Labor Day, the quaintly traditional start of the Presidential election season, arrived this year with the memory still fresh of self-mortification Republican style — the projection of Second Amendment rights squarely into their collective feet.

Rather than enjoying a customary post-convention bump in the polls, GOP candidate Mitt Romney received “easily the worst rating given to any of the last eight convention acceptance speeches.” In a different kind of bump, a bio-pic many thought tended to humanize the candidate was bumped on broadcast TV by a frizzle-haired Clint Eastwood (apparently trying to reprise his role in the 1969 film musical, Paint Your Wagon), who has moved from talking to trees to ad libbing with a chair.

The convention, however, was not without its own lyrical high note.  Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, clearly repudiated the hate- and fear-filled immigration plank in the Republican platform (which, with double-bordered emphasis, urged self-deportation and ruled out any remedy for the unauthorized in our midst). In its place, she delivered a heartfelt tribute to the truest form of American exceptionalism, our tradition as a welcoming nation:

But the American ideal is indeed endangered today. There is no country, no not even a rising China, that can do more harm to us than we can do to ourselves if we fail to accomplish the tasks before us here at home.

More than at any other time in history — the ability to mobilize the creativity and ambition of human beings forms the foundation of greatness. We have always done that better than any country in the world. People have come here from all over because they believed in our creed — of opportunity and limitless horizons. They have come from the world’s most impoverished nations to make five dollars not fifty cents — and they have come from the world’s advanced societies as engineers and scientists to help fuel the knowledge based revolution in the Silicon Valley of California; the research triangle of North Carolina; in Austin, Texas; along Route 128 in Massachusetts – and across our country.

We must continue to welcome the world’s most ambitious people to be a part of us. In that way we stay perpetually young and optimistic and determined. We need immigration laws that protect our borders; meet our economic needs; and yet show that we are a compassionate people.

It’s not that other convention speakers ignored immigration. Many waxed rhapsodic about their immigrant forebears who endured every form of privation so that their children might have a chance at freedom and prosperity in America.  As Sen. Mark Rubio offered, his father — a Cuban émigré — worked the bar at the back of the room so that his son “one day . . . could stand behind a podium in the front of a room.”

Perhaps even more moving were the refugee sagas of George Romney, Mitt’s father, and his father-in-law, both of whom fled revolution in Mexico for safety, succor and eventual success in America, as tearfully re-told by George’s grandson, Craig. Other Republican speakers — Nikki Haley, Mia Love, John Thune — also regaled the crowd with their immigrant ancestors’ sentimental journeys to America.  

While Marathon Man Paul Ryan’s whopper of a speech did not touch on immigration, it could well have encompassed the subject in these stirring words:  

Our different faiths [Ryan’s Catholicism and Romney’s Mormonism] come together in the same moral creed. We believe that in every life there is goodness; for every person, there is hope. Each one of us was made for a reason, bearing the image and likeness of the Lord of Life.

We have responsibilities, one to another – we do not each face the world alone. And the greatest of all responsibilities, is that of the strong to protect the weak. The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.

Apparently, however, given Ryan’s decidedly anti-immigrant stance, for every undocumented person, hope begins only after self-deportation.  The GOP’s muddled message on immigration is not the way to win the Presidency or capture control of Congress.  

Republicans seemingly prefer their immigration under glass, viewed from the hermetically sealed distance of generations long extinct, observed through the prism of anodyne nostalgia.  With this profoundly dumb policy (read: insensate or, demographically speaking, just plain stupid, as you prefer), will they wake up after Election Day to consider their shared fate with the party’s long extinct mascot — no, not the Mastodon, but rather the Dodo Bird?