A day after liberal activists sent out an e-mail alert, local blogs heeded the call and started trashing the UW College Republicans' plans for "Find an Illegal Immigrant Day." The event—in which students search the campus for the player chosen as the "illegal immigrant"—was slated for April 15.
At the lefty blog Horse's Ass, commenter "headless lucy" said, "If something is small-minded, mean, and divisive, there is the place you will find Republicans." Commenters on other blogs labeled the event, which was only vaguely described in the e-mail, as "racist," "hateful," and "ignorant." UW groups, including the Muslim Student Organization and MEChA, a Chicano student organization, were already planning protests.
And then, hours later, the event was canceled. Tom Walker, the president of the UW College Republicans, contacted the liberal activists to let them know the CRs were calling off the event. "This event would have oversimplified something that even we believe is a complex matter," he says, explaining that the group just wanted to start a dialogue.
In place of "Find an Illegal Immigrant Day," student groups at UW will be holding a "pro-immigration rally."
But what looks like a victory for the liberal camp actually works out quite nicely for the College Republicans. In terms of sheer publicity—the point of controversial stunts—the group fared well. The original post at Horse's Ass, for example, received a total of 166 comments.
What's more, the CRs now look like the ones interested in debate. "Before our message had even been given, we were already the subject of ugly mischaracterizations. All we want is a debate/forum with balanced positions on this issue," Walker says, playing the role of victim in a one-sided campus environment.
In the past, stunts like the group's Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week ["Stupid Republican Awareness Week," Josh Feit, Oct 25, 2007] and the Affirmative Action Bake Sale drew the ire of protesters and flopped as either limp or polarizing events that didn't foster conversation—but instead, made the GOP look like isolated losers. This time, the College Republicans get all the attention for their issue without having to go through with the messy details.