I get the low mordant chuckles whenever I hear Republican strategists complaining that [sniffle] it's so unfair that Democrats enjoy a significant advantage among Latino voters right now. Especially because I know that nativist wingnuts like Rep. Steve King will always be around to remind those voters exactly why they would never want to vote Republican, as he did yesterday:
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, compared immigrants to dogs at a town hall meeting yesterday, telling constituents that the U.S. should pick only the best immigrants the way one chooses the “pick of the litter.”
King told the crowd in Pocahontas, Iowa, that he’s owned lots of bird dogs over the years and advised, “You want a good bird dog? You want one that’s going to be aggressive? Pick the one that’s the friskiest … not the one that’s over there sleeping in the corner.”
King suggested lazy immigrants should be avoided as well. “You get the pick of the litter and you got yourself a pretty good bird dog. Well, we’ve got the pick of every donor civilization on the planet,” King said. “We’ve got the vigor from the planet to come to America.”
This is nothing new for King. He's previously compared Latino immigrants to cattle, as well as farming commodities like beans and corn. It's all part of his longtime record of mainstreaming hateful rhetoric and demeaning falsehoods when discussing Latino immigrants.
Of course, Mitt Romney is out there trying to mend fences with Latino voters right now, in the vain hope that they'll forget he used vicious anti-Latino rhetoric during the GOP primaries. Indeed, the whole GOP outreach to Latino voters is not going very well right now.
And it just got measurably worse.
Besides the noxious dehumanization of Steve King's rhetoric -- which is bad enough -- I'd also like to address the contents of King's smear, particularly his clear characterization of Latino immigrants as lazy.
I and many other people know from long experience that not only is this a profound and vicious lie, it's about 180 degrees removed from the truth. Latino immigrants are, in fact, some of the hardest-working and most capable people we've added to the national gene pool in many generations.
Two experiences I had some forty years ago formed the basis for the high esteem in which I hold Latino workers.
One of the summer jobs I worked in high school in Idaho Falls, Idaho, entailed hauling irrigation pipe for a potato farm near the town of Shelley. It was brutally hard work and paid poorly, but it was a decent way to make some summer savings working outdoors in the sun. It also required a good work ethic, and frankly, most of us on the crew didn't have it. Though some of us tried to be the exceptions, most of the crew was unreliable, they did lousy work, and they complained incessantly.
A couple years after I graduated I stopped out to see my old boss on the farm. He had replaced his old crew of high-schoolers with an all-immigrant crew, and he couldn't have been happier. They were reliable, they laid their lines perfectly, and they not only never complained, they eagerly volunteered to help out around the farm in whatever other capacities the boss might need.
At first I thought it was a sad development, but the more I thought about it, the more I understood it was not just the right thing, but the best thing.
The summer before I visited him, I had come back to Idaho Falls from college to find summer work, and out of desperation took a labor job in a potato warehouse. This job entailed hauling around fifty-pound sacks of spuds on dollies and loading them into rail cars in stacks. This wasn't really a problem as long as the stack was relatively low, but once it got to above chest level, tossing these fifty-pound gunny sacks up into position became increasingly challenging.
Nearly all of my co-workers were Latino, and they were all short guys. I towered over most of them at six feet. But these guys could stack spuds all day and barely break a sweat, niftily tossing them up with a throwing technique that had been honed over long weeks and months and even years. I struggled to make it to lunch break, and I was in terrific shape at the time.
I wound up only lasting two weeks in that job. But I did make some good friends there.
So when I hear blithering morons like Steve King opining, a la racist caricatures about Mexicans from the 1920s, that Latino immigrants are lazy and disinclined to work, it's enough to make me laugh out loud. Or cry.