Several phrases now hurled in the political fight over illegal immigration echo the script of a Civil War re-enactment.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions traveled to California this week representing the Union cause and slammed the renegade state’s “irrational, unfair and unconstitutional policies” of resisting enforcement.
Gov. Jerry Brown accused the federal government of imposing a “reign of terror” and said, “This is basically going to war against the state of California.” On this issue, his state belongs to a confederacy of sorts with other Democratic domains.
The tense issue is familiar by now — how much a state and its localities must help or at least not hinder ICE in carrying out its deportation-driven sweeps.
For the sake of Sessions’ relations with President Donald Trump, this nationally televised exchange of verbal salvos ought to sit well with the president.
The former Alabama senator has, after all, delivered a high-profile performance in defense of administration policies. Whatever the courts end up ruling, his contentions were clear.
Sessions’ on-message delivery differs sharply from last week when a conventional official action of his involving the Russia probe came under attack from Trump as “disgraceful.”
On Thursday, Trump instead hurled his "disgrace" label at Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf for warning residents of upcoming immigration raids.
The usual fault line on American federalism has shifted. These days, Democrats and progressives cry up states’ rights, while Republicans and conservatives are the ones seeking to exercise federal powers. Not long ago it was the other way around.
The San Francisco-Oakland Bay region offers a perfect staging area for politicans on opposing sides of the immigration clash to play to their respective bases.
In announcing a lawsuit Wednesday against California over “sanctuary city” policies, Sessions aimed his remarks at Schaaf.
“How dare you needlessly endanger the lives of our law enforcement officials to promote a radical open-borders agenda,” Sessions said.
Schaaf shot back: “How dare you villify members of our community by trying to frighten the American public into thinking all undocumented residents are dangerous criminals.”
She called the policy “vindictive” and “racist.”
This is red-meat rhetoric. Just as GOP candidates in New York’s suburbs tout Mayor Bill de Blasio as a menace, and de Blasio plays to his own gallery by blasting Trump, Republicans out west will treat Schaaf as a piñata, as she assails the roundups.
With congressional campaigns gearing up for November’s midterm elections, all polarizing issues are magnified and in play.
In this nonviolent digital simulation of a civil war, blue versus gray gives way to blue versus red. For the sake of playing to their bases, the hard-liners and sanctuary supporters might find each other to be very useful enemies in months to come.
As his job requires, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III becomes a loyal spokesman for federal authority -- despite hailing from a state whose polititicans for over 100 years sounded the bugle of states’ rights on matters of race and segregation.
“There is no nullification,” Sessions says. “There is no secession. Federal law is the supreme law of the land. I would invite any doubters to go to Gettysburg, to the tombstones of John C. Calhoun and Abraham Lincoln.
“The matter has been settled.”