The GOP’s ‘ICE, ICE Baby’ campaign strategy

Arizona Republican candidates for office at every level of office are — once again, as they have in every election cycle since 2004 — running on anti-immigrant hysteria ala Russell Pearce and Jan Brewer and Donald Trump.

Scaring old white people who vote Republican with scapegoating “brown people” and fear-mongering over the Mexico border is all they have.

Sadly, this has too often succeeded in Arizona. There are a lot of scared old white people who vote Republican in this state.

Governor Doug Ducey kicked off his reelection campaign by using your taxpayer dollars to film a campaign ad to praise his leadership on border security. Ducey uses taxpayer-funded event on border security to shoot campaign video.

Reps. Martha McSally and David Schweikert are getting a boost from One Nation, a Virginia-based non-profit “social welfare” organization with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Karl Rove, which is running campaign ads across the state. The ads, which reportedly cost $500,000, praise both McSally and Schweikert for their work on border security. McSally, Schweikert get support from group with ties to McConnell, Rove.

Recently, the Republican Governor’s Association has begun running fear-mongering ads against Democratic candidates for governor David Garcia and Kelly Fryer because of their calls to reform ICE. Let’s just call it their “Ice, Ice Baby” campaign strategy (with apologies to Vanilla Ice).

Jeff Singer at Daily Kos writes, GOP ads are already attacking Democrats for wanting to abolish ICE. Here’s how they should respond.

Even though the Democrats won’t choose their nominee to take on Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey until Aug. 28, Politico reports that the Republican Governors Association (RGA) is launching a $1 million ad campaign targeting two hopefuls, Arizona State University professor David Garcia and activist Kelly Fryer. So far at least, the RGA appears to be ignoring state Sen. Steve Farley, the third candidate in the contest.

Both spots try to argue that the Democrats want to abolish ICE and put Arizonans in danger, a theme we’re almost certainly going to see a whole lot more of both here and in other races across the country. However, as we’ll explain, Democrats have a good model to follow to push back and prevent Trump and his allies from caricaturing them this way.

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Both the RGA’s anti-Garcia and anti-Fryer ads are almost identical. The narrator in each case declares that even though ICE officers are guarding against gangs and keeping the country safe from drugs, as well as rescuing young girls from sex trafficking, the Democrat being attacked “and other radicals demand we abolish ICE.” The only real difference between the two spots is that the anti-Garcia ad features a clip of him saying, “ICE is committing some historic atrocities,” while there is no comparable footage of Fryer.

However, Fryer recently said at a debate that she has wanted to abolish ICE for years, adding that Trump’s family detention policies won’t end “until we dismantle ICE—and the racist, fear-based culture that led to its formation in 2003, allowed it to continue under Obama, and has given it horrific powers now under Trump.” By contrast, Farley said he favors fixing the agency rather than scrapping it.

Garcia, who’s decisively led in recent primary polling, has said the United States must “rebuild our immigration system top-to-bottom and start by replacing ICE with an immigration system that reflects our American values.” However, Garcia has argued that the issue is too complex to be reduced to a simple debate about whether or not to abolish ICE, saying, “It’s a false choice between Trump’s cruelty towards families and towards separating children and Ducey enabling that cruelty and this open borders discussion.”

Of course, as these ads and about every other Trump tweet will tell you, the GOP very much wants to frame this election as a referendum between guarding the border or allowing drugs and crime to flourish. And while it’s not clear why the RGA is airing ads against two of the Democratic candidates this far from the primary rather than just waiting to train their fire on whomever wins the primary in six weeks, it’s very possible they’re hoping to caricature them early.

Democrats who find themselves needing to push back against this type of scurrilous attack—in other words, just about every Democrat this year—would do well to follow the example of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

In his bid for governor last year, Northam faced a barrage of racist Republican attack ads arguing that his election would lead to more gang violence by MS-13 (a group that has also become one of Trump’s favorite boogymen), and that he was generally weak on crime. In the final weeks of the contest, Republican Ed Gillespie even took Northam’s support for restoring voting rights to felons who had served their sentences and twisted it to claim Northam wanted to “restor[e] the rights of unrepentant sex offenders,” which of course made it sound like he wanted to restore their right to engage in sex crimes.

Northam responded to the GOP’s attempts to portray him as a pro-crime monster with a spot of his own where the narrator quickly dismissed Gillespie’s many attacks as “false” and “absurd” and switched gears to remind viewers that Northam attended the prestigious Virginia Military Institute “and was an Army doctor for eight years,” then went on to help pass “mandatory life sentences for violent sexual predators.” Northam himself appeared in the final segment direct to camera, noting that he’s a pediatrician and saying, “For Ed Gillespie to say I would tolerate anyone hurting a child is despicable.” Northam ended up winning the election a few weeks later by a strong 54-45 margin.

While every state and candidate will be different, Northam’s ad is a good guide for Democrats looking to respond to the type of attacks the RGA just launched in Arizona, and that Republicans will certainly deploy around the nation. To begin with, Northam’s campaign importantly did not repeat the GOP’s charges against him, which would have immediately put him on the defensive and given those false allegations more exposure as he tried to refute them. Instead, the ad pushed back by reminding viewers about Northam’s biography and work, with the candidate himself forcefully declaring that the idea he would tolerate anyone hurting a child is “despicable.”

Democrats will want to study this strategy so they can flip the script when Trump and his allies try to paint their disgust with the administration’s family detention policies as dangerous.

A GOP gimmick vote in Congress this week based upon their “Ice, Ice Baby” campaign strategy fell flat. House GOP passes measure lauding ICE; Democrats withhold votes in protest:

The House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday for a resolution backing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as Republican leaders sought a political advantage in highlighting liberal attacks on the agency.

A handful of Democrats have embraced calls from activists to abolish the agency, known as ICE, because of its aggressive tactics to apprehend, detain and deport undocumented immigrants, including raids of homes and workplaces across the country. These opponents say the agency’s duties could be better handled by other agencies that could focus enforcement on threats from terrorism and criminal activity.

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[T]he Abolish ICE movement has been pilloried by Republican leaders as tantamount to abandoning the nation’s immigration laws.

Most Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, have kept their distance from the effort. That caution was on display Wednesday, as most Democrats voted “present” rather than taking a position for or against the resolution sponsored by Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.).

The vote was 244 to 35, with 133 Democrats voting present.

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) called the resolution “a sham and a distraction” after urging Democrats to withhold their votes.

“Democrats refuse to play Republicans’ game when it comes to children’s well-being and the safety of those who come here seeking asylum,” he said. “Democrats support secure borders and honor the service of all those whose lives are at risk in protecting our country and our people. . . . But we will neither be silent nor will we cease fighting to bring an end to the dangerous and inhumane policies of the Trump administration.”

Trump weighed in on the vote early Thursday, bashing Democrats in a tweet.

“The Democrats have a death wish, in more ways than one – they actually want to abolish ICE,” he wrote. “This should cost them heavily in the Midterms. Yesterday, the Republicans overwhelmingly passed a bill supporting ICE!”

The issue came to a head on Capitol Hill last week after some Democrats introduced a bill that would abolish the agency after a year, during which time a bipartisan commission would explore reassigning its duties to other agencies.

Both House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) expressed support for putting the measure on the floor, thus putting Democrats on the spot by forcing them to choose between the wishes of their liberal base and more moderate voters.

But the Democratic sponsors of the bill quickly said they would vote against it to avoid any political shenanigans and, according to Republican aides familiar with the talks, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) weighed in against voting on the Democrats’ bill to make a political point — preferring instead to vote on Higgins’s measure.

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Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), an author of the House bill to abolish the agency, said Republicans were trying to distract attention from their unpopular family-separation policy.

“Rather than have Congress take up a directive to reunite the children with their parents, the GOP is performing some misdirection to another issue,” he said. “Why? Because many of the GOP members support the president’s shameful actions.”

“Trump has been personally following the growing calls to abolish ICE, using his Twitter account to highlight and attack Democrats who support the effort.” Democrats should be smarter than falling for this racist’s game by focusing on ICE.

Democrats should be focused on Trump’s child abuse policies of separating families as a punishment for legally seeking asylum in the United States, in violation of international and U.S. law on asylum.

Trump has made the GOP the party of state-sponsored child abuse. Focus on this issue, for which most Americans have sympathy and feel disgust. Government reorganization of law enforcement agencies? Not so much. That’s something that can wait for a Democratic president.

Focus on the images of these abused children and families, and the violence in the countries they are fleeing from seeking lawful asylum in the United States. America is better than this.

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