If any evidence is needed that California Republicans remain brain dead about their problems with the growing non-white vote in this state, there is the move by far right GOPers to repeal the 14th Amendment and deny citizenship to American-born children of illegal immigrants.
Republicans have now lost all statewide offices, with the apparent defeat of attorney general nominee Steve Cooley, for only the second time since 1882. The exit polls also show that 2010 Latino turnout exceeded 2008 turnout by at least four points, and that Latinos voted Democratic by 65 to 85 percent, depending upon which exit poll you believe.
Republicans now have virtually no chance to ever elect anyone to statewide office again in California but they have not hit bottom yet. That will come in 2012 when the new Citizens Redistricting Commission redraws legislative and congressional district lines. Many of the safe, gerrymandered lily white districts Republicans drew for themselves in the 2001 redistricting will go, and in their place with be districts filled with newly enfranchised middle class Latino voters. Look for GOP legislative seats to flip to the Democrats in northern Los Angeles County and the Inland Empire where the Latino vote is growing rapidly.
So you would think that just having experienced a thorough beating driven in large part by a monster Latino voter turnout, California Republicans might be aware of their problem. But if you thought that you would be wrong. We now have a movement underway in the new congress to target the ancient rules of citizenship and deny citizenship to children born here to people without legal papers.
This requires repeal of the 14th Amendment, passed after the Civil War to assure the citizenship of freed slaves, and that is not going to happen. But that seems not to deter GOP Reps. Dan Lungren and Tom McClintock who are on record as favoring denial of birthright citizenship.
Perhaps a little history would be helpful in assessing how truly odious the Lungren-McClintock position is.
The congress that enacted the 14th Amendment in 1867 certainly understood citizenship issues, having just experienced the Civil War that ended the role of black Americans as property. Congress understood that the best way to assure rights to freed slaves was to guarantee them citizenship based on their birth here. (No slaves had been imported from Africa since 1808 so all freed blacks were native born.)
But that congress also knew plenty about non-native born. In the 1840s, several million destitute Irish were transported to America by their English overlords in response to the potato famine that had devastated Ireland. They had made the trip across the Atlantic in what were called “coffin ships”, for the numbers of starving Irish who died on the crossing. It was said that sharks trailed the ships to feed on the bodies thrown overboard every morning.
Once here, the Irish were despised in many quarters, not only for their poverty but for the “popish” religion they clung to. The Know Nothing movement in the 1850s made denial of citizenship to the Irish one of its main planks.
But by 1867, the Irish had been here a while, and they were not going back. By then they had large American-born families. So congress decided on an absolute law: born in America, you are an American. It has applied to immigrants ever since. Of course, there was no such thing as “legal immigration” until the 20th century when country quotas were established.
But hysteria over immigrants did not end with the Irish. California passed laws ghettoizing the Chinese, and denying property rights to Japanese, even those who were citizens. And every so often politicians descend into the muck of know-nothingism. Lungren and McClintock are just the most recent examples.