The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Politico notices Hispanics Leaving Democrats

This is something I’ve been on about for a while, because the Hispanic activists I know are almost all absolutely livid about Democrats in general and Obama in specific.  The reason isn’t just that comprehensive immigration reform appears dead in the water, it’s that Obama not only continued Bush’s brutal “enforcement only” policy, which breaks up families but has actually ramped it up.

To put it simply, Hispanics are the future of America.  Their population numbers are growing, fast, and Democrats need to sew them up.  And their identification with Democrats is dropping, because Democrats are attacking them.  It is quite common for citizen Hispanics to know undocumented immigrants; for those immigrants to be their friends or even family.  And the outright prejudice that simmers behind anti-immigrant fervor is something they experience in their daily lives.  Seeing Obama and Congressional Democrats pandering to that prejudice—spending more money and sending more men to the border and for raids, is not endearing Democrats to them.

They feel, in a word, betrayed.  And as Politico notes, the Hispanic media has turned on Democrats as a result.

I don’t know why Democrats feel that kicking their own base: women, gays, Hispanics and such, is good politics.  It hasn’t helped them with independents or Republicans, all it has done is demoralize the base in a base election year.

“We’re slightly less bad than the other guys” isn’t much of a slogan.  And in some cases (abortion, immigration), it’s not even clear that it’s actually true.  Democrats added new restrictions on abortion, and have ramped up anti-immigrant enforcement.

Promises are all very nice, but as with the Employee Free Choice Act, DOMA, DADT, and civil liberties, Obama’s rhetoric on Hispanic issues has been opposed to his actions.


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  1. jeer9

    And what the frustration expressed by Gibbs indicates is that more people are becoming aware of the gap between what he says and what he does. It’s damn hard work being a successful hypocrite.

  2. jo6pac

    Yep, it what demos do best and that’s hate their base. What a suprise that we won’t roll over any more:)

  3. alyosha

    Interesting. A few months ago, a friend crashed the California Democratic Party convention in LA, and talked with a number of Latinos, who all stressed that they were conservative Democrats. Given the magnitude of the Catholic church in most Latinos’ lives here (in CA), I fully understood what they meant by “conservative”. I had no idea things were so bad.

    Even George Bush understood that Hispanics are the future, hence his late term attempt to get some sort of immigration reform passed.

  4. anon2525

    …it’s that Obama not only continued Bush’s brutal “enforcement only” policy, which breaks up families but has actually ramped it up.

    Quick! Somebody give Ian Welsh a drug test.

    “I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested,” Gibbs said. “I mean, it’s crazy.”

  5. Hey, I’ve got an idea! How about the West Wing arranges to have Ramos smeared as a racist? You know, as part of the “dirty work” that “concerned Obama voters” “gladly” and “quietly” do?

  6. Ian Welsh

    Now now, on immigration I don’t think he’s like George Bush.

    I think, judged on actions, not rhetoric, he’s worse.

  7. anonymous

    Ok, so you’re not a drug addict. Maybe you’re just what Obama refers to as afreak

    I am convinced that if there were no Fox News, I might be two or three points higher in the polls. If I were watching Fox News, I wouldn’t vote for me, right? Because the way I’m portrayed 24/7 is as a freak! I am the latte-sipping, New York Times-reading, Volvo-driving, no-gun-owning, effete, politically correct, arrogant liberal. Who wants somebody like that?

    I wonder where Obama got that description from? Oh, that’s right, it was an almost word-for-word description of the Club for Growth’s criticism of Howard Dean. Apparently, it stuck in Obama’s brain so he could quote it to distinguish himself from people like that.

    And we wonder where Gibbs got his inspiration from…

  8. Anon:
    Don’t forget that Gibbs was the spokesbot for the 503(c) that smeared Dean back in ’04.

  9. You should write about immigration more often, Ian! That you understand Obama is not like George Bush, but even worse means that you’ve already come a long way :).

  10. Lex

    And why wouldn’t they? Is there a compelling reason for anyone to stay in/with the Democratic Party?

  11. Lex:

    The Republicans seem even scarier than usual this year. That’s about all I can come up with, and I don’t find the argument compelling. The GOP has, in my experience, always been scary.

    It’s just that now it’s pretty clear the Democrats are scary, too.

  12. anonymous

    I don’t get this Latino/Catholic thing Alyosha and so many people, even here in Texas cite. That’s just an old stereotype, in my experience. I didn’t know many Latinos when I lived in CA (although the ones I worked with were NOT conservative). But I lived in majority Hispanic San Antonio for a few years and just like any other ethnic Catholic group, the RC church was part of their heritage, more a relic of ethnic identity, but they knew very little about it’s teachings, and they pick and chose what parts they will adhere to. Divorce is a nonissue. Abortion is no biggie. At least in San Antonio, gay marriage has the least opposition from Hispanics of any group, and some surveys have said the majority are not opposed to it.

    They use their religiion to justify their views one way or the other. I can’t believe that church dogma influences them one way or the other because they usually don’t even know what the church’s stand is most of the time. They wouldn’t know how to pray a novena or how to make a confession, because they probably haven’t been back to confession since their first one. Pretty much like any other Catholics in the US that did not go to parochial school. They don’t know or give a damn what the bishops say and most Catholic priests are neither dogmatic nor influential. Unlike Protestant churches where there is one, maybe two, services each Sunday, Catholics have half a dozen masses from Saturday evening to Sunday evening. Unless you make a point to know your pastor, he will not know you. You are one of a couple thousand people in his parish that will (at best) show up 15 minutes late for service and leave 15 minutes early, and maybe put a few bucks in the collection basket at Christmas.

    And outside of places like San Antonio where the Church was well established thanks to its primarily German and Polish settlers (if you meet a someone with a southern accent in San Antonio, they are not from San Antonio), most Hispanics in Texas assimilate and intermarry with the locals and many rural ones become evangelical Protestants, just like their neighbors.

    But anyway, when I was in San Antonio during the primaries, I was very struck by how unimpressed with and distrustful of Obama they were. It’s hard to say if they saw thru his BS like I did. Race may have had a certain role in their distrust in him for some. At least the Hispanics here can say they did not get played and betrayed like the gays and other groups. For the most part they were reluctant Obama supporters at best, and he knew it.

  13. alyosha

    You make some good points, anon, about Hispanics re the RC church. And because I’m not intimately involved in an RC community here, I can’t say what is or is not going on in people’s minds, therein. I can say that there is a large Catholic church a few blocks from here with a large, mostly Latino congregation.

    I suspect it’s similar to my own experience growing up in a Russian Orthodox church back in the rustbelt several decades ago: people therein hardly understood the dogmas or theology (or even the liturgy, which was in church slavonic, a foreign language for all but the eldest), they simply did the rituals they were taught to do since childhood. And a good amount of fear if you strayed.

    That said, family and tradition are huge with Latinos. These tend to have a lot of cultural inertia behind them, which plays well with the whole notion of being culturally conservative.

  14. jcapan

    “I don’t know why Democrats feel that kicking their own base: women, gays, Hispanics and such, is good politics. It hasn’t helped them with independents or Republicans, all it has done is demoralize the base in a base election year.”

    Let’s set aside the obvious–the dem leadership has almost nothing in common with their base. For all intents and purposes, they are republicans, well, before the GOP started doing shots of DDT. Anyway, the base being liberal, the party being centrist, ingratiating to power/the oligarchs, blah blah blah.

    In any event, Ian’s point is still rather baffling. Even though they hold us in contempt, even though their interests are not our interests, why, given the obvious indy/moderate repub. response, wouldn’t they at least buy us a few cocktails, tell us we’re pretty, hell, even bang us a few times (i.e. a few progressive feigns here and there to make us believe the “I love you’s” are legit). Flirt, betray, go back to the one you really love. This is logical. Their pattern is both illogical and self-defeating. I mean, this player as politician analogy seems perfect–both are born liars as well as narcissist fucktards of the highest order. Why does the manslut come out looking smarter?

    OK, Saturday evening in Asia, time for another cocktail. Cheers.

  15. One of multiple probably-equally-true answers to your question, jcapan, is that at some level they actually believe what they’re saying. They really do think that they can get more votes from the People of the Neutral Planet if they punch a few hippies.

  16. first off, i think we have to differentiate between west, east, midwest, west and south American Hispanics. they aren’t all the same, in most ways. a NYC Latin voter is motivated by wholly different things than say, an AZ Latin voter, just now. secondly, there’s a difference between third or fourth generation American Hispanics, and those who stem from more recently immigrants. and then there’s class: Hispanic American business owners are NOT the same as Hispanic American farm workers, or very wealthy owners of spanish language TV stations, for that matter. there has also been a push, going on over 30 years now, on the part of the evangelical american xtian community to bring Hispanics into their churches, and out of the Catholic church. that is exceedingly complicated to describe with accuracy, but it’s still important. then there’s the split between young and old, like in any ethnic group. i’m not so sure young Hispanic Americans have the same concerns as many of their established elders.

    i don’t deny that immigration laws are used, by people on every side of them, for specific political advantage. but i do say: that’s a totally different thing than the reality of the myriad people, and their major concerns, who are affected by them, (or not). treating the Latin/Hispanic American community as monolithic serves no constructive purpose, that i do know. (Ian does too, just to be clear)

    electoral totals are always about that magic 5% or so. some races are always going to be a given; that’s the purpose and function of congressional gerrymandering. some will be different, otoh. in those areas where Latin/Hispanic voter roles are growing, the Dems are just suicidally stupid not to deal with them in a positive light. then again, most DLC types and Villagers only know American brown people via bus drivers and housecleaners, and can’t imagine that any of us are capable of having any other role here in America. so the ham-fisted clownery on the part of Village Dems doesn’t surprise me at all. krist, these are the same pols who don’t think pissing off their (rich, mostly white, regular donor) gay base is “a bad idea.” to see them pissing away an historic opportunity like Latin and Hispanic voters represent surprises me not at all. if Villagers didn’t work so hard to keep the Latin/Hispanic population politically irrelevant, someone with a “z” at the end of their name, and a grandmother who picked lettuce for a living, might make it into one of those Village cocktail parties. and who wants something like that to spoil a good Villager’s DC/Beltway reputation? certainly, none of them who are paid by the very same forces that benefit the most from immigrant slave/prison labor here in the states.

  17. jcapan

    Well, Mandos, we’ll see how their calculus works out for them. It’s obviously part of an ongoing dynamic (when they’re in power). Naturally, as a liberal with a Marxist tinge, I contend that their time at the helm is intermittent b/c their governing philosophy is appealing to no one. The partisan blogs mock the stupid for their bread & butter, but I daresay most Americans see neoliberalism for the bankrupt ideology it is. Its entire premise is a means to gain power (not to hold it). You can’t craft a lasting mandate by ignoring where most Americans live. And the oligarchs are only going to cozy up to guys like Obama or Clinton when it’s clear the nation has become (fleetingly) disenchanted with the GOP (1992, 2008).

    It’s not merely that they’re punching their base, it’s that other than uber-partisans with a skin in the game, they have no bedrock of support. Unions may still endorse them at crunch time but the rank & file follows its own conscience on election day. As much havoc as it’d wreak, dem losses in the next two elections (including Obama’s legacy run) would be gratifying if only to see DLC forces forcefully rejected. The next time dems wander in the fucking wildeness, perhaps they’ll contemplate, I dunno, liberalism.

  18. meh, i can actually spell and i do know the difference between homophonic words. just not on saturdays. 🙂

    i just wanted to add the anecdote of one conversation i once had with a middle class, third generation Mexican-American man i knew in Chicago. most of his friends were white (and that’s like me, so i’m not judging). i met him at a party thrown by a white male irish american living stereotype in chicago, along with lots of other people like that. being two of the only three not completely pale people at this party, i sought him out for conversation, as is my wont. short version: he votes republican because of abortion. he was a Catholic, but i think patriarchal attitude had more of a role in that priority of his. eventually, i relieved him of his misconception that republicans are better for him in terms of taxes; he was quite ignorant about the reality of taxation laws here today. but like any good libtard or winger, he used the line, “i earned that money and i don’t want to give it away to all those lazy welfare types.” my guess is that for established, middle class Hispanic voters here today, there’s a strange and fucked up appeal to being able to say, “I’m may be brown, but i’m not like *those* brown people coming here illegally to work the fields.” this isn’t an unknown phenom, racially and ethnically speaking. as a friend of mine likes to say about upper middle class Jews in europe in the 30s, “they were more German than the Germans.” so it’s unsurprising to me, to encounter people who come from cultures with a strong history of patriarchy, religion, homophobia, and racism/ethnic division, to see the more financially successful among them wanting to integrate with their white counterparts. effectively, that’s the political history of the american right, after all. by denying those like you to benefit TPTB, it “proves” something, yo. black and gay folk are long familiar with the process, for all it’s rarely discussed. there’s this preznit guy who comes to mind, as well as this gay “candle in the wind” singer who recently showed up to perform at the wedding of the most influential american homophobe of our days…

  19. jcapan

    Chicago Dyke, I’d say the villagers, including both parties’ leadership, is far more comfortable talking about immigration, birthright citizenship or race than the obvious: class. Xenophobia is a convenient veil to that overarching issue. When I hear a dem politician connecting the dots, that the out of work white autoworker, the struggling black farmer, and the Hispanic chicken factory employee share the same interests, that their struggle is one, then I’ll take dems seriously. Sadly, too many middle class voters aren’t much more interested in that conversation than their party leaders.

  20. jcapan writes:

    The next time dems wander in the fucking wildeness, perhaps they’ll contemplate, I dunno, liberalism.

    Or just recognizing that there can’t be two Republican Parties?

    Anyway, I figure the only way that these guys are going to lose control of the party is by the party itself doing badly under their leadership. It’s only taken them two years to go from wild approval to “screw the bastards”. It ought to be clear to professional politicians that there are some serious downsides to the DLC strategy.

  21. “…. serious downsides to the DLC strategy.”

    The only downside that has any possibility of affecting them is if they lose, and even that doesn’t matter much, since then they just go get jobs on K Street.

    And then, on their way “out of the wilderness” — the story is aleady writing itself, isn’t it? — they’ll come up with another factory-farmed, GMO candidate complete with Astroturf supporters. Just like 2008.

  22. Oops, sorry. I mean to paste cujo’s nym into the comment block, and instead pasted it into the Name field. Opps. That was lambert, not cujo.

  23. jcapan


    Well, voters won’t be too enthusiastic about GOP leadership/President Palin etc. after two years either. But what other option do they have but to swing like a pendulum between two corporate parties, neither of which represents their interests. Insert obligatory line: “the dems are less evil.” As long as guys like Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich are willing to join ranks, sublimating all they believe in for the benefits of club membership. As long as libertarians or liberals, respectively, vainly throw their votes away, dreaming that a few men/women of principle are empowered enough to impact the larger game… The system, such institutionalized power, can’t be changed from within. You join up, as a member or a voter, and all your energy and idealism is wasted.

    As for the DLC, they and theirs will not be happy about losing power. But they won’t lose a moment’s sleep over GOP ascent. The establishment is safe in either faction’s hands. Meanwhile, the DLC losers will simply return to the corporate bosom. You know, Liz Fowler moving seamlessly from Wellpoint to HHS, Tom Daschle from the senate to lobbying for Alston & Bird…

  24. jcapan

    Lambert, you beat me to the K Street golden parachutes.

  25. lambert strether writes:

    The only downside that has any possibility of affecting them is if they lose,

    Being part of the minority party means less power. That must mean something, at least for the leadership, even if they’re only out for themselves.

    In any case, depriving those folks of power is a first step to either changing the Democratic Party or making a viable third party. I don’t see any other options. Even changing the system requires some acquiescence from those in power.

  26. It’s not enough to be able to end political careers, you also have to be able to make and sustain them. While the current practice of Retroactive Implicit Bribery has exacerbated some of the problem, it was never the case that most politicians had for economic reasons, to be in politics. Fear of the wrath of the base may be necessary, but it is not sufficient.

    What the American left and American liberals have been hitherto unable to do is to collectively pick a strateg(er)y and see it through for the long haul—unlike the grassroots of the American right, who do, in one way or another. Until they can, politician ultimately don’t have reason to stop the hippie-punching. It appeared for a while to be the case that blogs and the Internet would serve the electoral left in that they would form the seed of the kinds of structures that the right was able to build for itself in the past, but apparently not.

  27. It’s not enough to be able to end political careers, you also have to be able to make and sustain them.

    Lemme guess, that means we’re supposed to keep voting for the Democrats no matter what they do (or fail to do.)


  28. “If we had some bacon, we could have some bacon and eggs, if we had some eggs.”

    In other words, demanding the consequences of having already succeeded as a prerequisite for seeking success is the very definition of learned — or perhaps I should say taught — helplessness.

    In yet other words, the answer to myiq’s question is “Yes.”

  29. Michael Moore

    I don’t understand how enforcing existing immigration law makes Obama “worse than Bush”. That’s crazy, Ian. As you pointed out, Obama has disappointed in a lot of other areas, particularly in not going after Wall Street and investigating Bush administration war crimes, but in this regard I can’t fault him too much.

    The multiculturalists can call me a racist if they want (and they will), but they’re dead wrong. We need a sensible immigration policy in this country: moderate legal immigration, deportation of illegals, and full assimilation. Period. (And in case you’re wondering, I’m an old school New Deal liberal with a strong populist streak.)

  30. jcapan

    Out of curiosity, define “full assimilation.” Would it involve learning Algonquin?

  31. Lemme guess, that means we’re supposed to keep voting for the Democrats no matter what they do (or fail to do.)

    Or, vote for someone else who can win.

  32. Or, vote for someone else who can win.

    Anyone can win, all they have to do is get more votes than the other candidates.

    (Except for Hillary Clinton and Al Gore – they got more votes but “lost” anyway)

  33. Anyone can win, all they have to do is get more votes than the other candidates.

    Yup, that’s the problem. Getting more votes.

  34. Formerly T-Bear

    Let’s, just to be clear, passed the 17th amendment because corruption was buying state legislatures who appointed US Senators. And now, corruption is buying US Senators outright. Seems the bargain there.

    Corruption owns both national political parties, lock, stock, and toe-tapping vote, to control the government which regulates corruption. And we are to vote for these political creatures anyway. Seems the bargain there as well.

    Removal of corruption, by the corrupted, from corrupted power, will not happen – ever!

    The sole recourse, outside violent revolution, is the withdrawal of consent, the withering of viable political base, until the bankruptcy of corruption collapses of its internal contradictions and the corrupted turn on themselves as the only source of power remaining.

    In the meantime, efforts to control and maintain control of state and local political parties, not financed or controlled by national and corrupted forces, allows a political base from which to operate to be maintained. From that base an uncorrupted political force can be forged that is free from corruption. All politics is local, it is not possible for corruption to buy all that is local. No bargains here to be had.

    To surrender your consent to corruption is to support corruption. Your choice.

  35. What Formerly T-Bear said. It’s all about exit, voice, and loyalty. We have no voice, there’s no reason to be loyal, so exit is the answer. “You can only win if you don’t play.”

  36. Celsius 233

    “Politico notices Hispanics Leaving Democrats”;
    But why would anybody of conscious stay?

  37. Yup, that’s the problem. Getting more votes.

    No, that’s not the problem. The problem is getting better leaders and better policies, programs and laws.

    The lesser of two evils is still evil, even if it gets more votes.

  38. As long as you have the current representative system, you can’t get better policies without figuring out how to elect candidates who will vote for those policies in the legislature and ratify them in the White House. To do that, those candidates will have to acquire more votes. The question remains: what are the conditions under which candidates favorable to better policies can get elected? Some people say that there are no such conditions. If there are no such conditions, then there’s nothing to discuss—everything that the Democratic Party does, the perfidy of Josh Marshall, the negative qualities of BooMan, the mainstream media, the Obama Fan Base, etc, etc, etc are all not worth discussing or even complaining about. Insofar as we continue to be concerned with questions of media and politics, it must be that we continue to see a way back to better policies.

  39. stevo67

    Politically it makes no sense for Obama to wage war against his base like this, yet that is what he’s done from day one after winning the election campaigning as a progressive. Either Mr. Post-Partisanship and the Dem leadership believe the “hopey changey” horseshit and are trying to include Republicans in all decisions (in which case they are the stupidest SOB’s on the planet)… or there is a more sinister reason: as both parties by their actions favor corporations and the rich over the middle class, there is no real difference between Republicans and Democrats in the policies they enact.

    Surely Obama can’t be so dense to realize that (with 10-20% unemployment, foreign wars and military commitments without end, fig leaf financial regulation reform, forced purchase of junk health insurance, and now this, a deliberate attempt to alienate the soon-to-be largest voting demographic in the country) this is any way to win elections. If they are counting on the base to show up and vote in 2010 because they are the lesser of two evils, they will be disapointed. The lesser of two evils is still evil.

    The only analysis left is that Obama and the Dem leadership don’t care if they lose the majorities in Congress after 2010, and they probably don’t care that Obama will become a one-term President. His corporate-friendly policies will ensure that his retirement will be a lucrative one.

    What this means in the long run is that the democratic experiment that is America is failing, if it hasn’t completely failed already. The level of legalized and systemic corruption of this nation’s financial, legal, and political institutions is staggering.

  40. So this article is basically the answer to the question of what the (D)s think they are doing, or at least what they’re willing to say publicly, FWIW:

    The strategy had other implications for Mr. Obama’s image. As Mr. Podesta points out, part of the president’s significant appeal to voters — “a big part of the secret sauce of getting him elected” — was his promise to transcend perennial partisanship.

    A more national, outward-looking strategy for creating a “postpartisan” dynamic might have included White House partnerships with Republican governors or even with conservative foundations or industry groups. Because the president effectively boxed himself in to a Capitol Hill-only strategy, though, he handed the Republican minorities in Congress the power to sabotage his goal.

    “Once you became a legislative president, which is arguably what you needed to do, you couldn’t deliver on the nonpartisanship promise,” Mr. Podesta said. “And it’s something people wanted.”

    In other words, they officially think it’s because he was insufficiently postpartisan. So there you have it.

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