Democratic doublespeak on Chavez

Elton Wong

President-elect Bush faced his first cabinet setback on Tuesday when his nomination for labor secretary, Linda Chavez, withdrew herself from consideration. Her decision came in the midst of a scandal concerning her relationship and possible employment of an illegal immigrant woman named Marta Mercado. In the early 1990s, Mercado was given housing in Chavez’s house. The cause of controversy is that while staying there, Mercado performed some household chores for Chavez and received money from Chavez. Legally, this could be considered employment, and providing employment to an illegal immigrant is against the law. Since Chavez was nominated by Bush’s transition team, it was Democrats who stirred up the controversy and ultimately forced Chavez to withdraw her name from consideration. The unfortunate thing is that in doing so, these “liberal” Democrats have betrayed some of their most central values and committed an act of textbook partisan hypocrisy. If there is one principle that is central to liberal, progressive thinking, it is that helping unfortunate people is a good thing. While conservatives have a long history of being anti-immigration and sometimes even racist (Pat Buchanan and Rush Limbaugh are prime examples) it has always been the liberals who championed the cause of the poor and downtrodden. The main conflict between conservatives and liberals centers around this conflict, the rights of the poor and disadvantaged vs. the rights of capitalists and the economically powerful. The classically liberal platforms of welfare, business regulation, progressive taxation, civil rights, consumer protection and environmentalism are all really about the same thing: Keeping the powerful from exploiting the poor. But then along comes Linda Chavez, a woman with a long history of helping people less fortunate than herself. Her decision to give housing to Marta Mercado was, beyond question, an act of charity. Mercado had fled an abusive relationship in Guatemala and only needed a helping hand to start a new life in America. Chavez provided lodging and even helped Mercado buy textbooks for English classes she was taking. How can this possibly be considered a bad thing to do? At the press conference announcing her withdrawal from the cabinet position, Chavez introduced three other immigrants she has helped in the past: two Hispanic women and a Vietnamese man. All three of these people testified to Chavez’s generosity. At this same press conference, Chavez said that she does not regret her decision to help Mercado and that she would do the same thing again, no matter that it was against the law, no matter that it cost her a cabinet position.It is sad that Democrats in Washington have stooped to attacking this woman. Even worse is that this attack is also an act of political retribution that would be juvenile on an elementary school playground.

In 1993, Clinton’s nomination of Zoe Baird to his Cabinet faced similar controversy when it was revealed that Baird had hired an illegal immigrant to do household chores. At the time, strangely enough, Linda Chavez was outspoken in her criticism of Baird. Now that the tables are turned and Chavez is the one being examined, Democrats are gleeful in pointing out Chavez’s hypocrisy. This provides them with a convenient excuse for attacking Chavez: They are “concerned” about her “hypocrisy.” This ruse shouldn’t fool anyone. They are attacking Chavez because they can, and they are willing to use any means necessary. Democratic politicians are letting everyone know that they would rather play politics than champion their principles. If they care about helping unfortunate people, then why are they punishing Chavez for doing just that? It’s one thing to hear conservatives like Pete Wilson or Pat Buchanan rail against immigrants. When Republicans criticized Zoe Baird for hiring an illegal immigrant, it was only to be expected, given that conservatives have always placed their anti-immigration stances before humanitarian concerns. Proposition 187 in California, which sought to deny all civil services to illegal immigrants, is a good example of this. Liberal Democrats have always spoken out against this kind of xenophobic attitude, but now they have no credibility on the issue. They have shown that they are no better than their political adversaries. In an interview with CNN, Chavez said that her critics are engaged in “an effort to continue the election by other means.” It’s sad, but this description seems to be accurate. Admittedly, these are strange political times. The American people didn’t even get to choose who would become the next president. It is more than understandable that Democrats are unhappy with the situation However, what is done is done, and this kind of underhanded political maneuvering on the part of Democrats is not becoming, nor is it constructive. If Democrats continue to be so petty for the next four years, they may do great damage to the ideals they are supposedly trying to advance.