The Newsweek columnist Howard Fineman has a most interesting piece this week on President Bush's "suicide mission" on immigration policy. Half ironically, half seriously, he descries the President as a man who thinks he's a hacendado -- a member of the old-line Mexican landed gentry, "duty-bound not just to work 'his' people but to protect them as well."
That seems a little off the wall to me, but Mr. Fineman is onto something when he tells us that President Bush once told him that he was a "southwestern" Republican, and not a "southern" Republican. This is of importance because the heart of both the current GOP and the opposition to the President's immigration legislation is in the South ". . .where the threast of being inundated by immigrants is less immediate, but the sense of estrangement from metropolitan, bi-coastal America [is] great."
By contrast, some "Southwestern" Republicans, those from places such as Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada -- are simply not as concerned about immigration, and more open to the pro-immigration arguments of the business lobbies. Southern and Rustbelt Republicans are answering Fineman's question as to whether "borders mean anything" with a resounding YES.
The history of American politics is largely the story of rivalry between urban North and rural South, with the Midwest and West falling into one camp or the other. The immigration controversy shows us that this pattern continues. Mr. Fineman is spot-on about the estrangement between the South and "metropolitan bi-coastal America." I think it's deepening too, and goes both ways. Wonder where that leads us ?