This past Thursday afternoon there were protesters outside Wrigley Field in Chicago shouting “Boycott Arizona.”
Think how pleasant that would have seemed this past winter.
In January, Naples was courting the Chicago Cubs, hoping the new owners would move the baseball team’s spring training headquarters from Mesa, Ariz., to this part of Florida.
A full-court press was on. At one point Gov. Charlie Crist showed up at a softball diamond across from Naples City Hall wearing a Cubs’ jersey. He took a microphone and pledged state support in bringing the Cubs to this part of Florida. Local Republican leaders looked on, beaming with anticipation.
What a difference a few months make.
Thursday’s “Boycott Arizona” protest had nothing to do with spring training. It was in response to an immigration law passed by the Arizona Legislature last month. The Cubs were playing the Diamondbacks at Wrigley and opponents of the new law were urging baseball fans to shun the Arizona team.
Meanwhile in St. Petersburg, Gov. Crist was preparing to take a microphone and announce he was leaving the Republican Party to run for the U.S. Senate as an independent. GOP leaders were incensed. State Rep. Tom Grady, R-Naples, who also wore a Cubs’ jersey that January day in Cambier Park, withdrew support of his long-time friend.
Also on Thursday, U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV, R-Fort Myers, issued a statement on the Arizona immigration law.
It smacks of Nazi Germany, Mack said, putting him in direct conflict with the Limbaughs and Hannitys of the world.
What going on? It’s as if we’ve entered some sort of Bizarro political world. Left is right. Right is left.
The answer of course is politics. It’s an election year and the playing of politics knows few bounds.
Except, it seems, when it comes to Connie Mack.
His stinging criticism of the Arizona law puts him at odds with what might be considered his base.
When copies of his statement made it into the national press Thursday night, criticism was swift and sure. Comments posted by readers of the respected Washington-based blog The Hill showed they don’t know Congressman Mack very well. They referred to him as a RINO (Republican in Name Only) and surmised his criticism of the Arizona law was all about gaining votes from Hispanics in Florida.
Mack a liberal disguised as a Republican? Mack needing minority votes to be re-elected?
Those are truly laughable propositions.
Mack’s new-found critics are confused by something rarely seen in politics: The guts to stay true to one’s convictions.
Mack has always been a voice against big government and government intrusion. He was adamantly against the Wall Street bailout. He wanted no part of a government stimulus bill. He has been the biggest critic of truly socialist governments around the world, especially the one in Venezuela that is something of a police state.
His stance against the new Arizona law that would require individuals to carry immigration documentation papers for police inspection on demand is in keeping with his convictions. He’s saying the law gives government more power than it needs or deserves.
In taking his stance against the Arizona law, Connie Mack reminds me of — and I never thought I’d say this — the American Civil Liberties Union.
I was on an ACLU panel discussion Wednesday night about free speech.
Some veteran members of the ACLU recounted old war stories about protecting everyone’s civil rights, even the free-speech rights of Neo-Nazi groups and the Ku Klux Klan. The decision to represent these groups in court cost the ACLU many members, but the ACLU stayed true to its convictions.
The ACLU talks the talk and walks the walk.
Mack does as well, though they do have different views on government.
I got the impression during the ACLU forum that the membership believes government needs to protect our rights.
I get the impression from Mack that he believes government should be kept small and out of our business, so there won’t be a need to protect our rights.
What they both have in common is the gumption to stand up for the principles they preach.
That’s going to become more and more refreshing as the political season grinds on.
Phil Lewis is editor of the Daily News; his e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org