Top Leaderboard, Site wide
Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines
May 24, 2017 Disclaimer: Please read.

Statements and opinions expressed in articles are those of the authors, not Truthdig. Truthdig takes no responsibility for such statements or opinions.

Czeslaw Milosz: A Life

Truthdig Bazaar
Shade It Black: Death and After in Iraq

Shade It Black: Death and After in Iraq

By Jessica Goodell, John Hearn

more items

Email this item Print this item

Molly Ivins: Race Card Backfires on Republicans

Posted on May 3, 2006

By Molly Ivins

AUSTIN, Texas—Dec. 16, 2005, is a day that will live in infamy in the Hall of Fame of Unintended Republican Consequences.

A bunch of the guys were just noodling around in the House of Representatives in Washington, see, kind of fooling around with the idea that they might get some traction out of immigration as a hot-button issue. The old hot buttons have kind of cooled off here lately, with people up in arms about Iraq, oil, health insurance and all this other stuff that makes the boys say, “Who me?” Where’s a good divisive social issue when you need one? They weren’t that far wrong—some variation on the race card usually works.

Trouble is, they played the card, tried to make every illegal worker in the country a felon and woke up the Sleeping Brown Giant, instead.

Who knew? Unions, organizers, community workers, priests and preachers, and Lord knows the Democrats, have been trying to wake the Sleeping Giant for years. That it would happen some day was an article of faith when I first started watching Texas politics 40 years ago. Who knew all it would take was one softly played, very ugly, very nasty little piece of racial political pandering. And there was the Giant, out on the streets in the millions. For those who know the Latin emphasis on respect and dignity, maybe it’s not such a surprise after all.

The Waking Giant clearly makes a good part of Anglo America uncomfortable—I suppose if the R’s really want to push racial division, it will work and we can commit some monumental folly like building a fence on the border. But as a founding member of the Anti-Hypocrisy on Border Issues Party, I’m ready to bet Republican money, which after all hires the illegal workers, has too much at stake to let their party go off on a racist toot. You can let the right-wing radio commentators bloviate all they want, to get the young jackboots all stirred up, but it’s still Wal-Mart hiring these people. Believe me, their employers are big Republican donors.


Square, Site wide
The solution to this problem is so simple: Do the right thing. As that great economist “High” Hightower of Denison, Texas, said, “Everyone does better when everyone does better.” We won’t need a fence or even a border when Mexico is doing better.

It does not take great economic acumen to realize that Mexico was damaged by NAFTA, that the surge in immigration has been caused by our own selfish and stupid trade policies, which benefit few of us, also. And domestic policies, I might add. The conservatives have been preaching this Me First stuff as though life were a race to the finish and the only object is to pick up as much money as you can. It doesn’t work—not even if you wind up with a lot of toys. As another noted economist said, we are becoming a nation of private opulence and public squalor.

Look, we all do better when we all do better. You raise the minimum wage, it works for everyone.

Rabbi Michael Lerner (“The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right”) is urging a 20-year commitment of 5 percent of GDP to end world poverty. The money would not be committed to governments, but to NGOs with solid records. And I say, why the hell not?

Is selfish and stupid working out so well for us? The progressive religious people will be meeting in Washington, D.C., on May 17-20 for a Spiritual Activism Conference. Naturally, being lefties, they pose no threat to separation of church and state. Amazing how easy it is to keep that clear just by thinking it through.

To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at

New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Join the conversation

Load Comments

By TLB, May 9, 2006 at 10:37 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ivins nails it again! But, the Democrats still have a lot of work to do. Despite their blunders, the Republicans are still making a play for the Hispanic vote, and the Dems need to counteract that.

What we need to do is come out completely on the side of immigrants of all types. The pubbies like to make a big deal about the difference between “illegal” and “legal” immigration, but as long as you’re here, you’re Americans! We need to make sure that all undocumented persons know that we’re the party that fully supports them.

And, we need to let all those undocumented persons know that if they vote for Democrats we’ll let them bring all their family members here, and they can bring their family members too.

We need to let everyone around the world know that we would never do anything as offensive as trying to build walls on the borders. We want to build bridges, not walls!

Immigration made American strong, and massive immigration will make the Democratic Party strong too. We need to be the party of free immigration and full rights for all immigrants, regardless of status.

Report this

By John, May 9, 2006 at 6:53 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thank you, Molly, for labeling this nasty, ugly, vile what it truly is:  Racist.

The anti-reactions to the piece are interesting, but predictable.  As always when some fearless pundit dares to broach the terms ‘racist’ or ‘racism,’ conservatives—people who never, ever encountered such terror—rail against the usage.  Only they know when something is racist or not, never the people who live the experience 24/7/365.  Racism can only be invoked in acts of violence, according to them.  Dragging a black man behind a Truck in Texas is racist, but according to this twisted logic, re-visiting Jim Crow there by criminalizing the presence of Latinos, is not.

Report this

By Dave, May 8, 2006 at 1:57 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sam Davis, you might consider pressing the Caps Lock key.  It is located just to the left of the ‘A’


Report this

By Sam Davis, May 8, 2006 at 5:51 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)




Report this

By jeannette russell, May 6, 2006 at 9:02 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I just wanted to say how much I enjoy your columns. It is so refreshing to hear the truth.

Report this

By Fred in Vermont, May 6, 2006 at 4:07 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The political money is not going
to the Republican party it is going
to the minutemen, and it is coming
from both the right and the left!

Yes that is the idea.  There was a heart warming story in the news the other day about a homeless black (from I think Chicago) who made his way to Texas to join the Minutemen.  He says he knows how to use a gun and that he has come to believe it is the Mexicans who are responsible for the poor condition of many of the Blacks in the American north.

He was welcomed with open arms, found a place to live, and even made sort of spokesman by the Minutemen.

What an inspiring story.  This is not racism but an ‘us verses them’ issue capable of tapping into all the racial frictions among Americans and directing them outward across the boarder.  Only in America.

Report this

By Sheri, May 5, 2006 at 10:17 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I wonder if Native Americans stood around watching the approach of the Mayflower and thought to themselves, “Sure, they can stay—if they have the right paperwork and speak our language(s).”

That one’s just for you, Dave.  Toodles.

Report this

By Chuck Garner, May 5, 2006 at 8:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A little background info on Rep.Sensebrenner (AKA senselessbrenner),R-Wis, the brain who introduced the bill to make all illegal immigrants felons, is also the guy who closed down the impeachment hearings and also was a co-author of a bill to repeal the 22nd amendment, thereby giving Bush a third term. It would be nice to report that this was strictly a Republican plot, but he was joined by three DINOs, which makes one wonder what the hell were they smokin’ anyway.

Report this

By Dave, May 5, 2006 at 8:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Molly Ivins, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were discovered that you are legally retarded.

Republicans playing the race card????


If ANYONE is playing the race card here, it’s the pandering commiecrats and spineless RINOS (McKennedy, Darlin’ Arlen) trying to kiss up to millions of potential colored voters.

The true conservatives don’t want to kick these people out because they’re Latino, it’s because they are CRIMINALS.  They broke our laws, and have high crime rates, and cost American jobs, drive down the wage, bring disease, refuse to assimilate, don’t know English, and the list goes on. 

Oh, and that part about the U.S. giving 5% of its GDP to “end world poverty” almost made me fall out of my chair.  Any time I need a good laugh, I log on to truthdig and read the hilarious one-world, commbiyah sob stories about American aggression and evil Republicans.

Keep shoveling the sh*t.  It only makes you lefties look even stupider than you already are.

Report this

By Chris, May 5, 2006 at 6:08 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I love reading all the comments about who is hiring illegals and why. From within the list of comments it is obvious which ones are written by mind numbed corporate employees that spend their days reading and writing emails, running stuff up the flagpole, bouncing things off people, seeking buy-in, then going home…in other words not individually carrying the water at all. Try running a business yourself, and with the “training” you receive in corprations you will show up at your new place of business wondering “Who Moved Your Freakin Cheese”.
This shines through in commenst on who hires illegals and how they are managed. I am self employed, and have had a s many as 40 hispanic employees at a time. Ive downsized sold some businesses and now have about 15. I know many many other business owners in a variety of businesses here in Texas.
Read the article about fake documents and take a deep breath and try to understand what is happening here.
The other idiotic thing is the remark suggesting only republicans own businesses, though it may well be true as liberals fit better in the corporate environment trying to think outside the box and shift paradigms all day. While away your days in diversity seminars and safety training while the rest of us republicans create jobs (which i thought we needed to do for the benefit of everyone…my employees make from 18,000 per year to 80,000 per year…jobs Americans won’t do though is correct even at these pay numbers)
get an original thought.

Report this

By Roy Frisvold, May 5, 2006 at 4:53 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The illegal immigration flap benefits
many interests: illegals, of course, but
also the GOP, which gained some breathing-
space from Iraq, from Scooter Libby, from lobbyists, from oil company gouging, from
Enron trials, from Rumsfeld’s shaky future.
Democrats of the DLC anticipate millions of
new voters—non-unionized, low-paid and
with few or no benefits—who will back
a global corporatist agenda. Wal-Mart
loves the low-wage/low-price niche it can
  The only losers in the matter are US
citizen workers, who are forced to “compete”
worldwide with the planet’s poorest wage-
earners. Even unions cave in with givebacks,
and pensions and benefits are disappearing
faster than the funds in Social Security.
  Perhaps the wrong segment of the population
is protesting. If we’re citizens, workers
taxpayers and registered voters, what do WE

Report this

By chuck stout, May 5, 2006 at 1:18 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Once again the Molly Ivins dirty deals the race card she accuses the Republican party of playing. The issue of course is ILLEGAL immigration, and poll after poll show both democrats and republicans by 80% support enforcing our immigration laws. Perhaps miss Ivins should inform herself of yesterdays Herdon Virginia massacre of illegal alien supporting mayor and city councilmen. The political money is not going to the Republican party it is going to the minutemen, and it is coming from both the right and the left! Say Molly wasn’t it Bill Clinton and Al Gore who sold Nafta to American under the promise it would stop illegal immigration? The new Zogby poll shows Americans, (again both on the left and on the right)support the mean old house bill on enforcement over the treasonous senates by 2 to 1, and that is Zogby! Texans and Americans deserve better than Ivins ludacrous accusations. Perhaps one of miss Ivins ancestors was dealing from the bottom of the deck at the Alamo. Chuck Stout San Diego, Ca.

Report this

By KnightHawk, May 4, 2006 at 10:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Molly I don’t think you could be more wrong on this issue if you tried.  The amercian public by a wide margin completely disagree with you, INCLUDING registered to vote hispanics.

Kevin Smith Atlanta, GA

Report this

By Vic Anderson, May 4, 2006 at 8:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Universal social justice is sublime and necessary; but it is neither selfish nor stupid for lawful citizens of the US to insist upon not suffering outlaw invaders, particularly for the worst that their presence represents: abjectly insecure borders subjecting US to horrendous attack.

Report this

By Kelly L. Scott, May 4, 2006 at 4:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Dear Ms Ivins;

Thanks for yet another smart and unambiguous read on a tough issue. Your quoting Jim Hightower reminded me of something my step-dad (a Basque immigrant) told me years ago- he said, “If a deal isn’t a good deal for both us, it’s not really a good deal.” It took me years to fully understand the wisdom in that. But what’s really on my mind is the comment posted by Kevin Schmidt. Mr. Schmidt has unintentionally made an important point; ignorance is not the special province of any single political party, group or class and those that exploit it are not always easily identifiable. While Mr. Schmidt seemingly agrees that playing the “race card” to divide us and then exploit immigrants is deplorable, he apparently sees no irony in playing what might be called “the white trash” card himself. In his petty ante game, Mr. Schmidt favors us with how he imagines this group might respond to criticism of Republicans; “… Oh well, at least taxes are still low for all of us trailarr park livin’, confederit flag wavin’, Ford pickup truck drivin’ Amerikin National Anthumb singin’, future multi-billionairin’, Ann Coulter supportin’, true blue patriots!”

It seems there’s a sad but human need for people to identify at least one clan as being somehow inferior. And I find great humor in the mental contortions we’ll sometimes endure to identify a group that can facilitate that need.

Two years ago I was looking for a new place to locate my single-wide trailer (neither a vacation home nor hunting blind, I live in it) when I came upon a stunning ploy for trailer park marketing- RESTRICTED: NO SINGLE WIDES. It made me laugh. A fun twist on the marketing of those ubiquitous sub-divisions of 2,000 sq. ft. clone-homes touted as “communities” wit grandiose names like,
“Sterling Virginia Estates.”  I couldn’t help thinking about the scene in Blazing Saddles were after the town is saved, a town elder with new found respect for their black sheriff proclaims: “We’ll take the ******* and the ****** but we don’t want the Irish! 

Sorry Kevin, it’s just that I’ve been seeing a lot of comments from the progressive brethren that I find to be less than enlightened – I happen to read yours on a day that I had a little time on my hands.

Rule of thumb: If you can’t be bright, be polite.

By the way, I’m on my third Ford pick-up in 35 years… you should try one.


Mr. Kelly L. Scott
Princeton, TX

Report this

By Monica Smith, May 4, 2006 at 1:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Please don’t refer to it as the “race card.”  These are hateful people and they target different groups whose common characteristics have nothing to do with the invective directed towards them.  If there are no brown, black, red, yellow, female, religious or simple adults and children handy, they’ll come up with some other irrelevant category to attack.
But, by buying into the suggestion that the characteristics of the target group are in any way relevant, we get distracted from the hateful behavior itself and we fail to deal appropriately with the people who engage in it.  Hatemongers need to be condemned.  It’s as simple as that.

Report this

By Race Card Backfires On Molly Ivins!, May 4, 2006 at 1:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This issue is: do we enforce our laws, or do we ignore them? This issue affects all Americans, of every color, every ethnicity, and every socio-economic status. To reduce it to a simple matter of “white people who want to enforce the law” versus “non-white people who want to break the law” is cheap, misleading and (dare I say it?) racist.

You’re capable of much better than this, Molly.

Report this

By renae, May 4, 2006 at 10:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I usually agree with almost everything you write.
This is the large exception.
These people are ILLEGAL. They need to be sent
back. We desperately need that ‘wall’ on the
border. Come live here in Calif or Arizona. Visit
in New Mexico! Our hospitals are closing because of the illegals; our schools cannot handle the influx and our system of policing is broken.
As far as doing ‘work no American will do’....
we have special visas for people who are essential. They work well in the tech industry and
the medical field. It can work for laborers too.
We need to enforce the law and we need to do it quickly.

Report this

By wesley foster, May 4, 2006 at 9:51 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I read that about 49% of illegalimigrants are hired by individuals for work around the housr maids, cooks, house cleaners, lawn work, painting etc. To limit illegal immigrants, all we have to do is to convince affluent homeownes to pay a living wage. Most of the others are hired by contractors.

Report this

By Susan, May 4, 2006 at 6:54 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What will Halli do with their detention camps now?

The march probably only represents half of all “guests” here,  and I’m waiting for the Bushinista’s next dumb move.

When it comes, how do you say “Please only attack Republicans and cars with “W” stickers” in Spanish?

Report this

By jewell beal, May 4, 2006 at 1:47 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

First of all, I want to thank you for always making things easier to understand in this crazy world.  We all owe you a great debt.

It’s amazing how the ones who play the game so selfishly always wind up with it backfiring in their faces. You’d think they might get a clue.

Thank you for encouraging us to stand up to unfairness.  Please include info to just exactly how to make a difference for the betterment of everyone in this increasingly globalized reality.  Your humour is so refreshing.  Jackboots should be so lucky.

Report this

By KEVIN SCHMIDT, STERLING VA, May 3, 2006 at 10:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hey, it didn’t backfire in the state legistatures!

Divide into 50, then conquer, deny them their jobs, arrest them, and ship em’ back to where they came from! Although, now you have to clean your own house and cut your own grass!

Who cares if kicking 12 million hard working immigrants, and their American citizen children, out of the country causes a recession. They’re taking jobs away from our chain gangs! Besides, this is all Clinton’s fault!

How dare they break American laws by breakin’ into our country! Amerikin law breakin’ is for us true Amerikins, ONLY!!!

Remember folks, keep voting Republikkklan. Keep voting against your own best self interests! Keep the flame of the kkkross burning brightly for all Godless people, who are not exactly like us, to see.

Oh well, at least taxes are still low for all of us trailarr park livin’, confederit flag wavin’, Ford pickup truck drivin’ Amerikin National Anthumb singin’, future multi-billionairin’, Ann Coulter supportin’, true blue patriots!

Report this

By Hilding Lindquist, May 3, 2006 at 8:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Right on, Molly! This is a labor rights issue. When the worker’s family is starving and the employer can threaten deportation or arrest for any complaint ... well, any dumb-butt can figure out we have the makings of indentured servitude and every conceivable labor law violation imaginable.

Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have some sort of rational border policy ... but shouldn’t we be working toward a North American trans-national thinger like Europe has?

Y’know anybody with half a brain figured out a long time ago that globalization without fairness in labor policy was gonna drive wages down toward the lowest common denominator for labor.

And another thing ... ain’t it wonderful what free people can do, once they get on their feet in a free country? It ought to be a good lesson for the rest of us. Bet those Neocons are squirming right about now. It is damn hard to put free people back in a cage.

Yes, I think we should have some assimilation going on, kind of back and forth rubbing off everyone’s rough edges ...

And if we bust the criminal employers, secure the borders rationally (whatever we decide THAT means), and come up with a rational plan for people to be able to work according to our labor laws, then I think the undocumented worker “problem” will iron itself out it time.

This is something we can “fix” if we focus on the labor issues. The criminal employers want us to focus on the “illegal immigrant” issue ... ‘cuz if we start busting “illegal immigrants” than the undocumented workers are going to go even further underground and be even more subject to exploitation.

Report this

By Jim Perry, May 3, 2006 at 7:46 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Yea, Molly. It IS so simple. Yet so complex, just because our fearless leaders can’t get out of their own way to ‘do the right thing’. It drives me totally batty. The other day I heard a health expert say that we could come up with a successful national health plan in 5 minutes. It’s ALL so simple.

Report this

By Jim Slater, May 3, 2006 at 6:48 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


Why is it you always say what I’m thinking?  Instead of saying, as the republicans do “Every Man for himself” . . . Why can’t we ever say-“All Hands on Deck!”  We DO always do better when we all do better.  This right-wing greed machine is running totally out of control . . . And I’m afraid it’s going to burst apart and take us all down together.
However, I still have to say that we MUST have english as the ONLY American Language, and ‘the stars and stripes’ as the ONLY American flag.
Everyone is welcome here . . . Just stop and sign the guest book on your way in!  DO IT LEGALLY!!
Jim Slater, Oak Point, Texas

Report this
Right Top, Site wide - Care2
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
Right Internal Skyscraper, Site wide

Like Truthdig on Facebook