Holding up another distraction

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Minnesota policymakers could be focusing on what really matters: education, healthcare, transportation and economic development. Instead, Governor Pawlenty is cooking up another conservative policy distraction: illegal immigration.

The economy is tanking, home foreclosures are escalating, a farm economy “adjustment” is just over the horizon, road and bridge maintenance is way behind schedule and our schools are struggling. What’s Governor Pawlenty proposing? Legislation prohibiting cities from passing immigration sanctuary ordinances.

I refuse to take the bait. I’m not going to get sucked into this conservative issue boondoggle. Instead, I’m kicking over that rock, examining the scattering creepy crawlies hidden beneath.

Facing a complex series of state public policy challenges fundamentally requiring Governor Pawlenty to abandon his 2003 agenda, conservative advocates desperately need a diversion. Otherwise, people might, you know, want to focus on those very real problems.

Conservative “illegal immigration” public policy fans an ugly flame. It creates an “other,” an outsider or non-community group, for the purpose of directing public attention and anger. While 20th century Central and Eastern European Jewish persecution is a well-known example, history is littered with these attacks. Anti-foreigner riots in China, the Armenian Massacres, African-American lynchings in the US, and on-going African tribal genocide demonstrates the relative ease of inducing mob behavior.

I don’t anticipate mass violence in Monticello but it’s helpful to understand this strategy’s historical endgame risk.

Protecting and advancing the conservative public policy agenda requires diversion. This year, it’s illegal immigration and it has legs. The rightwing blogosphere is clearly on-board.

Minnesota Majority trumpeted the Governor’s legislative proposals. Communications Director Drew Emmer observes that “This is arguably the boldest exertion of executive power by Governor Pawlenty in recent memory. His vision for immigration reform was met with fierce opposition from liberal reporters and an incensed Hispanic legislator…”

The nuttier stuff is found among the reader comments. One respondent, “Kathryn,” writes “This is being orchestrated by those in power who do nothing to tighten-up our borders because they are intent on leading the sheep of America into GLOBALISM AND ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT.” By “This,” Kathryn appears to mean a liberal conspiracy to encourage illegal immigration. It’s kind hard to follow.

Governor Pawlenty fundamentally occupies a defensive position. He’s not keen to give up his considerable policy gains. Tactically, though, it’s better to be on the offensive. Consequently, Pawlenty employs a feint designed to unbalance his opponents.

A “feint” is a deceptive act calculated to divert an enemy’s attention. It makes a pretense of real action while seeking an entirely different outcome. Distraction is the feint’s goal, not the purported objective.

Governor Pawlenty’s proposed illegal immigration legislative package announcement is a classic feint. He’ll talk a big game but won’t take to the field. Which is the point.

Pawlenty is protecting his conservative public policy gains. He’s successfully strangling schools, starving infrastructure and bleeding Minnesota’s future all to reward Minnesota’s wealthiest residents. His illegal immigration initiatives are a cynical, calculated attempt to divert our attention from his true agenda.

In other words, it’s not about illegal immigration; it’s about the money. Nobody understands that better than Governor Pawlenty.

Don’t be misled. Focus on what really matters: education, health care, transportation and economic development. Minnesota’s future is on the line.

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