Immigration Issue About to Cross the Media Border

By Al Giordano

Today marks the opening round in a very “outcome determinative” contest among the US presidential candidates to either frame a clear position on immigration reform or be framed by it.

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) holds its annual conference in Washington DC, and, there, the Democrats will have the upper hand. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson will receive their annual award tonight. New York Senator Hillary Clinton will address the group this afternoon. And it’s all preceded by a “leadership luncheon” at noon led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO) and US Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), all of them Democrats (as are most Latino elected officials across the country.)

But that’s just the pre-game show. On Saturday, both Obama and McCain will address the group.

During last year’s Univision debate among Democratic presidential aspirants, translated real-time, the Spanish-language network asked its viewers to send in questions for the candidates. It received thousands of responses, more than 70 percent of them asking about immigration reform. For the Mexican-American majority among Latinos in the US, as well as many others, that’s the big issue: whether 12 million undocumented Americans will continue to be harassed and hounded and forced into the shadows (and whether Hispanic-American US citizens will continue to be persecuted on the pretext of searching for "illegals"), or whether – as with all previous generations of immigrants – they will be provided a reasonable path to citizenship.

Interestingly, this is perhaps the one issue in which George W. Bush took real leadership during his two terms in office, bucking the fringe elements of his party to promote an Immigration Reform Bill last year, which was co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of Senators including McCain and Obama. The right-wing talk radio and blogosphere noise machines cranked up and divided the GOP, generated hundreds of thousands of calls into Congress (crashing the US Capitol switchboard) and senators of both parties that had said they would support the bill caved in to the haters.

As the video above recounts, McCain’s then front-running campaign for the Republican nomination crashed and almost burned out: he ran out of money, had to lay off most of his staff, and his poll numbers tanked until he was able to break through again last January in New Hampshire as his chief rivals – Giuliani, Romney, Huckabee – one-by-one fell from their own noticeable shortcomings, leaving McCain the last Republican standing.

There is a significant sector on the right that does not forgive McCain for his mainstream views on immigration. And there is a natural tendency among Hispanic-Americans to favor Democrats over Republicans – one that Spanish-speaking George W. Bush was able to minimize against Al Gore and John Kerry in the previous presidential elections.

Here’s a recent recount of what percentages of Hispanic-Americans cast their votes for Democratic presidential candidates in the past 28 years:

76 percent: Jimmy Carter's share of the Latino vote in 1976.

72 percent: Bill Clinton's share at reelection in 1996.

67 percent: Al Gore's share in winning the popular vote in 2000.

56 percent: John Kerry's share in his loss to George W. Bush in '04.

 

Note how the Democrats' lead among Hispanic-Americans has steadily decreased, mainly because of the inroads made, first in Texas, by George W. Bush. But as of today, Obama is surging ahead among Hispanic-Americans, with 60 percent to just 23 for McCain.

Gebe Martinez of Politico describes the pincer grip that has McCain squeezed on both sides of the issue, mostly through his own fault, because during the GOP primaries McCain backpedaled and turned against his own bill:

“I don’t think [McCain] can appease the hard-core xenophobes and convince the Latinos he is standing up for them at the same time,” said Cecilia Munoz, senior vice president of NCLR (National Council of La Raza), who has been in the middle of immigration bill negotiations. “I think he has to pick a side and make it clear. Is he going after the votes of the xenophobes?”
Were his failed bill to come up again, he would not vote for it, he said

 

Robert Oscar Lopez offers detailed nuance, via Counterpunch, on Obama and Hispanic voting groups:

Latinos are not a captive constituency like African Americans on the left, or white evangelicals on the right. We usually split 60/40 between Democrats and Republicans with a significant subset amenable to switching sides. The split is partly related to the differences among Central Americans and Cubans, who can lean Republican, and Chicanos and Puerto Ricans, who tend to lean Democratic. But we have a collective identity, as evidenced by the solvency of pan-Latino media companies (Univision in Spanish or SiTV in English). We feel a commonality even if we can never articulate what exactly makes us all Latino, so in spite of our diversity, we aren’t Balkanized. No umbrella group is so unpredictable and yet so culturally cohesive. If a party gets lost in the mixed signals, it can pay the price at election time; just ask Ken Mehlman. In 2006, when Republicans appeared nastier than Democrats on immigration, Latino support for the GOP dropped to around 28%, and the Democrats stormed Congress.

 

That nuance, however, is more relevant to the contest in Florida (where the more diverse Latino vote will be topic of separate upcoming threads here) than to the hotly contested western states targeted by Obama for liberation from GOP dominance in recent presidential elections: Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, as well as some potential for surprise in Texas and Arizona if he can solidify his big lead among those voters.

In the Southwest, Mexican-Americans are practically the whole ball game when it comes to “the Latino vote.” And there, the immigration reform question is that which matters ahead of all others.

This weekend’s NALEO conference in Washington, with 1,000 elected and appointed officials, is really, though, just the warm up: In a little more than two weeks both McCain and Obama will both address the National Council of La Raza conference in San Diego on July 13. An expected audience of 20,000 await them there. High stakes, much?

But we’ll know on Saturday a lot more about how McCain and Obama are going to navigate this river. McCain is going to have to choose which parts of the GOP base he will alienate: He can’t please both Hispanic Repubicans and the xenophobe fringe.

For Obama, though, there is also a whiff of precariousness in the current: If at any moment over the upcoming months he equivocates or is perceived as trying to establish a foothold to the right of McCain on Immigration Reform, he will risk his big lead and his chances in those important western swing states.

Beginning today, the immigration issue is crossing the media curtain - another kind of border - and into mainstream debate in the US presidential campaign.

So far, this sub-contest is Obama's to lose.

And if he plays it honestly, directly and coherently, it is also Obama's to win.

Alinsky Rises Again

By Al Giordano

It’s taken me a couple of weeks now to digest the symbolism and significance of the attempted censorship of my June 11 reference to Saul Alinsky and his Rules for Radicals as I continued our international teach-in on the subject of community organizing.

Beyond the evident and fundamental questions that are always raised by censorship, what’s really stuck in my craw is the gross strategic and tactical stupidity that this particular attempt to erase history reflected on the part of the would-be censors. They - and, they claim, some brain-damaged "potential big donors" - argued that the mere mention of Alinsky, the father of community organizing, in the context of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, would somehow harm his electoral chances in November. And in doing so, they demonstrated exactly why they – including a Democratic National Committee member and superdelegate – and party functionaries like them have been the dimwitted architects of so many losing campaigns in recent decades. They, and they alone, were responsible for their party's abysmal losing streak from 1994 to 2004. And they still think they know better than the rest of us about politics?

They don’t see how that kind of fear-based thinking shrunk their base over the years, leading many millions of Americans that have more in common ideologically with Democrats than Republicans to turn our backs on electoral politics, participation and voting, leaving them empty handed on election night after election night. They don’t “get” that the new wave of millions that flooded the primaries and caucuses among younger voters, alienated voters and never before voters delivered them a different kind of nominee this year precisely because of his community organizer profile that makes Obama visibly and substantially distinct from the standard Democratic Party hack politician that has more often led that party into defeat than victory.

They were offended, I think, by the mention of Alinsky, because under the surface of their misguided know-it-all-ism at politics, they sense that, yes, they really don’t understand what has just happened to their party as a result of the expansion of the base by these new or returned voters. Alinsky’s critique of the Democratic Party during his life is essentially that of so many of us that were turned off to electoral politics during the Clinton era: fearful, equivocating and, too often, corrupted in that very pursuit of large donors.

Since that moment two weeks ago, many Field Hands and others have brought to my attention the many public references to Obama’s community organizing in Chicago - that toddlin’ town where Alinsky developed the craft - that were not censored and clearly helped – not hurt – the candidate to clinch the nomination and, now, jump ahead of his GOP rival by every polling metric.

That book cover you see up top is that of the new work to be published on September 2, Taking On the System: Rules for Radical Change in a Digital Era, by Markos Moulitsas Zúniga (2008, hardcover, Celebra Books) which can be pre-ordered at that link.

Look carefully at that cover. Did you notice that subhed? Rules for Radical Change in a Digital Era. Sounds a lot like “Rules for Radicals,” no? It's clearly in tribute to Alinsky. And this, from the Democrat most responsible for his party’s sudden winning streak that began in 2006: When it came to recruiting, inspiring, generating waves of small donors and volunteers - and creating the online spaces through which they could self-organize - for the new generation of victorious Democrats, Kos has shown that he understands how to get his party to win elections far better than the old guard DNC types that keep telling us, in conflict with all evidence, that it’s they that have the secret decoder ring know-how.

Anyway, Kos went to some expense to send me, express mail across international borders, the galley proofs for the new book this week. The contents are embargoed: I can’t quote from it until September 2. But beyond the turn of Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” phrase in the book’s subtitle, y’all will be very interested to buy that book in September and see to whom the book is dedicated, and whose quotation opens the work.

I really hadn’t realized, when I posted that primer on Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, that others were thinking exactly along the same lines of what needs to be done, how to do it, and how adapting upon the innovations by Alinsky and other community organizers provides a key both for those that want to elect Obama as president and also for those that want to remain organized after November to ensure that the change that is promised can and will be delivered.

Interestingly, as the quotations and links I’m about to share with you indicate, some very knowledgeable journalists and columnists have also cited Alinsky in the context of Obama in recent months, causing zero damage to that candidate, and in fact – as the primary results demonstrate – those references helped to distinguish him from the kinds of party buffoons that had branded the reputation for failure upon the forehead of the Democratic Party in the United States.

To wit:

The Nation didn’t try to censor Nicolas Von Hoffman last March:

 

The person who invented community organizing, at least in its modern form, was Chicagoan Saul Alinsky (1909-1972). Articles about Obama often mention Alinsky and suggest that he has been influenced by him. (Google the two names together and you will get 29,000 hits.) Sometimes Obama is called a disciple, although Alinsky had no use for disciples, acolytes or slavish dedication to schools of thought.

 

The San Francisco Chronicle (and other newspapers) didn’t try to censor syndicated columnist David Sirota last month:

 

the more citizens will "become educated about various corporation policies" because they will realize "they can do something about them," as famed shareholder activist Saul Alinsky once said. That is what truly scares Corporate America - and what could bring the most "real change" of all.

 

National Public Radio didn’t censor Robert Siegel last month:

 

Two leading Democratic candidates for president — Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama — can trace their political character to teachings handed down indirectly from Alinsky, a community organizer from Chicago, who died in 1972. Alinsky is credited with developing a new approach to politics, using tactics that allowed ordinary people — the poor and disenfranchised — to fight city hall effectively.

 

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer didn’t try to censor reporter John Iwasaki last month:

 

The Industrial Areas Foundation was founded in Chicago by Saul Alinsky, whose work influenced Hillary Clinton (then Hillary Rodham) and Barack Obama, long before they would become Democratic presidential candidates.

 

Associated Press didn’t try to censor reporter Sharon Cohen on June 2:

 

Obama arrived in Chicago in 1985 with a college degree, a map of the city and a new job — community organizer.

Starting salary: Just over $10,000 plus enough money to buy a beat-up Honda.

Obama was a stranger to Chicago, but living abroad gave him experience as an outsider and a natural empathy for people without money and power, says Gerald Kellman, the man who hired him…

"He seemed to listen well and he learned fast," Kellman says. But even though Obama worked with people trained by Saul Alinsky, the father of community organizing, he didn't adopt hard-nose tactics.

"He did not like personal confrontation," Kellman says. "He had no trouble challenging power and challenging people on issues. When it came to face-to-face situations, he valued civility a great deal. ... When it came to negotiating conflict, he was very good at that. ... He was not one to get drawn into a protracted conflict that involves personalities."

 

MSNBC didn’t try to censor Chris Matthews on June 3:

 

"So it's Saul Alinsky against the beer baron… It's so funny, I never heard it put together, (Senator McCain) married into a beer fortune and he doesn't know how what it's like to sweat.”

 

Mother Jones didn’t try to censor James Ridgeway on June 5:

 

Saul Alinsky, the legendary community organizer on the South Side of Chicago who advocated confrontation with the Daley machine… encouraged his groups to engage in civil disobedience if need be… I can remember radicals attacking him for his lack of revolutionary fervor, in the same way, incidentally, they attacked Ralph Nader, who was seen as a patsy for the legal profession. "A guy has to be a political idiot," Alinsky scoffed at radicals back then, "to say all power comes out of the barrel of a gun when the other side has the guns."

Saul Alinsky believed that power flowed up from the streets and was there for the taking, if only people believed they could do so.

 

The Atlantic didn’t try to censor Marc Ambinder on June 13:

 

These house meetings form the core of the campaign's organizing model. The concept derives from organizing theory as taught by Saul Alinsky and as adopted by community organizers across the country. Never before has a major party presidential campaign used them to expand their support in a general election.

 

Politico didn't try to censor Ben Smith on June 19:

 

Obama has never been a traditional reformer. 


He came to politics through the community organizing movement, whose radical founder, Saul Alinsky, mocked highbrow reformers, and focused instead on the acquisition and use of power, with the ends often justifying the means.

 

And what about Barack Obama himself?

The drama-queening, off-message, money-grubbing, old guard performance of the past two weeks by one DNC member - in embarrassing email after email that failed to stem the exodus of former readers and what she suddenly recognized as valuable small donations - was often trying to justify its boneheaded behavior in his name, to "protect" Obama from any public acknowledgment of what everybody knows already: that he approached his campaign as a community organizer and did so expanding upon the techniques developed by Alinsky and others. They claimed to be speaking for him (a big no no, as any Obama staffer or fellow will testify), thus attempting to erase and censor, also, the ways he has already spoken for himself on these matters.

Here's something that Obama wrote, at the age of 29, and allowed to be published in a book with - gasp! - the word "Alinsky" in the title:

 

"Organizing teaches as nothing else does the beauty and strength of everyday people."

- Barack Obama, After Alinsky: Community Organizing in Illinois (University of Illinois Press, 1990, Chapter 4).

 

Organizing?

Beauty?

Strength?

Everyday people?

Oooooh. Scary!

Republican Senator's Ad Grabs for Democrat Obama's Coattails

By Al Giordano

Anybody that still doesn't see that 2008 is a map-changing, paradigm-shifting election year in the United States should be made to watch this ad:

It's paid for by the reelection campaign of Republican US Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon.

It's not unusual for legislators of a political party to seek to distance themselves from their own party's nominee. But it's extremely rare when they reach to associate themselves with the rival party's nominee. And it offers a pretty good sense of what Smith's own polling is showing in Oregon.

The Obama campaign, however, is having none of it, and just put out this statement:

“Barack Obama has a long record of bipartisan accomplishment and we appreciate that it is respected by his Democratic and Republican colleagues in the Senate. But in this race, Oregonians should know that Barack Obama supports Jeff Merkley for Senate. Merkley will help Obama bring about the fundamental change we need in Washington,” said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton.

 

That ad demonstrates what I've meant each time I've written that this is a once-in-a-generation election.

 

Also: Staying hot on the trail of The Field's move to this new and better location are DKos blogger TheWurx and the always stellar Barry Crimmins.

Blogging will have to wait tonight while I'm playing host to the best saxophone player in the hemisphere and we've got carousing plans. Meanwhile, give those guys some comments love, Field Hand style.

A Message from Jamaica Kincaid

Dear Fellow Field Hands:

Once again, we have to pool our resources together and send Al to Denver. We did it once before and then events beyond our control came between us and our desire. But we mustn’t let the stupidity of others have the final word about this important moment in our communal and civic life. We can, we must and we will send Al to Denver.

Send a contribution, however small, or as big as you can through:

http://www.authenticjournalism.org

Or to:

The Fund for Authentic Journalism

PO Box 241

Natick, MA 01760 USA

We must not let others determine our fate. We must not let them deprive us of this unique voice that is beholden to no one other than its own truth.

So let us send Al to Denver and let him speak freely and come what may, I believe we will know that we have been participating in the American experience.

Jamaica Kincaid

(For more details on this fund drive, scroll down two posts or click here)

Gaffe Day at Camp McCain

By Al Giordano

If it was Monday it must have been Gaffe Day…

Three Republican bigshots made comments to the press yesterday that were outrageous enough to step on on virtual Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s own attempts to propose a $300 million US government prize for whoever invents an energy-saving car battery.

The “gaffes” were so boneheadedly off-message that they were the equivalent of dropping three anvils on McCain’s head in a single day. They also served to trip all over each other. The Field therefore concludes that at least two of the three gaffes were not planned as a matter of campaign tactics (as “gaffes” sometimes are).

There was religious right minister James Dobson saying of McCain's rival, Barack Obama:

 

"I think he's deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology... He is dragging biblical understanding through the gutter."

 

This, from a minister (Dobson) whose own interpretation of The Bible leads him to conclude that “spanking should be of sufficient magnitude to cause the child to cry genuinely,” that women should avoid the workplace and stay home even when their children reach teenage years because “menopause and a man's midlife crisis are scheduled to coincide with adolescence, which can make a wicked soup,” and that “tolerance and its first cousin, diversity, 'are almost always buzzwords for homosexual advocacy.’”

Uh, which US presidential candidate has a “reverend problem”?

We might have spent today chattering about Rev. Dobson but along came Republican political fixer Karl Rove who at a breakfast with "GOP insiders" opined aloud about Obama:

 

"Even if you never met him, you know this guy. He's the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by."

 

Karl must have two different guys confused. Who’s that guy with the drink and the cigarette and the fabulous date and all that snide commentary? I know that guy, too! That isn’t Obama…

Oh, my.

It’s me!

The richness of the revelation that Rove naturally presumes that those party insiders belong to country clubs that are expensively out of reach or discriminatory against most citizens might have also made for great chatter today, but then top McCain political strategist Charlie Black had to go and drop the A-Bomb on his own candidate.

Black told Fortune magazine that terrorists could save McCain's flagging campaign if they would only strike upon US soil before November:

 

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December was an "unfortunate event," says Black. "But his knowledge and ability to talk about it reemphasized that this is the guy who's ready to be Commander-in-Chief. And it helped us." As would, Black concedes with startling candor after we raise the issue, another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. "Certainly it would be a big advantage to him," says Black.

 

Wow. Just, wow. That’s a pretty scary statement since it telegraphs a message to the sorts of folks that make such attacks. I sure wouldn’t want to be Charlie Black if his dark fantasy ever comes true, because a lot of folks will now be, naturally, viewing him as responsible for inviting such harm and destruction.

A campaign in which key staffers and surrogates believe in their candidate's own message and strategy doesn’t often veer so erratically off-message. Gaffe Day was a consequence of three men who each unilaterally decided that what they had to say was more important than whatever their candidate was saying on any given Monday.

As a reporter, this is very heartening, in a macabre sort of way. If anyone has been missing the searing and off-message drama supplied so regularly by the Clinton campaign and its surrogates during the primaries, and feared that the general election fight would be more controlled and thus boring, McCain’s got a whole herd of Wile E. Coyotes dropping anvils on him and each other to keep us entertained through November. Maybe he ought to offer a $300 million prize to any staffer or surrogate that can keep his mouth shut until then!

Plan Vero Possumus: Yes, We're Going to Denver!

By Al Giordano

Many commenters (and e-mailers) have asked whether The Field can recover from the thefts against it and its supporters and still go to Denver in late August to report from the Democratic National Convention.

The answer: Vero Possumus!

Tomorrow morning, a letter from one of our esteemed Field Hands will appear on this page asking you to chip in to “send and equip Al for Denver.” (Those of you with writing talents - and judging from the talent in our comments section, there are many - please consider penning a similar appeal for the fund drive about to begin.) A graph will go up atop The Field announcing the fundraising drive’s goal. All funds will go through The Fund for Authentic Journalism, a trusted and experienced 501c3 organization that supports my work and that of other journalists, that skims no overhead for paid staff (as an all-volunteer organization, it has none, so as to make sure that all donations go directly to support the work).

Originally we had estimated the costs of reporting from Denver in late August to be $5,000, but that was predicated upon making reservations weeks ago that, if they were made, we have no access to them. Lodging in Denver for that week has since become scarcer and thus more expensive, as have other related costs. In addition, my poor abused laptop is frequently overheating and shutting down. It is sputtering valiantly into its final days. Thus, we will set the new goal at $7,400 (a nice round number... that rings a certain bell) to cover the extra costs plus a new laptop to make the work possible.

Some of you have donated, without being asked, since we moved The Field 9 days ago. Those funds – about $1,500 - have been put to good use covering my expenses, the technical help, some additional firepower for this version of the Iron Man suit, and those of quickly and competently transferring The Field to its new home without missing a beat. Many of you have commented that you like the new home even more, as do I. Well, you made all this possible.

Starting now, donations will go to the “send and equip” fund, unless specified otherwise, until we reach the goal of $7,400 (any funds raised over and above that will go to The Fund for Authentic Journalism's work supporting our host site, Narco News, and its journalists). Those donations received online via this link before 9 a.m. ET tomorrow, Tuesday, will be marked on the bar graph that will track the funds raised and will be updated frequently until we reach the goal. Ideally, the graph should start with something on it, right? You can make an early dent in the goal if you contribute tonight.

Contributions can be made online via:

http://www.authenticjournalism.org/

Or can be sent via snail mail to:

The Fund for Authentic Journalism

PO Box 241

Natick, MA 01760 USA

(If you send a contribution via snail mail, please use the comments section to let us know how much; likewise if you do it online, so that others can see and feel the momentum you've created.)

I fear that the petty delays and obstacles being thrown up by those that owe you refunds of what you intended be put to this purpose may in part be driven by the fantasy that if they stall long enough that the clock will elapse, making it impossible that they’ll have the happy happy joy joy of seeing my smiling face – and those of the collaborators in our awesome posse that will swarm upon the scene - working hard in Denver. I can think of no better way to dissuade them from such silly obstructionist thoughts, if they have them, than by going ahead now and raising the funds regardless of how quickly others comply with their legal and moral obligations (or when the boot will come down upon them and they will be forced to do so).

I am also pleased and grateful to report that Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos has invited The Field to be part of The Big Tent: a newsroom that he is co-sponsoring a stone’s throw from the convention center, and we’ve accepted his generous invitation.

Also: On Sunday, August 25, (oops, that's August 24!) - the day before that convention begins - from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in a Field Hand’s very nice home and garden just seven minutes from downtown Denver, The Field will be holding a very special event. Mark your calendars.

As for the Convention credentials that were granted based upon The Field’s high Technorati rating, we’ll have more to announce (and probably more yet unpublished emails that reveal all) in the coming days on that front.

So, kind Field Hand, if you support this idea, give tomorrow morning’s bar graph a head start with your contribution tonight, let us know in the comments section, and it will be reflected when the graph uncloaks mid-morning.

Anyway, I’ll hurry up and post these words before my laptop overheats again…

Update: Twin Cities Field Hands have issued a very welcome invitation that we also report from the Republican National Convention in early September in Minnesota. Once we’ve reached our goal for Denver, we are very favorably inclined to move on to making coverage of the Twin Cities convention as our next goal.

Update II: Hey, all you new donors ($1,665 at three minutes to midnight on Monday) - make sure you sign up for a co-publisher account, which gives you immediate and uncensored commenting privileges. Thank you very much, each and every one.

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