GOP That Rose to Power Exploiting ‘Racial Fear,’ Can Make Amends by Supporting Immigration Reform, Says Liberal Activist

By Monica Gabriel | August 5, 2009 | 6:53 PM EDT

( - Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democrat Network (NDN), believes that the Republican Party rose to power in recent decades by exploiting "racial fear" -- and can make amends now by supporting comprehenisve immigration reform.
“It is my belief that in the core of everything we know about the modern Republican Party, the way that they came to power, is through the exploitation of racial fear,” Rosenberg said. 
"The Republicans’ path to power and their core play in their play book was exploitation of racial fear,” Rosenberg said, at the same time cautioning that he did not want this to be misconstrued as an accusation of racism against Republicans.
“That’s different from racism,” Rosenberg said. “I am not arguing that Republicans have been a racist party. Don’t put words in my mouth about that.” 
Rosenberg cited the 1988 presidential election and the welfare reform debate as examples of what he was talking about. 
“What was happening was the Republicans were arguing, ‘We are with you and the Democrats are with them’ – ‘them’ being that sociological other that is lesser than, that is true in any civil society,” Rosenberg said. “And that was the core to how they achieve political power.”
President Obama and Democratic leadership in the House and Senate have expressed their commitment to passing comprehensive immigration reform.

Comprehensive reform, according to its advocates, would include an improved guest-worker program, better border security, and a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens. 
The concept of comprehensive immigration reform was inititally brought to the table by the Repubilcan Bush administration in 2006, but it was resisted by many Republicans in Congress. 
“It is my profound hope that led by John McCain and others, you will see the Republicans really trying to do everything they can, not to play politics on this issue, but to really authentically work with the Democrats, as they (Democrats) tried to do in 2006 and 2007, and fix the broken immigration system in the United States,” said Rosenberg.
Rosenberg emphasized that the immigration reform debate will be an important opportunity for the Republican Party to restore its relationship with the growing minority population.
“I think there is going to be no other greater symbolic opportunity to get back in with this emerging minority culture that is emerging in the United States, than the immigration debate over the next couple years,” he said.
Tamar Jacoby, president of Immigration Works, also argued that supporting comprehensive immigration reform was important politically for Republicans.
“For Republicans who now are, let’s face it, in the doghouse, most of them, with Latino voters, this is a chance to earn their way out of the doghouse,” Jacoby said.
The speakers participating in this discussion Tuesday included: NDN President Simon Rosenberg; Tamar Jacoby, president of ImmigrationWorks; and National Immigration Forum Executive Director Ali Noorani.
All three speakers shared Rosenberg’s belief that comprehensive immigration reform was an opportunity for the Republican Party to restore their relevance as a political party.
“This is a party that is simply deeply out of touch with the emerging demographic of 21st century America,” Rosenberg said.