Friday, November 03, 2006

The New Gangs in Town: Democrats vs. Republicans

The numbers are finally coming in and political campaigns are spending record amounts during the Midterm Election, an unusual occurrence during a non-presidential year. With some of the tightest congressional races in Illinois’ own backyard, constituents in the sixth and eight congressional districts are beginning to see the action up close.

A plethora of campaign mailers, catchy and colorful ads, and lawn signs can be seen in the sixth congressional district, home of Republican candidate Peter Roskam and Democratic opponent Tammy Duckworth. Both candidates are competing for the vacant seat in the House, which has been Republican for years. It seems to be the standard election campaign materials that are being sent out. Look again. The National Republican Committee started an aggressive mailer campaign with one issue: immigration.

Constituents are getting mail from the Republican Committee accusing Tammy Duckworth of being soft on immigration. Similarly, overly graphic materials have been mailed out to households, with images of social security cards that read, “This number has been established for illegal aliens.” The Democrats have fought back though. They have come out with ads to counter those of their opponents with a message that says, “We aren’t soft on immigrants.” They have also used the idea of immigration as a dangerous one and defended their position on closing the borders and tightening border security.

The mudslinging has not been limited to just the sixth congressional district. The eighth congressional district, where incumbent Melissa Bean (D) has been trying to keep her seat, is facing heavy criticism from the Republican Party with similar ads, saying that Bean’s policies would only encourage terrorism.

Given the unique climate of this year’s election, with immigration being at the forefront of debate, both parties are looking for ways to gain points, and more importantly, votes, from constituents. Immigration, as one of the most controversial issues has created a sharp divide amongst the American public and the political parties have been taking advantage.

Mass mailings project images of immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border, Muslims rioting abroad and further still are images of Osama Bin Laden. It does not take a political scientist to figure out the scare tactics of these campaign ads; scare the voter with the unknown. The sentiment these images are supposed to project is a very anti-immigrant one, with immigrants being an economic burden as well as potential terrorists.

With such rhetoric it is no wonder that immigrant groups are angered. It is after all, the immigrants that are caught between bipartisan word wars, where each party tries to see who can paint the more convincing picture of the immigrant community as a monstrous one. The rhetoric that is fashioned in this midterm election is anything but fair and equal. It is simply an exchange of bullets between two rival gangs known as the Republican and Democratic parties and the rest of the Americans are bystanders, where certain communities are taking more hits than others.

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights has created an archive of the anti-immigrant and racist mailers:


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