Another Take on Larry Craig

By Rinku Sen Sep 19, 2007

In eastern Washington last week, I asked two Latino activists from Idaho what they thought of the Larry Craig controversy. My knee jerk assumption was that Craig’s repressive sexual politics would spillover onto race issues – conservative here, conservative there. To my surprise, they told me they’d miss him because he’d been voting well, at least marginally better than other Idahoans, on federal immigration reform. He supported big ideas like amnesty and little ideas like the Akaka amendment (exempting the grandchildren of Philipino WWII vets from immigration limits). It doesn’t take much to get this kind of attention, but he voted well enough that the populist anti-immigration group Numbers USA has marked him with their SPRAWL label . Such political positions are rare in Idaho, a state white supremacists have chosen for their armed training compounds. Maybe other conservatives had set him up, one offered cautiously. Maybe they were unhappy with his immigration position and figured out a way to take him out. I’m no conspiracy theorist, and it’s clear that the GOP itself is split on immigration policy. But the contradictory voting patterns raise an important question for progressive movement: what do we do when people are terrible on one set of issues, in this case, sexual liberation, but decent on another set? It wouldn’t be right to support a politician who so hypocritically condemns a lifestyle that he appears to practice. But it does seem wrong not to acknowledge somewhere that the Craig story has this other dimension, and that his loss will bring new pressure and uncertainty to our friends fighting who are fighting not just for fair immigration policy, but also to protect the immigrants in their midst from violence and discrimination.