Laura Ingraham, Tea Party Giant Killer, Eyes Her Next Scalp

Laura Ingraham, Tea Party Giant Killer, Eyes Her Next Scalp

By Toby Harnden - July 28, 2014

SHE has adopted a daughter from Guate­mala and was a speechwriter under President Reagan, who introduced an "amnesty" for three million illegal immigrants in the 1980s.

With her striking good looks and her status as the most listened-to woman on American radio talk programmes, she might have seemed the ideal person to deliver a softer Republican message, as the party hopes to appeal to Hispanic voters.

Laura Ingraham is having none of it, however. Instead, she is fast becoming the most powerful conser­vative voice denouncing any compromise on immigration and call­ing for the deportation of the Latin American children who are amassing on the southern border of the United  States.

At a raucous campaign event in Nashville last week, Ingraham accused President Barack Obama of "fomenting a crisis at our border that seeks to undermine the very fabric of American rule of law, our sovereignty, our national identity".

Her most withering contempt was aimed at her own party’s estab­lish­ment — the "good old boys" and "go along to get along Republican politicians doing backroom backslapping" with Democrats, being as eff­ective as "beige wallpaper".

Ingraham has already claimed the scalp of Representative Eric Cantor, the third most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives, by headlining a massive rally that helped to propel his obscure opponent to a shock victory in a party primary last month.

Her appearance in Nashville was on behalf of Joe Carr, a rough-edged candidate from Tennessee who has support from the grassroots Tea Party movement. He is standing on a "no amnesty" platform to oust Senator Lamar Alexander, a genteel deal-maker on Capitol Hill, in an August 7th primary.

A bluegrass band entertained the crowd with favourites such as "Proud to be an American" and "He’s in the Jailhouse Now" as well as a rendition of "Don’t Fence Me In" — maybe an allusion to conservative demands for a stronger border fence.

Alexander has backed a compromise deal on immigration that could grant a "path to citizenship" for the estimated 12m illegal immigrants in America. But hard-line conservatives such as Ingraham and Carr are advocating mass deportations.

The immigration issue, considered by Americans to be the most press­ing problem facing their country according to a recent Gallup poll, has been brought to the top of the political agenda by the presence of more than 50,000 children, mainly from El Salvador, Guate­mala and Honduras, gathering at the border.

Republicans argue that lax immigration policies by Obama have led to the flood of child refugees because their parents know they have a strong chance of being allowed to stay in the country.

Carr claimed that big business wanted a "constant supply of uneducated, illegal labour so they can keep wages low and perpetuate their attack on the American worker, our dreams and our way of life".

Obama was "a tyrant in the White House", he added, and "if you expect me to go to Washington DC and hold hands around the campfire, roast marshmallows and sing Kumbaya, you’re sending the wrong guy — I’m going up there to start a fight".

Ingraham, 50, has been branded a xenophobe because of the stand she has taken. The satirical comedian Stephen Colbert recently described her approach as "a tough love — or a very soft hate".

She said accusations of racism were a sign of panic among her opponents. "I stand a lot more for the suffering of the American people of every colour or background than they can ever claim to," she told The Sunday Times.

"Plus, the last time I checked, I had three children living in my home from pretty difficult backgrounds, one adopted from Guatemala and two from Russia. I don’t wear that on my sleeve but, OK, I don’t like Latino people? It’s ridi­culous. I cared enough about the region to rescue someone who was abandoned there."

Carr, who is lagging in the polls and is vastly outspent by Alexander, said Ingraham’s support could be crucial. "For us to get her endorsement is huge. It’s real important when you get somebody with a microphone that big. For crying out loud, her show’s on more than 300 stations," he said.

Matt Studd, 57, a car haulage driver and Tea Party activist who was wearing a shirt emblazoned with the Ameri­can flag and images of Iwo Jima and the US constitution, said that the intervention of Ingraham, a Catholic convert, had energised conservative voters: "She’s awesome. She stands for the traditional Christian core values that we know she holds dear."

Republican leaders support centrist incumbents such as Alexander because they believe it is the easiest way to regain control of the Senate in November’s mid-term elections. Candidates such as Carr, they fear, would alienate moderate voters.

Ingraham said this outlook was akin to living in the past, explaining that she sensed a profound shift in American politics with a new element — similar to Ukip in Britain — emerging on the right.

"There are Tea Party elements but it has kind of an independent, anti-corporatist streak, a populist strain running through it. There’s a younger sensibility too," she said.

Republican grandees were fool­ish to believe that allowing illegal immi­grants to stay was a way to attract new voters, she added: "You make real headway in the Latino, black and immigrant communities not by selling a policy that would lower their wages and burden their communities, but by econo­mic rejuvenation. You have to be unafraid to say these things. UKIP's done that pretty well in Britain."

Ingraham hinted that her forays into Republican primary races this year could be the foundation for a political career of her own. "I've been approached by various people to get involved," she said. "I'm keeping an open mind about running for office in the future." 


Toby Harnden is the Washington bureau chief of The Sunday Times. You can follow him on Twitter here.

This article originally appeared in The Sunday Times. It is reprinted here with permission. 

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