July 21, 2018 10:38 am

Rosen campaign photo

“Open borders,” “violent and ruthless members of the MS-13 gang,” “countless illegal aliens,” “dangerous criminal aliens,” “drugs flowing into our communities,” “devastation,” and, of course, “law and order” — the resolution approved by the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday was full of so many racist dog whistles that it could have been tweeted by the “stable genius” himself.

And Jacky Rosen voted for it.

Rosen was one of only 18 Democrats supporting the Republican House resolution condemning, denouncing, and of course childishly mischaracterizing calls for abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The resolution also expressed what amounts to unconditional support for ICE — the recklessly zealous enforcers of Trump’s anti-immigrant jihad. Earlier this year, ICE deported a man who had been living and raising his family in Reno for 30 years — a family who will be Rosen’s constituents if she defeats Sen. Dean Heller in November. A Las Vegas mother of three working toward permanent residency showed up at a government office for what she thought was a routine procedural interview last spring, only to get physically muscled around by ICE agents, resulting in bruises on her back and ribs. Her deportation was narrowly averted by a last-minute stay from a judge.

ICE agents, as an LA Times investigation revealed, “repeatedly target U.S. citizens for deportation by mistake, making wrongful arrests based on incomplete government records, bad data and lax investigations.” ICE has a long and growing record of abusing detainees at its detention centers, including violence, vile conditions and more than 1,200 complaints of sexual assault. An Office of Inspector General report found that the practices and procedures at ICE detention centers “undermine the protection of detainees’ rights, their humane treatment, and the provision of a safe and healthy environment.”

A resolution that blindly supports any federal agency while deliberately ignoring that agency’s well-documented and highly publicized record of abuse should give pause to a thoughtful lawmaker. In ICE’s case, such a resolution is a travesty.

And Rosen voted for it.

Republicans introduced the resolution because they have decided the best hope they’ve got to stave off Democratic gains in November is the same white grievance politics that helped Trump secure the presidency in the first place. The GOP resolution is non-binding and does nothing. It was pure political jiggery-pokery intended to gin up the base by embarrassing a few Democrats.

For it to work, Democrats had to take the bait. For Democrats to be embarrassed, they would have had to embarrass themselves.

By voting with the Republicans, that’s what Rosen did.

The overwhelming majority of Democrats refused to play the GOP’s game, either voting against it or, as in most cases, simply voting “present.”

One of the latter was Nevada Rep. Dina Titus, who blasted the resolution as a “political stunt to further hateful and xenophobic rhetoric meant to paint immigrants as criminals and gang members.”

The “shameful act,” Titus continued, “will not address the plight of DREAMers; it does nothing to protect TPS recipients being forced to leave their families behind and return to horrific conditions in their home countries; nor will it reunite the thousands of children who remain separated from their parents at the hands of the Trump Administration. It only echoes the racist, anti-immigrant policies promoted by President Trump and his sycophants.”

And Rosen voted for it.

“While Congresswoman Rosen doesn’t agree with some of the language in this resolution, she recognizes the hard work of our law enforcement officers and doesn’t support efforts to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” said Rosen congressional spokesperson Ivana Brancaccio via an emailed statement. “Instead of playing games, Republicans in Congress should be working across the aisle to pass real comprehensive immigration reform legislation that secures our borders, grows Nevada’s economy, keeps families together, and includes a path to citizenship,” Brancaccio said.

If Congressional Republicans were “playing games,” why play along? The statement from Rosen’s office sounds like an argument to vote against the resolution — not for it — and the statement doesn’t explain why Rosen was one of only 18 Democrats who voted with Republicans.

This probably does: Her campaign is afraid of attacks launched against her if she hadn’t.

Heller’s campaign has already tried to falsely tie Rosen to the movement to abolish ICE — a movement that gathered momentum in the wake of the Trump administration’s calamitous zero tolerance border policies that tore families apart.

Republicans love to say some Democrat or other wants to abolish ICE, while never, ever noting that those calling for abolishment also want it replaced. “I believe that ICE has become a deportation force,” New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand told CNN, “and that’s why I believe you should get rid of it, start over, reimagine it, and build something that actually works.”

The resolution passed by the House made no mention of proposals to replace ICE while denouncing people like well, Gillibrand. Nor did the resolution note that ICE is not some hallowed American tradition, but an agency slapped together in 2003, when a bloodthirsty nation was lashing out at anything and everything that might pose a threat, real or imagined. In those early post 9-11 years of color-coded terror levels, immigration was removed from the purview of the Justice Department and moved to Homeland Security. Even if ICE didn’t have a record of abuse, it would warrant a rethink.

The resolution that Rosen supported was laden with facile tropes and intellectually bankrupt either-or dualisms used by Trump and Republicans to misrepresent Democratic positions and gin up the base. For instance, the resolution darkly warns of “open borders” — a concept that exists primarily in Trump’s addled noggin, and one that Trump loves to falsely claim is something Democrats want.

The resolution also warns of “dangerous criminal aliens, including violent and ruthless members of the MS–13 gang.” Trump has absurdly exaggerated the threat posed by gangs. That probably makes it all the more fun for him when, his vile dial set to turbo, he lies (as usual) and says that Nancy Pelosi “came out in favor of MS-13.”

Well, a Republican campaign stunt masquerading as a congressional resolution is a venue for distortions and false choices, not context or facts.

And Rosen voted for it anyway.

Newsflash: White identity politics is the cornerstone of Republican campaigns in 2018. Heller and/or his national super PAC surrogates are going to paint Rosen as insufficiently hostile to non-white people no matter what her positions, statements, or congressional votes.  Heller is counting on visceral enthusiasm for stark raving Trump and his revolting anti-immigration policies to drive aggrieved whites to the polls in November. His campaign, like that of so many Republicans in Nevada and nationally, is all about ginning up the base by appealing to its ugliest instincts.

Does Rosen think that by cozying up to those instincts, she’s going to convince any of those people to vote for her and not the Republican, even if the Republican in question is dithering Dean Heller?

Whether by deliberation or habit, Rosen’s campaign has adopted the miserable strategy that has characterized so many — and so many forgettable — Democratic campaigns of the last, oh, four decades: Take Democratic voters for granted while fearfully siding with Republicans in the hope of offending as few imaginary swing voters as possible. Rosen is still mostly a blank slate, hand-picked by a Reid Machine that must have seen a poll suggesting the candidate with the best shot to beat Heller was “generic Democrat.” But while Rosen may be a relatively new face, her campaign looks nearly 40 years old.

Even when Democrats who accommodate the GOP manage to win elections, they lose policy ground to the right, making it all the harder for Democrats to win again without surrendering to the right even more, in an endless cycle of spineless retreat. Little wonder that centerpiece issues of Democratic campaigns have tended to be rearguard actions — protecting Medicare, protecting Social Security, protecting Obamacare — rather than an ambitious agenda that substantially improves the quality of life for their constituents. The conservative ascendancy marked its start with Reagan, crushed the already milquetoast Clinton agenda in the Gingrich Revolution of 1994, swept the nation into a militarist frenzy in the George W. Bush years and, ultimately, vomited up Trump.

And on Wednesday, Rosen played along. Presumably she’ll do the same if elected to the Senate.

Rosen’s campaign is currently running one of the best political ads in the country, which stands to reason given Heller’s perpetual bungling. Her campaign is also counting on disgust with Trump and his gushing sycophant, Heller, to turn out Democratic voters.

It better work. Because it’s hard to see how Rosen siding with Republicans is going to drive Democratic turnout.

“Generic Democrat” should beat Heller in November. But if and when that happens, it looks like it will be despite Rosen, not because of her.

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Hugh Jackson
Hugh Jackson

Hugh Jackson was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and author of the Las Vegas Gleaner political blog. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and editor at the Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune.