My world has been a bit of a progressive political echo chamber recently (I realized I haven't actually hung out with someone right-of-center since John Charles of the Cascade Policy Institute and I rode the Green Line together in September) so I decided to take a field trip last night to the third installment of "U-Choose... Freedom or Serfdom?" The conservative discussion event is sort of like an Multnomah County Republican Party version of our Brewhaha, but without alcohol or fun. It was held under the unforgiving florescent lights in a conference room off NE MLK.

The topic was timely: "Illegal Immigration and Socialized Healthcare." "Is government funded healthcare a benefit illegal aliens don't deserve and can't afford?" asked the event's flier, which I stacked between pamphlets from the John Birch Society and Glenn Beck's 9/12 group.

Democrats beware the giant snake invasion.
Before the top speaker, Oregonians for Immigration Reform's Jim Ludwick, got going, the hosts screened an informational film about global warming. Good news! It's fake! After the short film, the crowd stood for the pledge of allegiance, a talented lady singing the Star Spangled Banner and After all that, the evening's MC greeted us, "Welcome patriots!" (confidential to Mercury staff: why do none of our events start this way?)

The MC told us that the Republican party were calling us to become a "boots on the ground army" ("figurative!" she added) for the right. "It is the destiny of the Republican party to come back to power!"

Jim Ludwick is a big anti-immigration activist in Oregon. His group does things like picket Portland's day labor hire site and advocate for English-only education in public schools. Like it or not, his group has some influence—last year, their law for stiffer ID checks at the DMV passed. Last night he took up the issue of whether Obama was lying, like Joe Wilson said, about illegal immigrants not receiving healthcare under proposed overhaul. After going off on a bit of a rant about how Americans are "second class people in their own country" and a lurid story about an illegal immigrant who committed a sex crime, Ludwick said that non-citizens would get healthcare under the reform because there was no piece of the new law that mandates doctors check to see if the patients are here legally.

In addition to the economic impact of illegal immigrants on hospital emergency rooms, Ludwick had "deeper philosophical objections" to non-citizens obtaining healthcare in the US: it will "debase and devalue" American citizenship. "To them, we're all citizens of the world and that citizenship is meaningless," said Ludwick, sourly.

With Obama in office and two Democratic Oregon Senators, it can be easy to overlook the serious Republicans who are rallying around their issues, if not their official representatives. But never forget: it is the destiny of the Republican party to come back to power.