Alas, this is a never-ending story. Neither Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid nor Republican challenger Sharron Angle can resist politicizing it.
Whatever his true feelings about the complex issue may be, during the campaign Reid has chosen to soft-sell immigration reform. He’s relying on a heavy turnout of Hispanic voters to carry him across the finish line on Election Day.
Reid has supported comprehensive immigration reform, but he’s also emphasized a path to citizenship for immigrants who qualify. The Latino vote is such an important part of his re-election strategy that he told an audience earlier this year, “I don’t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican, OK? Do I need to say more?”
Angle, meanwhile, has blasted Reid on a daily, at times hourly, basis with a barrage of television ads clearly intended to frighten voters with images of brown-skinned toughs crossing the border. The tenor and tone of the ads is unmistakable.
Just when I figured the candidates had moved on to other subjects, Angle dropped by Rancho High School in North Las Vegas for a chat with some students.
Sounds tame enough, but nothing is harmless at this point in the campaign. When Rancho students, many of whom just happen to be of Hispanic heritage, raised the issue of whether it was fair to portray them in such a negative light considering the fact illegal immigration isn’t just a Mexican issue, Angle didn’t give the young people a lesson in political candor.
Instead, she appeared to attempt to spin them and pretend that the advertisements were something other than what they were — a clear attempt to focus on the illegal immigration issue along the Mexican border in order to call Reid soft on the subject.
It isn’t the first time the conservative firebrand has hurt herself by attempting to soften her opinions. In fact, the Reid campaign has made much of her various views of everything from Social Security to unemployment insurance.
As the Associated Press wrote, “Angle, a tea party favorite who has rallied for stricter border enforcement, played down her usual conservative rhetoric in a brief discussion with a Hispanic high school group Friday in Las Vegas. The students asked her to explain her repeated use of TV spots denounced by national pro-immigrant and Hispanic organizations as race-baiting attacks.”
To which Angle lamely responded, “I think that you’re misinterpreting those commercials. I’m not sure that those are Latinos in that commercial. What it is, is a fence and there are people coming across that fence. What we know is that our northern border is where the terrorists came through. That’s the most porous border that we have. We cannot allow terrorists, we cannot allow anyone to come across our border if we don’t know why they’re coming. So, we have to secure all of our borders and that’s what that was about, is border security.”
The commercial includes pictures of young men from Mexico. It shows shadowed interlopers sneaking along the border. One version includes a map of Mexico, according to the AP.
The fact is, most illegal immigrants who have traveled to Nevada do so up from Mexico. It wouldn’t have been the end of the world to admit that.
But Angle, again, decided it was better to try to dress up the issue to fit her audience. That style is what has landed her in trouble throughout the campaign.
At Rancho, teacher Isaac Barron shrugged at Angle’s political tap dance. He told the AP, “Some of the kids, they couldn’t help but chuckle at that. To deny they are anti-Hispanic when those are the only people shown in her ads, it doesn’t add up.”
Reid, meanwhile, is depending on a big Hispanic voter turnout to add up on Nov. 2.
John L. Smith writes a weekly column on rural Nevada. He also writes four columns a week for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Contact him at 702-383-0295 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.