‘Scuse Me, Amigos, While I Go Nuts

In his own indirect answer to the question of how seriously we should take Reince Priebus’ “2012 autopsy report,” Greg Sargent notes the rather glaring contrast between its urgent language on the ontological necessity of improving the GOP’s appeal to Latino voters with the revving up of congressional Republican attacks on Labor Secretary nominee Thomas Perez, at the moment the highest-ranking Latino slated for Obama’s second-term cabinet. It’s not just that Senate conservatives (and elements of the right-wing chattering classes) are gearing up to oppose the nomination: it’s that they are choosing the most toxic and racially charged grounds for doing so:

Senator David Vitter announced today that he will put a “hold” on Obama’s nomination of Thomas Perez as labor secretary, partly on the grounds of his work on … the New Black Panther case. Other Republican Senators plan to paint Perez as a “radical legal activist” who has “tried to help illegal immigrants avoid detection,” as the New York Times puts it.

Perhaps Latinos don’t feel any particular heartburn over the quasi-insane New Black Panther Party meme, a hardy perennial wingnut fantasy intended to prove that the real “war on voting” is aimed at white folks. But there’s not much doubt about the target of attacks on Perez as an advocate for “illegal immigrants,” and just wait until we start hearing the whines about this radical lawyer persecuting poor old Sheriff Joe Arpaio for alleged “racial profiling” (a subject on which conservatives are often split between those who deny it exists and those who defend it as sound police work).

No, the upcoming series of scurrilous attacks on Perez won’t come directly from the RNC. But the toothlessness of the alleged Republican Establishment will be sufficiently displayed when GOP critics of these tactics limit themselves to blind quotes in Politico and veiled calls for “responsibility.” The irony is that Republicans who are concerned about their party’s appeal to Latinos may give a pass to the attacks on Perez on grounds that they don’t want to rile up nativist conservatives in a way that will imperil the much-trumpted GOP “shift” back to the immigration policies of the Bush administration. It’s obvious who has the whip hand here, and it’s not Reince Priebus.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.