The Democrats aren’t Duck Dynasty

John Krull

Once upon a time, the story goes, the Republican Party stood for certain things.

Its members called it “the party of Lincoln.”

The reference was to Abraham Lincoln, America’s greatest president. One of Lincoln’s claims to greatness was the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order not unlike one regarding immigration recently issued by President Barack Obama.

Like Obama’s order, Lincoln’s proclamation was limited in scope but large in symbolism. While Obama’s order granted neither citizenship nor amnesty nor permanent residence, Lincoln’s proclamation extended freedom only to those slaves living in states in rebellion, not those in border states still loyal to the Union. Both orders were designed to be replaced by legislative action, when Congress should choose to move.

Both orders met with violent opposition and cries that the president had usurped legislative authority. Lincoln’s proclamation provoked howls not just from the Confederate states in rebellion, but from copperhead Democrats and conservative Republicans who tried to persuade Union states to stop fighting. Obama’s order has been met with a lawsuit from Republican governors – among them Indiana’s Mike Pence.

Republicans said they were the party of family values.

The largest group affected by Obama’s executive order includes those undocumented immigrants who have had children while living in the United States. Those children, by law, are U.S. citizens. Thus, Pence and the other Republican governors have gone to court to separate children from their parents.

And they’ve done it during the holidays.

That’s a way to make the season bright.

The Republican Party was the law-and-order party.

Mike Pence already has been chided twice by judges – one federal, one state – for attempting to evade court rulings in litigation involving same-sex marriage and the state’s right-to-work law. A federal court already has said that the states lack standing to challenge the president’s immigration policy, which is why Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has said he and his office will not be part of Pence’s lawsuit. The governor instead will hire private lawyers to work on the suit.

Is it leadership for a governor – the state’s top law enforcement official – to signal that following laws and legal rulings is optional?

Republicans stood for fiscal restraint.

The list of things Pence says the state does not have money for – textbooks, health care, etc. – is long, but Indiana apparently does have the funds for this lawsuit. And, because the states are suing the federal government, Hoosier taxpayers will get dinged by the lawyers on both sides of the suit.

Even better, because the attorney general has determined this suit is frivolous, we’ll get to pay for the federal government’s lawyers, the lawyers in the attorney general’s office and these special lawyers the governor will hire.

The Republican Party was the party of opportunity and hard work.

The studies consistently show that undocumented immigrants pay twice as much in taxes as they consume in government services. They also work longer hours and save money at higher rates than most other demographic groups.

What is it about people who come here to work hard, save their money and pay their taxes the governor doesn’t like?

Republicans said they believe in the inclusive spirit of the American Dream.

Pence and other GOP leaders say their concerns about immigration have nothing to do with ethnicity, but when Republicans and other conservatives talk about securing the border, they aren’t talking about the border the United States shares with Canada, which sends us 70,000 undocumented immigrants every year.

Nor do they talk about shutting down the flow from Europe, which amounts to more than six figures annually. (Tiny Ireland alone ships us 50,000 undocumented immigrants.)

No, they’re focused on Latin America – so focused that they’re willing to alienate Hispanic-American citizens, the fast-growing voting bloc in the United States and a block that likely would vote Republican if Pence and other GOP leaders weren’t so determined to alienate them.

Every year Republicans gathered across the state for a series of events called Lincoln Day dinners.

At those dinners, they honor the legacy of Abraham Lincoln, tout their devotion to family values, sing the praises of law and order, pat themselves on the back for their policies of fiscal restraint, pay tribute to hard work and personal thrift and celebrate the American Dream.

Somehow, the irony of such occasions is lost on them.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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