Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Kris Kobach and Glenn Beck Need a History Lesson

In case you don't know, Kris Kobach is the Secretary of State for Kansas, and the architect of the extremely harsh "show us your papers" anti-immigrant laws (that are also effectively anti-Latino, immigrant or not) that have been passed in Arizona and Alabama.  He is trying to get similar legislation passed in Kansas, and in response, a group of protestors showed up at his house, leaving black shoes on his doorstep to symbolize absent family members who have been deported from their kin in the United States.  It was probably a little annoying to have protestors on his front lawn, but you'd think that a man who spouts incendiary rhetoric and pushes draconian laws would expect a little blowback.

But no, Kobach termed these protestors a "mob" whose tactics resembled the KKK.  That's right, a man who is an unabashed nativist actually said that.  As if hearing the siren call of insane, Glenn Beck echoed Kobach in their interview.  This makes Kobach and Beck either a morons or liars of the highest order (and perhaps both.)  During the 1920s, at the height of its popularity, the Klan wedded its traditional terroristic enforcement of white supremacy with an intense nativism directed at immigrants, Catholics, and Jews.  Their slogan was "100% Americanism," which is interesting because Kobach denounced the protest on his front lawn as "anti-American."  (He also discussed using his "second amendment rights" to defend his lawn from peacefully protesting brown people, which makes me wonder who here is making the threats of violence.)  In fact, Kobach is part of a long lineage of white supremacist, nativist nationalism that dates back to at least the Know-Nothings also includes the Klan.  When Beck tries to claim that supporters of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants are "the same" as the Klan, he actually means the exact, total opposite.

I would also add that if the Klan came to visit a person they didn't like, they typically didn't have a peaceful protest.  Oftentimes, their targets ended up dead.  The protest at Kobach's house was nothing like the Klan, but a lot like the civil rights movement of the 1960s in its use of direct, non-violent action.  There was absolutely no threat of violence against him or even intimidation.  On the other hand, Kobach's implicit threat of violence against such protestors is rather reminiscent of Bull Connor or George Wallace.

The rise of the Tea Party right has brought with it many lies about the past, which are used to justify extremist policies in the present.  Glenn Beck and Jonah Goldberg have likened liberalism to fascism, conservatives have distorted the legacy of Martin Luther King, and Kobach has now likened peaceful immigration protestors to the Klan.  This practice is just about the most Orwellian thing I've ever seen, whereby extreme nationalist white supremacists claim the mantle of the civil rights movement and call their opponents fascists.  Up is down, black is white, lies are facts.

The Tea Party obsession with metaphors from the past has long dumbfounded me, but now I think I understand.  This is not merely a matter of legitimizing one's own perspective by recalling the past.  I think the people behind these outrageous statements are aware that their ideas are echoes of the same ones that have been defeated by history, in Kobach's case, extreme nativism based on racial hierarchy.  The only way to make these ideas palatable beyond the true believers is to distract people from reality by making the opponents of nativism into the very thing, the KKK, that modern day nativists resemble, but can't risk being compared to.  The same works for messianic nationalists like Beck, who are the closest thing to fascist agitators that exist in this country's political mainstream.  His beliefs align with historical figures like George Wallace and James Eastland, but those men are stock villains in the historical narrative nowadays.  The hard Right's war on the past is necessary, because if people are aware of the realities of American history, the Right's ideas look like warmed over versions of ideologies long repudiated.

I've said it before, and I will say it again: the abuse of the past by Kobach and others requires that historians directly refute this garbage in public, lest it be taken for truth.  My brethren, we must get out of the library and take to the streets and fight these crimes against the past.


Anonymous said...

So, Kris Kobach attempting to protect the country from illegals is racist? I don't understand the logic behind liberals and Illegal immigrants. They have no right to be here, they broke the law, and take quite a bit in Welfare and services. They don't pay taxes besides Sales tax so they're a burden and we can't handle them. Whats the problem?

Werner Herzog's Bear said...

Making a law that says anyone who "looks" like they are an undocumented immigrant can be harassed by the police, when to "look" undocumented implicitly (in Kobach's mind) means having brown skin is pretty damn racist. Hell, in his response to the protest, he basically assumes that people speaking Spanish are "illegals." My Cuban, ultra-conservative father in law would probably take issue with that.

To then accuse his opponents of being like the Klan, when the Klan itself was based on Kobach-style nativism is a lie of the highest order.

I live in a neighborhood that is full of "illegals." They are hard-working people who are up at the crack of dawn every day, polite, family-oriented, and generally a lot nicer to deal with than any other community I have ever lived in. I am sure the guys I see taking the van to the construction site each morning at 6AM would take issue with your characterization. The only times I've been hassled or felt unsafe is when suburbanite jerks invade the area to attend nearby sporting events. They become drunken, entitled assholes at the drop of a hat.

The people in my neighborhood are like my immigrant ancestors, who also didn't come to this country with a lot of money, and who today would not be allowed in under the current rules. Such immigration restrictions didn't come in this country until 1924, and they were nakedly racist in intent.

If you care so much about "welfare," then go after our nation's subsidies to wealthy corporate farmers, the home mortgage interest deduction's use by people with second homes, and oil companies who don't need the money the govt gives them. If you want undocumented workers to pay more taxes, letting them be part of society without fearing deportation is the only way to do so.

Anonymous said...

First of all the Protesters have no right to travel onto Private Property and intimidate a man and his family. I'm a gun owner, and consider Diane Feinstein's remarks inflammatory. Does that mean that I can march around with my NRA buddies on her porch (armed to the teeth) and yell pro-Gun slogans? NO, Bill Of Rights applies only to Public Property and not to Private Homes.

Secondly your point about Arizona SB 1070 shows your ignorance of Federal law and how the law works. The officers check immigration status after a minor infraction such as a traffic stop. Federal Law dictates that all ALIENS meaning foreigners must have their Passports/ ID at all times. Your point about Brown skin and Spanish highlights your ignorance and assumption. There are White Irish Illegals, Indian, Chinese etc. All need to be deported and sent home. I'm the son of Indian Immigrants and my Girlfriend is Argentinean and we've never been hassled in Arizona, despite our Brown skin and her Spanish background. (BTW not being able to speak a word of English is probable cause that they are not a citizen)

Then you accuse Kobach of racism and nativism. Kris Kobach is for responsible immigration, abiding by the Constitution and High Skilled Immigration. That doesn't sound like a Klansman, or a racist. He has never has mentioned race or ethnicity in his arguments. Is it so unreasonable that people protesting in favor of amnesty are Illegals themselves?

Your personal anecdotes about the illegals who live near you are not indicative about the nation as a whole. I can relate hundreds of stories of people murdered, raped, burgled etc by Illegals. Them being "hard working" is part of the problem, There are more than 14 million people out of work. 23 million if you count people who dropped out of the work force, and are underemployed. The demographics of this recession prove that the poorest, least educated and most vulnerable among us are suffering the hardest. Poor people, Blacks, Hispanics,Teenagers, Blue-Collar Whites etc. There are roughly 12 million illegals, with about 7 million of them in the workforce. Deporting these illegals would slash unemployment and reduce poverty. It would also raise wages and reduce income inequality. California has an unemployment rate of about 10% and an illegal population of about 9%. See how the two fit?

The United States allows more Legal Immigrants with a path to citizenship than any other country in the world. Japan and Mexico are just a few countries that have Draconian immigration laws, and somehow we're the racists and Xenophobes? If you think the Johnson-Reed Act was racist you should look into Indian, Chinese, Taiwanese, and other Asian Nations Immigration policies.

Lastly you accuse me of hypocrisy with our Nation's Welfare laws. I am Right-Wing Libertarian (Classical Liberal, Paleo-Libertarian etc)I fully reject Farm and Oil Subsidies, as well as Corporate Welfare. I was against the Bank bailouts, GM bailouts and don't believe in the "War on Poverty". I don't want illegals paying taxes, I don't want them HERE at all.

Werner Herzog's Bear said...

Well, it looks we won't be seeing eye to eye on this issue. However, I would like to engage in a little dialogue, and I am doing this without any snark or sarcasm.

You mention being a libertarian, and I was wondering something about libertarian thought/politics when it comes to immigration. Libertarians believe that the government should be minimally involved in regulating individuals, but restrictive international borders are obviously an impediment to individual freedom. Two hundred years ago, passports weren't necessary for travel, and philosophers of individual liberty like Kant and Paine advocated for a world where people could move freely from one country to another. I was just wondering how libertarians justify border restrictions if they seem to go against their overall philosophy of individual freedom.

Anonymous said...

There are many different kinds of Libertarians, not all of us agree on the same things. Ron Paul is against Amnesty for illegals and for Federal services. The same goes for Nigel Farage and the UKIP, which is a British Libertarian Party. Immigration is handled by the Federal Government, and is stipulated in the Constitution.