Tag: Commentary

Columns of news analysis and opinion about the immigration news of the day.

Latinos and the Future of American Electoral Politics: Studies Point to Key Role in Future Years

President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Photo: LBJ Library)

It is often said that, when he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson also signed the South away to the Republican Party for a generation.

Today, LBJ seems vindicated. And another minority that for some is in a struggle similar to the civil rights movement finds itself in a new, powerful role.

The longtime sleeping giant of American politics — Latino voters — has finally awakened with the potential to give the Democrats an electoral majority that could last for a generation. That was the conclusion Hispanic and pro-immigrant advocates drew yesterday at a press conference in Washington D.C.

“My advice to Republicans is to make their peace with the fastest growing portion of the American electorate,” Simon Rosenberg, the president of progressive think tank NDN, said at the America’s Voice event. “The Republican Party is giving away the Southwest and Florida to the Democrats for a generation.”


News Analysis: Obama’s Place in History

By John Rudolph – FI2W Executive Producer

When I was a kid my friends and I used to talk about when the first black U.S. president would be elected. It was a fair question in the 1960s for students at a mixed-race school in New York City. In that era black Americans were achieving “firsts” all the time – the first black Supreme Court Justice (Thurgood Marshall), the first black woman elected to Congress (Shirley Chisholm), the first black to win an Academy Award for best actor (Sidney Poitier in Lillies of the Fields), and the first black actress to star in her own TV show (Diahann Carrol in Julia).

Despite those achievements, and many others, the idea of a black person occupying the White House seemed a very long way off. The Civil Rights movement and the subsequent Black Power movement were in full swing. So was the white backlash against them – leading my school mates and me to predict that it might be a century before enough white Americans would be willing to cast their vote for a black candidate seeking the nation’s highest office.

We were wrong. This historic event occurred much sooner than any of us imagined, and for reasons that never entered our discussions. As America struggled, often violently, over racial integration and equal rights, we could not picture the multi-racial, multi-cultural nation that would emerge to elect a president some have called “post-racial.”

The 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, was one of the seeds sown in that decade that has as much to do with Obama’s victory as the long fight for equality and justice for African Americans. By removing a system of quotas that favored white northern European immigrants, the law helped level the playing field for people around the world who wanted to come to America. They have been coming ever since, creating a nation that has grown more and more diverse over time, and which increasingly sees diversity and multi-racialism as a normal part of life.


After a Campaign That Largely Ignored Them, Immigrant Voters Still Expect Results

Diego Graglia

Diego Graglia, blog editor

When it comes to politics, not all immigrants are created equal. While the 2008 presidential campaign saw intense efforts by both major candidates to seduce Hispanic voters, other ethnic groups did not receive comparable levels of attention.

But one thing foreign-born voters of all origins have in common is that they did not see the deep discussion many of them expected about what is going to happen to U.S. immigration laws under the next administration.

Immigration reform was more a political frisbee than a political football: rather than being tossed around by the campaigns, it sort of hovered over public discourse, dipping to ground level only on occasion. Most of the references to it came in front of immigrant audiences, especially in candidate interviews and commercials on Spanish-language media.

Hispanics received a lot of attention during this fall campaign because of their large numbers in four states once labeled battlegrounds: Colorado, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico. Now, the three western states are considered to be leaning towards Barack Obama — and the Democratic candidate held a slight lead in most of the polls conducted in Florida in October. This is in no small part due to the high levels of support Obama has attracted among Hispanics in those states.

While those states saw a deluge of advertising in Spanish, Latinos in other regions were not catered to in such an intense manner. Most Hispanics in the U.S. live in states considered safe for one party or the other –New York and California on the Democratic side, Texas in the Republican column.

Latinos in non-battleground states did not miss much.


Feet in Two Worlds Co-sponsors Conversation About Ethnic Voters In The 2008 Election

As Republicans get ready to wrap up their convention in St. Paul, Minnesota on Thursday, across the river in Minneapolis Feet in Two Worlds and the New York Community Media Alliance will host a discussion about immigrant and ethnic voters in this year’s election. “Deconstructing the Ethnic Vote,” a conversation with ethnic media reporters from New York, Los Angeles and the Twin Cities, will be held in the Shepherd Room at the Weisman Art Museum, as part of the American Politics Sideshow on Thursday, September 4th starting at 1 PM.

Journalists will discuss how and if ethnic voters connect to John McCain, and analyze the messages that immigrant and ethnic communities are hearing from candidates of both parties.

Participants include:

Pilar Marrero – reporter and columnist, La Opinión, Los Angeles
Wameng Moua – Editor, Hmong Today, St. Paul, MN
Tomasz Deptula – columnist/editor, Nowy Dziennik/Polish Daily News, New York
Lotus Chau – Chief Reporter, Sing Tao Daily, New York
Zyphus Lebrun – Supervising Producer, “Independent Sources” CUNY TV, New York
Ari Kagan – Senior Editor, Vecherniy New York
Sharon Toomer – Founder and Managing Editor, BlackandBrownNews.com, New York
Ka Chan – Communications Director, New York Community Media Alliance

The conversation will be moderated by John Rudolph, Executive Producer of Feet in Two Worlds.

This event is free and open to the public. For information on parking and directions visit http://www.weisman.umn.edu/visiting/map.html.

The Meaning of “Clean”: A Short Guide to Bidenspeak

By Peter McDermott of the Irish Echo, reporting from Denver: 

Joe Biden is a popular choice with the Democratic faithful, judging by brief conversations I’ve had with political figures, delegates, and party supporters over the last 48 hours. A long-time Hillary supporter, New York Congresswoman Nydia Valezquez, told a small group of us ethnic journalists from New York, when we spotted her on Sunday night, that the Delaware senator owned just one car, which he drove himself to the only house that he owned.

Photo via Flickr

Party activist Nancy Touchette of Maryland, whom I met on Monday said that Biden is, “right for this year.”

He’s also a popular choice with the hard-nosed commentariat. On Aug. 22, before the official announcement, the New York Times’ in-house conservative columnist David Brooks (who has said some quite nice things about the presumptive Democratic nominee) said, “Barack Obama has decided upon a vice-presidential running mate. And while I don’t know who it is as I write, for the good of the country, I hope he picked Joe Biden.”

Most Democrats believe Obama has all the qualities needed in a president. But Dan Balz in the Washington Post said he has, “to show he’s willing to embrace some old-fashioned ideas about what it takes to win.” His choosing Joe Biden was one important sign of his pragmatism. And there may have to be others.

Interestingly What it Takes is the title of Richard Cramer’s 1992 book about the 1988 presidential campaign. He followed, from the very beginning, six of the candidates positioning themselves to be Ronald Reagan’s successor in the White House. They were: George Bush Sr. and Bob Dole on the Republican side, and Democrats Michael Dukakis, Dick Gephardt, Gary Hart and Joe Biden.

Cramer used various techniques of the new journalism genre, then still very much in vogue. But his trademark was writing in the third person, channeling the voices of his interviewees, whether the candidate himself, his managers and aides, or his close family members.

He had access, without which the project would not have been possible, and all of the profiles were to varying degrees sympathetic. But he had his favorites (for the most part here I’m relying on my memory, having read it more than 10 years ago).

From early on in their post-World War II marriage, Cramer revealed, Bush and his wife Barbara had sent out thank-you notes to people they’d met, and over the years had compiled an impressive database of names. This courtesy practiced on such a huge scale appeared coldly calculating in political terms.

Hart, for his part, was regarded as a little strange by reporters, and simply in the retelling it seemed he was to Cramer, too. (Yesterday I met Raymond Dean Jones, an African-American columnist here in Denver, which is Hart’s home patch, who said that the former senator suffered from his typically western persona. “He’s a loner,” said Jones, who knows and admires him.) Dukakis came across as a control freak, and Dick Gerphardt was decent and wholesome, as well as stoical in the face of life’s challenges, all of which somehow made him rather bland.

But it was Dole and Biden who emerged as the most human and also the most likeable of the six. The author’s connection to the pair continued after the book was published. Cramer, a liberal, wrote a glowing magazine portrait of Dole (for Rolling Stone, I think) when he was the Republican candidate in 1996. And he encouraged Biden to write his own memoir, “Promises to Keep.”

I haven’t seen What it Takes mentioned in the media so far, but Cramer’s book is bound to be a resource on Biden. When flipping through it before our group’s early-morning Sunday flight from New York to Denver, I came across a snippet that said something about a recent Biden gaffe. A great deal of attention has been paid to his statement during the early primary campaign that Obama was “articulate” and “clean,” among other laudable things. You’re veering into eggshell territory when you say that someone from a traditionally oppressed group knows how to speak. However, Biden used the latter term about himself when he first ran for the Senate as a 29-year-old upstart in 1972 (if I’ve divined Cramer’s narrative technique correctly). And by “clean,” it’s obvious enough to me that he means “clean-cut,” and thus potentially respectable, which is what Biden was when compared to many of his peers 36 years ago.

Peter McDermott is Associate Editor of the Irish Echo in New York. He is covering the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado as part of a project sponsored by the New York Community Media Alliance and Feet in Two Worlds.

The Inside Scoop on La Raza and Latino Outreach by the Presidential Candidates

Despite appearances and poll numbers, neither presidential candidate has a lock on the Latino vote. The National Council of La Raza convention in San Diego, which just ended yesterday (7/15/08), showed that both candidates have to overcome a strong measure of doubt among Latinos – Obama because of his race and the bitter primary battle, and McCain because of his backtracking on immigration reform.

Obama appeared first, on Sunday, and McCain the next day. They were both well received but not with the same fervor: Obama got a bigger crowd, strongest applause, and two times more press.

By the time McCain came around on Monday, the press corps was diminished greatly, many activists didn’t show up for lunch –the overflow room that was full on Sunday was virtually empty on Monday- and the excitement level had noticeably dropped.

It’s completely anecdotal evidence, of course, but it shows that the Latino groups and activist crowd that usually attend the NCLR conferences support what the polls are saying. The latest Gallup Poll of Latinos shows a 30 point difference in support between Obama and McCain. Obama is getting close to 60 percent and McCain has about 29 percent. (more…)

McCain’s Gamble on Colombia

Senator and Republican presidential candidate John McCain is betting he can win the election using what he believes is his strongest suit: national security and foreign policy. It’s probably his best bet, but a risky one. (more…)

Peter McDermott of the Irish Echo on the history of the NH primary

Andy Smith’s (head of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center) comment about the Hillary campaign, particularly its attitude to the media, was backed up by Maureen Dowd’s column the following day.
“Hillary has barely talked to the press throughout her race even though the Clintons this week whined mightily that the press prefers Obama,” she wrote. Dowd echoed another comment he made when she said that Eugene McCarthy forced the incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson from the White House with his strong showing in the New Hampshire Primary in 1968.

Both Andy and the NYT columnist are wrong on this historical point. The primary was held on March 12, which LBJ won in a write-in campaign. The president announced to the nation in a televised address on March 31 that he would not be seeking reelection. What neither mentioned is that Robert Kennedy had entered the race on March 16.

I referred to these facts in a general opinion piece about the history of the primary, which was published in my paper on Jan. 2, and can be found on the IPA website.