges. See this story from the to the Kansas City Star (registration required).

The Star reports that "Kobach said he would try to get a temporary restraining order issued before the start of university classes next month."

Between all of his campaign appearances, sure. But, of course, the lawsuit has all the appreances of being a politcal stunt. One has to wonder if a few laws on political contributions might have been violated.

FAIR is often portrayed in the press as " mainstream" or "responsible" immigration control group, but it has very close ties to the racist and extreme right as revealed in reports by the Southern Poverty Law Center (here and here) and the Center for New Community. This is what the SPLC says

Founded in 1978 by Michigan activist John Tanton of U.S. Inc. (see below), the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) blames immigrants for a host of social problems including crime, poverty, disease, urban sprawl, traffic jams, school overcrowding, racial tensions and potential terrorism.
Between 1985 and 1994, FAIR accepted some $1.2 million from the racist Pioneer Fund*, until bad publicity apparently convinced its leaders to desist. Another Pioneer Fund grant recipient, Garrett Hardin, was for years a FAIR adviser and remains a "board member emeritus." Hardin has opposed sending food aid to Africa because, he argues, that only encourages overpopulation. "Tragically, flights of food that save lives increase fertility — which increases the mistreatment of the environment." He also told OMNI magazine, "Looking at history with an open mind, you'll see that infanticide has been used as an effective population control."
FAIR has run ads that attacked then-Sen. Spencer Abraham (R.-Mich.), an Arab American, for supporting more visas for those with high-technology skills. The ads said Abraham's proposal would make it easier for Middle Eastern terrorists to strike, sparking widespread condemnation of what was seen as a race-based attack. On FAIR's board of advisors is Pat Choate, who helped white nationalist Patrick Buchanan take over the Reform Party prior to Buchanan's run for president in 2000.
Wonder what the chances are that Brownback or Tiahrt will criticize Kolbach for his alliance with a racist organization like FAIR?

Attorney General Phil Kline, another favorite of the Christian right, has announced that he will remove himself from defending the state's tuition law and leave it in the hands of the states Civil Litigation Division. Given Kline's thin record as an attorney, that's probably a good thing.

(In the American Prospect Harold Meyersen discusses how the Bush administration abandoned the Dream Act and the AgJobs bills in order to placate the nativist right. Even though it meant killing Tort reform.)

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