Iowa radio host Jan Mickelson, an influential figure among the state’s conservatives, shared his preferred immigration policy with his listeners this week, and it raised a few eyebrows. As Mickelson sees it, undocumented immigrants would get 60 days to deport themselves, after which they would automatically become “property of the state” and forced into “compelled labor.”
When a listener called in to suggest that this “sounds like slavery,” Mickelson responded, on the air, “Well, what’s wrong with slavery?”
The comments caused a bit of stir, and I hope you saw Chris Hayes’ segment on this last night. But the interesting twist came yesterday, when Mickelson told his listeners.
“Good morning everybody, welcome back to the conversation. I’m Jan Mickelson. We have some open line time between now and the bottom of the hour when The Big Show starts. Tomorrow’s program, at a little bit after 9 o’clock [AM CST] we’ll be talking with Senator Ted Cruz. He will be out here as a presidential candidate. That should be lots and lots of fun and very, very interesting.”
As Media Matters’ report noted, this will not be Cruz’s first appearance on Mickelson’s radio talk show.
Under the normal rules of politics, this might seem crazy. A media figure generated national attention for suggesting immigrants should be enslaved in the United States, which should probably make him politically radioactive, at least for a while.
But the rules have clearly changed.
My point is not to complain about some random radio guy, unknown to most Americans, saying something disgusting. Rather, the point is to appreciate the larger dynamic, understanding the existing standards that define how the parties operate in the 21st century.
There may be a liberal equivalent of someone like Jan Mickelson. I have no idea who that might be, but let’s say for the sake of conversation that he or she exists, and he or she said something equally odious. That liberal may get an audience, but the likelihood of Hillary Clinton or any other major figure in Democratic politics associating with this Mickelson-like figure is zero. It just wouldn’t happen. Democrats, up and down the ballot, would go out of their way to keep such a figure at arm’s length, not wanting to be associated with left-wing radicalism.
Indeed, those fears are well placed. If Clinton did appear on such a show, campaign reporters, pundits, and others would question her judgment. She’d be asked, understandably, “Why would you give a fringe radical like that the time of day?”
Now consider the other side of the aisle. Literally the same week as Jan Mickelson’s comments on enslaving immigrants, a leading Republican presidential candidate is only too pleased to appear on the same program.
In fairness, I did not hear Cruz’s interview with Mickelson this morning. If the Texas senator denounced Mickelson and told the host he should be ashamed of himself, I will gladly update this piece with praise for the Republican candidate.
But I suspect that’s not what happened. [Update: see below]
It’s foolish to think only one side of the partisan divide has fringe radicals. Such figures exist on the far-left as well as the far-right, and that’s unlikely to ever change. The difference, though, is that one party is comfortable embracing its out-there allies, while the other party wants nothing to do with fringe elements in their midst.
Update: As expected, Cruz did not denounce Mickelson during this morning’s interview.. Instead, he defended the phrase “anchor baby,” and reiterated his opposition to birthright citizenship.