[Marxism] McCain to Latinos: Drop Dead

Joaquín Bustelo jbustelo at gmail.com
Wed Jul 9 13:34:42 MDT 2008

Presumptive Republican presidential candidate John McCain just took
another big step in his campaign to change Obama's status from
Democratic Party nominee to president-elect. Speaking before the
League of United Latin American Citizens, McCain poured concrete on
his renegacy from any sort of immigration reform that legalizes Latino
immigrants, caving in to the "public opinion" whipped up by
Republican-dominated media conglomerates News Corp (Fox News Channel)
and Time-Warner (CNN) by refusing to mouth even a few facile lies
about being for immigration reform and instead insisting: "we can and
will secure our borders first, while respecting the dignity and rights
of citizens and legal residents of the United States," meaning,
continuing the merciless persecution of Latinos, especially focused on
unauthorized immigrants.

McCain's position is notable, because he was the main co-author,
together with Sen. Kennedy, of "compromise" immigration reform plans
that would have granted a mean-spirited, conditional, partial
legalization to many immigrants. It was nevertheless welcomed by many
in the Latino community as the best that could be obtained under the
circumstances, and McCain generally considered a friend of Latinos and
even admired for his political courage.

McCain's position also represents a complete flip-flop by Republican
presidential candidates. In 2004, Bush ran for re-election on a
platform that included legalization for the undocumented --albeit only
as temporary guest workers-- and did NOT include any sort of
stepped-up persecution of immigrants prior to the legalization's
approval. Thanks to that proposal, he got up to 44% of the Latino vote
(depending on which exit poll you believe).

In his own presentation to the LULAC convention, Sen. Obama crucified
"straight talk" McCain's for his 180-degree reversal  and capitulation
to the mad-dog rabid-racist nativist extremists in the Republican
Party. This is part of what Obama said, according to the CNN website:

*  *  *

"I want to give Sen. McCain credit, because he used to buck his party
on immigration. He fought for comprehensive immigration reform," Obama
said. "I admired him for it. But when he started running for his
party's nomination, he abandoned his courageous stance, and said that
he wouldn't even support his own legislation if it came up for a

Obama went on to say that Bush made "all kinds of promises to Latinos
on the campaign trail, but failed to live up to them in the White
House, and we can't afford that anymore."

"We need a president who isn't going to walk away from something as
important as comprehensive reform when it becomes politically
unpopular," he added.

Obama also took aim at the challenges the country faces on illegal immigration.

"When 12 million people live in hiding in this country and hundreds of
thousands of people cross our borders illegally each year; when
companies hire undocumented workers instead of legal citizens to avoid
paying overtime or to avoid a union; and a nursing mother is torn away
from her baby by an immigration raid, that is a problem that all of us
-- black, white and brown -- must solve as one nation," he said.

*  *  *

Keating Holland, CNN's director of polling (and one of the more
respected people in his field) points out in the CNN article that in a
survey done by the network, immigration ranked ninth among major
issues in the election for the fall, i.e., it simply would not make a

However, among Latinos immigration is a top, make-or-break issue. It
ranks up there with the war, the economy and health care, and for many
in outranks all other issues, because it directly and immediately
touches their lives in such a major way.

That is because many Latino families are mixed, with some citizens,
some "legals" and some immigrants without legal status. And beyond
families -- millions of Latino citizens have people they know or
assume to be undocumented among their friends, neighbors, someone
they're having an affair with, or someone who is helping to care for
their children or grandparents. So widespread and pervasive is this
reality of the community that even the Cubans --who by grace of the
anticommunist Cuban Adjustment Act are all "legal," are affected by
it. I'm Cuban and my own mother and children have been looked after by
people I believe have been undocumented. When I've had occasion to use
a cleaning service for my house, it has been undocumented people. And
the people that actually are doing the work fixing up my house from
the recent water damage are all Latinos who speak no English. You do
the math.

And there is simply no question but that the campaign supposedly only
against "illegals" has made ALL Latinos feel targeted. Because as
Blacks use to say during the busing controversies, "it's not the bus,
it's us."

*  *  *

Given the very clear, sharp, white and Black counterposition of the
candidates on immigration, I think it is now entirely within the range
of what's possible for Obama to win the Latino vote nationwide 3-1 or
better, and perhaps equal or beat McCain even among the Cubans (taking
into account his promise to loosen restrictions on the contacts of
Cubans here with their families on the island). Provided, of course,
that the Democrats invest the time and money and effort that will be
required to turn out a large Latino vote.

It is true that there is also a layer of white voters --several
percent, perhaps as many as 10-20%%, for whom immigration --or rather
nativist ranting about immigration-- is a decisive issue. But McCain
here is just trying to prevent losing these voters to abstention or
the Libertarians, he isn't taking any votes away from Obama with his
position. And his crassly, nakedly opportunist flip-flop in the last
year or so AGAINST the immigration reform bill HE wrote is hardly
likely to inspire enthusiasm among these xenophobic flat-earthers.

The consolidation of the Republicans around an anti-immigrant nativist
platform could well make them radioactive in the Latino community, in
the same way that Republican opposition to the Civil Rights Act and
Voting Rights Act in the 60's, and Nixon's adoption  of the "southern
strategy" has made Republican support among Blacks insignificant.

Ironically, that treachery by "the party of Lincoln" predisposed it if
not condemned it to the catastrophe it now faces among Latinos. By
solidly rooting themselves in a core of racist support, The
Republicans made it politically uncomfortable and perhaps even
untenable for their presidential candidate to have a pro-legalization
position, once the issue got white hot.

But it was one thing to forswear the support of what was then 10% of
the population and a much smaller share of the voters in the 1960's.
In a national presidential election, this automatically gives the
Democrats a 9 or 10 percentage point advantage over the Republicans,
but in exchange the Republicans got the South. But add to that deficit
a 4 percentage point Democrat advantage among Latinos (6% to 2% with a
total of 8% of the vote) and it becomes challenging for the
Republicans to be competitive in the coming national election. And
that conservative projection of an 8% Latino vote in this year's
presidential sweepstakes is just the down payment for what is to come.

More than a fifth (20.9%) of the population under 18 are Latinos, and
they are mostly citizens. And for the preschool age, the proportion is
nearly one quarter. And they're all citizens, just about.

The demographics are quite startling. White folks are having so few
babies that the median age for white people is now over 40. The median
age for Latinos is 27.6.

So for the Democrats, winning the loyalty of Latinos will be a gift
that keeps on giving, and more generously as time goes on. And whereas
in the 60's the Republicans at least got the South, in this case they
*might* get one or a couple of border or western states, but at best a
gain barely into double digits, if that, in the electoral college. The
Democrats for sure would get Texas, if not this year, then the next,
and open  up the possibility of an eventual comeback in North Carolina
and Georgia, as the few percent of Latino votes in those states, plus
white Democrats and the Black community tip the to the Democratic

In Latino community and political circles, there is already discussion
on  how to make this Republican disadvantage into a permanent mark of
Cain on the Republican visage, for the intensity of feeling around the
immigration issue will not last indefinitely. That would be done by
introducing a supposed "compromise" immigration reform early in the
Obama Administration that would include a more generous, and
especially more rapid full legalization than the Republicans would be
willing to stomach. The Latino Democrat operatives mooting this
strategy hope that the Republican vote against the legalization bill
would become for the Latino community what Republican opposition to
the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965 became for
the Black community. And that is not an unreasonable assumption, even
if the effect is not quite as extreme. And these operatives argue that
the anti-immigrant hysteria among sections of the white population has
already peaked, and anyways it proved not to be an issue that could
affect election outcomes by mobilizing large numbers of white voters
for Republican candidates.

But that is all music of the future. For the present, what McCain has
done is simply to turn his back on the community. After years of
pretending to be a friend of Latinos, he has come out against
legalization. And he is stuck with this position -- there's no way he
can backtrack or finesse his stance that could possibly do him any

Even the right-wing Weekly Standard recognizes that McCain is simply
no longer competitive among Latinos, contrary to what various
blowhards (incluing the author of the Standard's piece)  had been
claiming. This author's revised estimate is neatly summed up in the
headline: "Losing the Latino Vote -- McCain's prospects don't look
good" and winds up by saying "the issue ['comprehensive immigration
reform,' in other words, legalization] has been ceded to Obama -- and
with it, the Latino vote."

The only thing that remains to be seen is whether the Democrats take
full advantage of this gift


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