Monday, November 5, 2007

Of Manassas and Guernica, tomorrow's battle in Virginia

On April 26, 1937, twenty-four bombers of the German Luftwaffe "Condor Legion" with the help of a subordinate Italian expeditionary force, dropped forty tons of bombs, on the town of Guernica in the Basque Country of Spain. Up to 1,600 people were killed and three quarters of the city's buildings were reported completely destroyed. The raid, called Operation Rügen, is generally viewed as the Luftwaffe's first test of the tactics of terror-bombing that would become the hallmark of the Nazi blitzkrieg as it swept through Europe two years later.

Just as Franco's Spain was used as a testing ground for the tactics, men and machines that would later wreak havoc on a global scale, tomorrow in Virginia, we will be witness to a test of a new blitzkrieg of sorts. The Republican Party will be testing, on a statewide basis, its latest strategy and weaponry for the coming 2008 election cycle… the immigration wedge.

Tomorrow is Election Day. Here in Virginia, 140 state legislative seats are at stake.

Our airwaves have been dominated in recent days with campaign ads. Interestingly, just about all of them mention immigration, and none of them accuse the opponent of being too harsh….

Tomorrow will be an interesting test case on the power of the immigration issue...

If Republicans exceed expectations - and things have looked pretty gloomy for the state GOP in recent cycles - and the issue of illegal immigration is key, you will hear a lot about that issue from coast to coast next year.

National Review

Back in September, an opinion piece in the Washington post summed up the coming fight:

Jittery Virginia Republicans, whose grip on state politics has been weakening steadily for several years, are facing further setbacks in this fall's elections for the General Assembly, possibly including the end of GOP control of the Senate for the first time in nearly a decade. In their desperation for a vote-getter, they have seized on the whipping boy of illegal immigration, which they blame for ills ranging from the erosion of the commonwealth's values to the difficulty of being admitted to state colleges.

William J. Howell, the Republican speaker of the House of Delegates, worried aloud the other day about the presence of so many newcomers in the Old Dominion. Mr. Howell said that the state's newest residents, particularly in Northern Virginia, may not embrace "the shared values we have in Virginia," according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He didn't specify which "shared values" he had in mind, nor did he draw a distinction between legal and illegal newcomers.

A week earlier, he unveiled the GOP's immigrant-bashing agenda for the legislative session that will begin in January….


It's an ugly strategy and certainly not one unique to Virginia. It seeks to distract voters from core state issues such as transportation, fiscal prudence and good governance.

Washington Post

Nowhere is the fight uglier than at its epicenter, in Northern Virginia's Prince William County.

This past weekend the Post again looked at what's shaping up to be the 3rd battle of Manassas.

Candidates for the Virginia General Assembly entered the final sprint yesterday toward a hard-fought election Tuesday in which two major forces are likely to determine which party controls the Senate: the resurgence of Democrats in vote-rich Northern Virginia, and the Republican advantage in the emotional debate over illegal immigration.

…Democrats have maintained all year that the Republicans' 23-17 majority in the Senate is in jeopardy. Although Democrats don't expect to take control of the Republican-heavy House of Delegates, they think they can gain as many as six seats.

…But Republicans have benefited in recent weeks from the growing intensity in the immigration debate. They have promised to block illegal immigrants from obtaining more public services and to do more to start deportation proceedings against them, particularly those who have committed crimes.

Which force prevails Tuesday -- the state's Democratic tide or sentiment against illegal immigration -- will set the tone for next year's crucial battle for the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Republican John W. Warner…

…Tuesday also could determine how important Virginia will be in next year's presidential contest. A continuing surge by Democrats could put the state in play in presidential politics for the first time in a generation.

If the election turns on the immigration issue, however, it could put Democrats under pressure in the coming year to appear responsive on that issue without alienating immigrants, who traditionally have made up an important part of the party's base.

Washington Post

"It's a tough issue to solve," said Sen. Charles J. Colgan (D-Manassas), who has become one of the most vulnerable incumbents of the year, in large measure because of the immigration debate

Nowhere has the immigration debate become louder than in suburban Prince William County. Colgan, 81, soft-spoken and well-liked in Richmond,… and such a close friend to Sens. John H. Chichester (R-Northumberland) and H. Russell Potts Jr. (R-Winchester) that the two have crossed party lines to endorse him.

Colgan enjoyed such advantages that Democrats never guessed earlier in the year that he would be so vulnerable. The change came after his opponent, Republican Robert S. Fitzsimmonds, 55, began accusing Colgan of not being tough enough against illegal immigration.

Similar issues have dominated local races. Corey L. Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, has led the charge against elected officials he believes aren't doing enough to crack down on illegal immigration.

Washington Post

Tuesday's election will most likely set the tone for the Republican strategy for the next 12 months. If voices like these win out, who preach a twisted vision of morality and law, we can expect 12 months of continuous hate and fear. One listen to Greg Letiecq of "Help Save Manassas" explain how he's doing God's work and express his views on slavery and other topics should be enough to scare any rational person.

If they fail, and the Republican Juggernaut is stopped dead in its tracks, it will be a victory for reason, compassion, and true American values.

1 comment:

yave said...

Patterning its national strategy after Virginia would be a mistake for the GOP for the simple reason that the country is not Virginia. Treating the country as an extension of the South may have worked for the GOP in the past, but is unlikely to work next year. I think Republicans are grasping at straws, and immigration happens to be the closest straw at hand, but it won't stop the party from the approaching free fall.

Immigration matters most to people already voting for the GOP, an ever-diminishing number. For many of the rest, it is less important than health care, Iraq, wage stagnation, or global warming, for instance. The current media overload on immigration is calculated, not organic. The GOP should understand the risk of putting all its eggs in one basket, especially when the strategy could so easily backfire and destroy Hispanic support for the GOP for the next 50 years. The Virginia strategy is a sign of desperation, not of careful political manoeuvreing.