California’s infamous Proposition 187, which banned most public services for illegal immigrants, passed overwhelmingly in March 1994. It received nearly 59 percent of the vote, with only a handful of Bay Area counties voting against it. The measure wasn’t drafted by Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, but he was its most high-profile supporter.
The statewide initiative did more than try to turn off the spigot for taxpayer-funded programs. In opposing the initiative at the time, The Orange County Register complained that “it would also introduce Big Brother elements into schools and hospitals. Immigration and welfare problems should be resolved with less government, not more.” It noted that reporting “suspicious-looking immigrants…will be the conservatives’ unintentional mechanism to create even more racial divisiveness.”
The Prop. 187 campaign was never about a rational debate about immigration, public services and government intrusion. It was an emotional debate, fueled by frustration at the state’s changing demographics. The initiative was blocked by the courts, but no matter. As myriad commentators have noted, the California GOP suffered a steady decline since then.
More than two decades later, Donald Trump won the presidency based in part on his unyielding approach to illegal immigration. By the way, he received the lowest percentage of the California vote of any major political party candidate since 1924. And he continues to stir the immigration pot during the ongoing federal “shutdown.”
All this anger about immigration (and a lack of sympathy for the poor people coming here) is not only cruel, but politically foolish. Republicans are riding high with their tweet-crazy hero at the helm, but don’t be shocked if in a few years the national GOP resembles its barely existent California variant, writes Stephen Greenhut.