Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Latino voters send a message.
Will Dems offer path to legalization?

Josh Marshall points out:

...exit poll data suggests a big drop off for Republicans among hispanic voters. According to the CNN exit polls, the 2004 spread was 40% for Republicans, 53% for Democrats. This year it was 26% for the GOP and 73% for Democrats.

From a distance, it might not seem like the Republicans ran this race on immigration. And on the national level, they didn't. But if you watched how the campaign played out in competitive races across the country, it was huge. One of the big campaign gambits from Republican candidates was Democratic Candidate X is going to ruin Social Security by giving away money to illegal aliens (pan to pictures of Mexicans).

It's a pretty sad but also really familiar story. GOP spends years 'reaching out' to [insert minority group of your choice] until they find themselves losing an election and go hog wild with race-bating or whatever other nastiness looks like it will yield short-term political benefits.

Yes, the GOP has made itself the party of unalloyed white supremacy. And Latinos know it.

For Latinos moving to the Dems, the issue is immigration. This is personal and moral. Every "illegal" immigrant is the uncle or niece or spouse of someone "legal." Whatever other priorities Latinos may have, they will resent for a very long time demonization of family members. And the Republican base eats up demonization.

Roberto Lovato has described how Republicans who tried to rule through race baiting turned California Democratic:

I came to understand the long-term effects of anti-immigrant policies after fighting such policies in California. The most famous is Proposition 187, a 1994 ballot initiative that called for the denial of health and education services to the children of undocumented immigrants. ...

... I'm reminded of a 1993 meeting between a delegation of Latino activists and Latino elected officials and then-California Gov. Pete Wilson, the main sponsor of Prop 187. "I resent the implication that I'm a racist," Wilson told the group, pounding his desk. "I am not a racist and I give the Hispanic community more credit than to fall for this kind of race-baiting." I'd asked Wilson how he felt knowing that many of the 10-year-old Mexican and Salvadoran kids I worked with thought he hated them because of his leadership around Proposition 187.

Those kids turned 22 this year. They remembered Pete Wilson and his imitators throughout the country and paid them -- and the Republican party -- back by building the youthful army (the average Latinos is 26) driving the largest mobilizations in U.S. history. Several told me that they organized around voting this year because they were too young to do so in 1994. As part of the largest Latino turnout (8.5 percent) in U.S. history last Tuesday, they delivered on their slogan, "Today We March, Tomorrow We Vote."

Little noticed findings from last Tuesday's exit polls suggests that immigrant bashing isn't even a smart tactic to win among the existing, majority white, electorate. Nationally, 57 percent of voters think most of the undocumented should "be offered legal status," while only 38 percent think the undocumented "should be deported." Border states like California and Texas were slightly more sympathetic to legalization. Even Arizona, which passed anti-immigrant initiatives, was only one percentage point less supportive than the national average. Most U.S. citizens understand the country needs the people who make up the undocumented work force and want elected officials to get on with creating a path to legalization.

If Democrats want to win and keep the Latino vote for a generation, their choice is clear -- become the party that works for a path to legalization and reap the credit. The party that puts its weight behind border fences and xenophobic laws will create a generation of young brown people who will remember your insult for a long time.

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