March 31, 2006

Protocols of the Elders of Aztlan: As soon as the first Mexican flag was spotted at last week's demonstrations, the conspiracy theorists on the Far Right were bound to make the sort of arguments detailed here (and btw, since when is it inappropriate for a citizen of another country to wave his nation's flag? Are Americans living abroad not supposed to wave the Stars and Stripes?). Among the pundits weighing in is the author of a screed (edited, as it turns out, by the blogger fired last week for plagiarizing the opinion columns of others) justifying the internment of the Nissei during WWII, and a professor who wrote a book not too long ago attacking the stain of Latino culture on "Mexifornia".

Others have chimed in, claiming that deep within the heart of every Latino is an avenging monster, lusting for the day when he can reclaim his ancestral homeland west of the Rockies for "Greater Mexico". And usually, their evidence is of the anecdotal variety, a sign at a demonstration here, or the past collegiate membership of a politican there. It seems if you're Latino, and you aren't willing to pay fealty to the foreign policy of the Polk Administration, you're a fifth columnist waiting to rape and pillage Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Santa Fe (funny, how each of the names of each of those cities seem to be derived from some strange foreign tongue...).

There are plenty of reasonable arguments to be made about tightening border security, ending "birthright citizenship" for the children of people in the country illegally, clamping down on "coyotes" and others who facilitate the peonage economy that exists in our nation's agricultural plantations, etc. But pretending that Latino immigrants are a potential fifth column is beyond the pale. Cherrypicking a few off-the-wall remarks by high schoolers, or having a case of the vapors every time you're reminded that much of the Western United States was absorbed from another country after an unjustified war, isn't just wrong; it's bordering on racist.

March 30, 2006

From an otherwise routine profile of Barry Bonds:
Where father Bobby had known Jim Crow up close—in the Carolina League, Bonds Sr. was often laconically addressed as "nigger"—son Barry was raised surrounded by the blandishments of white privilege. Through no particular fault of his own, Bonds grew up saddled with the attitudes of black victimhood and surrounded by far fewer of the mechanisms of white power that had at first degraded and then killed his father.
In fact, Bobby Bonds died in 2003 after a battle with lung and brain cancer, none of which seem obviously attributable to the "mechanisms of white power".
Another GOP Congresman has a fishy real estate purchase. Yeah, it's that Jim Ryun, who was only the greatest middle-distance runner in American history, silver medalist (to Kip Keino) in the '68 Olympics. I ran the mile and two-mile in high school in the late-70's, and Ryun was the flip side of the coin with Steve Prefontaine, his contemporary. Ryun was the clean-cut, almost-stereotypical athletic star from Kansas (in 1965, he ran the mile in 3:55.3, a high school record that would stand until 2001), while Pre was the cocky rebel, but they were both my heroes growing up. Both had nightmarish performances in the '72 Olympics (Ryun was tripped in a prelim and failed to qualify for the finals, while Pre led for much of the 5000 before fading badly in the final 200 meters, getting nosed out at the wire to finish out of the money). Prefontaine got hammered one night a few years later and flipped his convertible, dying young, while Ryun seems to have taken the same sense of entitlement possessed by so many other athletes into his political career, where he's now one of the most right-wing members of Congress. Pity....
Most of the attention that is placed on the immigration issue concerns Latinos, but another interesting trend (and one that may be particularly lethal for Republicans nationally) is the increasing political influence of Asian-American voters. While the stereotype many people have of the "illegal immigrant" is the prospective farm worker from Mexico, sneaking past the Border Patrol in the Arizona desert, in California it is increasingly the family from Ho Chi Minh City or Seoul, visiting America on a temporary visa to stay with loved ones, then "overstaying", all the while building a family-run business in Huntington Beach or Alhambra.

And they are starting to vote, too, in large numbers, and quite heavily for the Democratic Party. In 1994, the year Prop. 187 passed, Asian-American voters only made up four percent of the electorate, and essentially divided their support between Democrats and Republicans. In 2004, they made up 9%, and voted for John Kerry and Barbara Boxer as overwhelmingly as Latinos did.

The California electorate was 81% white in 1994; in 2004, it was down to 65%. All told, the increased participation of Latino and Asian-American voters, coming at the expense of white voting, has shifted the outcome of statewide elections by between 3 and 4 percent, enough to make what was a dependable Red State for most of its history into a solid Blue State in a single decade. Again, the critical event was the passage of Prop. 187; both Latino and Asian-American voting in California doubled in just one election, with the Democratic Party gaining almost all of the new vote, and those numbers have stayed there ever since.
Interesting Rasmussen poll on the immigration issue, with a down-the-middle split between the Deport-Them-Alls and the Give-'Em-Amnestys. As always, where public opinion is evenly divided, what ends up being pivotal is which side feels the most passion. Liberals may have the majority view on Roe and gun control, but they killed every election on those issues because the people who care the most are in the minority.

On immigration, far from it being an issue of intense interest for the Republican base, most of the people who actually care about the issue live in a specific region (the Southwest), and they have already formed their party allegiances in large part based on this issue. Nativisim has the effect of enlarging the voting rolls, by encouraging the historically high percentage of Latino and Asian non-voters to exercise their franchise, a mistake California Republicans have regretted only once, and constantly.

March 29, 2006

Jerome Brown Lives:
America was founded by explorers and conquerors, not "immigrants." If those guys had been immigrants they'd have had to learn indian...
--Michael Ledeen [link via Rox Populi]

March 28, 2006

Karl Rove is a Patriot: Something to think about this Saturday.... [link via Deadspin]

March 27, 2006

Mickey Kaus and William Bradley both see the weekend's demonstrations as leading to a possible backlash in the '06 elections. As to why that might not be a bad thing electorally for the Democrats, see here.

Prop. 187 is the ultimate example of why nativism, while it may bring about short-term political benefits (see Herbert Hoover, 1928, and Pete Wilson, 1994), invariably leads to devastating long-term harms (see national Democratic Party, 1932-68, and California Democratic Party, 1995-present). Anti-immigration sentiments, whether against legal or illegal immigrants, have been commonplace throughout the history of our country, but rarely resonate beyone one election. And if there is one thing that American history has taught us, it is that those who are the targets of wedge issues tend to have longer memories than those who briefly got all riled up in the first place.

Using illegal immigration as a wedge issue would accomplish several things, none of which would harm progressive politics. It would lock in Democratic gains among Latino and Asian voters for a generation, as effectively as the GOP's campaign against Al Smith made Roman Catholics a dependable Democratic bloc after 1928. It would change the status quo in the states of Texas and Florida, two states the Republicans absolutely must win to be competitive nationally (not to mention states like Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado), while putting no Democratic states at long-term risk. It would allow the GOP yet another opportunity to impose some ill-conceived policy (hey, everybody, let's build a Berlin Wall from San Diego to El Paso !!), further reinforcing the notion of the Republicans as the party of dimwitted ideas. And all of that would, in turn, lead to public policy more favorable to immigrants, no matter who controls the government, just like the passage of Prop. 187 ultimately strengthened the position of Latinos in American society.

If that's the long-term prognosis, who cares what the Tom Tancredo's of the world scare up this election. Both the anti-Catholic campaign against Al Smith in 1928 and the pro-Prop 187 campaign in 1994 gave the Republicans temporary victories, in years where they would have likely won anyway. But the aftermath proved devastating. So if House Republicans want to use this as their wedge issue for November, I say, Bring It On !!!
There's something about a demonstration of about a half-million people that concentrates the I am, depressed about life in general, about the nasty trend of the blogosphere towards hate and incivility, about how the local college hoops team will likely win the national title playing the most negative and dispiriting style of funsucking strategy imaginable, and I wake up to the reminder that political change does, in fact, ultimately emerge from the streets, and not from someone's laptop.

The thing people seem to forget about the whole immigration debate is that the laws that are being broken are civil, not criminal. The proposed laws focused on punishing so-called "illegal aliens" are an attempt to substitute a malum prohibitum code (that is to say, conduct that is against the law because it is against the law) with a malum per se version (ie., conduct that is illegal because it is wrong). For most of us, malum per se conduct is self-policing: it is not so much an issue of adhering to laws against rape, theft, and murder as it is following the morals one is taught from an early age not to engage in that activity in the first place. Malum prohibitum conduct is not like that; if we can get away with speeding or parking our cars at an expired parking meter, we will do so, even though we acknowledge the good public policy reasons for why such laws are on the books in the first place.

Several millenia of homo sapiens migrating from one area to another to find a better life will not be changed by whatever legal technicalities Congress enacts, and we simply don't have the resources to do what's necessary to arm our borders with Mexico. As long as America has jobs and wealth, and Central America does not, people will cross northward, our immigration laws not withstanding. The only reform worth debating is one that deals with reality, the millions of undocumented people already here, and the vital contributions they make to our society.