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Keller @ Large: Ted Cruz's Immigration Bill Latest Attempt To Demonize Massachusetts

BOSTON (CBS) - It's yet another salvo in the bitter political battle over the waves of immigration at our southern border.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) wants to create a dozen new ports of entry for migrants, and three Massachusetts communities known for their liberal politics are on his list.

This is just the latest entry in a long-running effort to turn Massachusetts into a national object of political scorn.

"If you're fine with two million illegal immigrants, let's send them to where you like to hang out," said Cruz, feeding the right-wing outrage machine by demonizing a familiar target. His new bill, headed for certain rejection at the hands of the Senate's Democratic majority, would establish new processing points for migrants, including three places conservatives love to hate most: Cambridge, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

Call it the mating call of the right-wing panderer, stereotyping our state as a left-wing hellscape.

It worked like a charm for George H.W. Bush in his 1988 run against then-Governor Michael Dukakis. Remember the "revolving door" ad depicting prisoners cycling in and out of the stir as a narrator inveighs against the Dukakis-era policy of giving weekend furloughs to murderers? "Now Michael Dukakis says he wants to do for America what he's done for Massachusetts," the ad concluded. "America can't afford that risk."

George W. Bush scored with a similar approach in his 2004 hit on Senator John Kerry, who, by the way, has a place on Nantucket. "He claims he's against increasing Medicare premiums but voted five times to do so," said the narrator over grainy video of Kerry blissfully windsurfing on Nantucket Sound. "John Kerry - whichever way the wind blows."

And it's not just Massachusetts they love to demonize. It's a regional thing. Who can forget the 2004 Club for Growth attack ad on then-Democratic frontrunner Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor, which offered a succinct summary of the cultural stereotypes that still tickle the hate-strings of the right. "I think Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont where it belongs," cooed an elderly couple.

The Cruz bill also targets communities in other blue states like Rhode Island, New York and California. But why is Massachusetts so consistently singled out?

Because it resonates across the country. We do manage to feed the stereotype on occasion with ill-advised policies like those weekend furloughs and silly spasms of political correctness. And the term "the People's Republic of Massachusetts" dates back to at least the early 1970s.

But the likes of Cruz are less likely to take note of our top-shelf rankings for health, happiness and education. And he should know better - he got his law degree at Harvard.

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