Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Fear Of Immigration in New Hampshire

A recurring topic for conversation on liberal blogs is this mystery: How can the Republicans in New Hampshire state that illegal immigration is their number one political concern? It doesn't seem to make much sense, given the location of New Hampshire. They may fear immigration from Massachusetts, true, but most of that is surely not against the law.

I think the answer to the mystery is the same as the answer to all mysteries of this kind: When someone is asked a question of this kind, the person desperately leafs through those memory files about politics, looking for whatever seems to be the approved topic for general consternation in his or her party. In the case of a Republican voter, the approved topic for these elections is immigration. The war on terrorism wasn't going terribly well at the time when the managers of opinions created the ad campaign, and illegals were picked as the reptile-brain topic to be scared about.

In short, I believe that people view these questions the way we would view a quiz on something we have been just taught: to spew out the "correct" answer and not necessarily the answer about what bothers you personally the most. The public message is all about illegal immigration and that must be the "correct" answer.

This is not only something Republicans do. I remember several earlier elections when "everybody" was suddenly concerned about crime or health care or whatever, and the minute the elections were over the topic got absolutely no attention in the media. Real concerns would not go away, or at least one would not expect the media to ignore them so totally after they no longer give political mileage. It's not that these kinds of topics wouldn't be real concerns, they certainly are. But the game that is being played here is about something quite different and the voters know that.