Digby’s been doing some great blogging on the illegal workers front, but he poses a question in his latest post that seems pretty obvious to me :
That’s a problem for us because no matter how tempting it might be to go and grab those Virginians who are so disenchanted with George Bush and promise to close the borders and solve their problems: nobody has yet figured out how (short of an economic catastrophe so huge that people will disregard everything else) we can keep a coalition of liberals, workers, urbanites, racial minorities and nativist immigrant bashers in the same tent.
. . .
Democrats can look to the future and find a populist message that doesn’t cater to white fear and tendencies to scapegoat minorities. And we can add the Hispanic community permanently into our coalition, denying Karl Rove his most coveted goal. Or we can take the easy way out and catch a few Bubbas until the economy turns around, at which point they’ll go right back home to the party that really knows how to feed their worst instincts on regular basis — the Republicans.
Why is this a problem?? What do all of these groups have in common? They’re willing to work hard to make a decent living. I don’t mean to go all Lakoff on you guys, but this issue is framed incorrectly and it will always hurt Democrats the way it’s discussed now. It’s not about American citizens vs. illegal immigrants, it’s about employers vs. labor.
The best thing Democrats can do is to stop pretending that immigrants are the bad guys here. I hate to plagiarize myself here, but people wouldn’t be flooding across the border if there wasn’t a steady supply of crooked employers willing to exploit them. If you got serious about stopping these scumbags, the borders would suddenly become a lot less porous. Why spend all of our time attacking the symptoms if we’re going to ignore the disease?We shouldn’t waste so much time kicking people out when the best long-term solution is to stop them from wanting to come over here in the first place.
Y’know, if we had a nickel for every time a politician quoted Martin Luther King, we’d all be rich enough to vote Republican. It makes sense since King was such a quotable guy, but going back to Digby’s question about how to unite the various breeds of pissed off working class voters, one figure seems to be left out of the mix : Cesar Chavez. Through his commitment to non-violence and his leadership of the labor movement in California, Chavez has become a hero for millions of workers, yet he’s rarely mentioned by politicians (especially to non-Hispanic audiences). He had a dream too.
Since politicians these days are only able to speak in sound-bytes and pander to audiences, here’s a few choice quotes from Chavez :
“History will judge societies and governments— and their institutions— not by how big they are or how well they serve the rich and the powerful, but by how effectively they respond to the needs of the poor and the helpless.”
“I am convinced that the truest act of courage, the strongest act of manliness, is to sacrifice ourselves for others in a totally nonviolent struggle for justice. To be a man is to suffer for others. God help us to be men!”
“Non-violence is not inaction. It is not discussion. It is not for the timid or weak… Non-violence is hard work. It is the willingness to sacrifice. It is the patience to win.”
“You are never strong enough that you don’t need any help.”
If you want to start appealing to both the legal and illegal segments of the working class, bridge the cultural divide, and attract Hispanic voters, this is a good start. If you want to do even better, try reading more than a few quotes. In reading about Cesar Chavez. you might even rediscover that spark that made you want to devote your lives to public service in the first place.