I am tired of dealing with pro-immigrant leaders who are always eager to repeat again and again the same mistakes, no matter the results, just because they like to hear their names cheered by a multitude that, trusting their mediocre leadership, goes to the gallows to be seduced by grossly ineffective tales. Each day people die in the desert or see their lives destroyed not because they demonstrated a bad character but because they were caught in a raid to enforce a law that would have granted them legality, in the overwhelming majority of cases, only if they had been born in the right family or country. [Imagine yourself unable to work on certain fields, or studying certain careers, or getting a driver’s license unless you had been born in certain states]. Even though some illegal immigrants do not deserve to be here, there is still a lot of blood to garnish the vanity of these mediocre leaders.
If I had to choose a variable that need urgent change, that variable is leadership, the kind of leadership that seeks to learn and lead instead of to seduce the leaded to indulge its own hollowness. How this entry began? With the report ‘Closing the Gap.’
- Yesterday I was watching in ‘the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer’ the report ‘Closing the Gap.’ Julian Betts and Gordon Hanson, two economist interviewed for the report, practically coincided in depicting young immigrants as a cheap commodity, as a standardized sub-achiever ethnic group unable to accumulate the skills needed in the twenty-first century high tech economy. Unfortunately, the Superintendent of schools of San Diego had some data that seemed to support that picture: only 25% of Hispanic graduates could meet the University of California’s minimum requirements. That percentage was 50% in other groups. Among Hispanic graduates, only 1 in 16 got a college degree. Among whites that ratio was 1 in 3. Interviewed, one student, surrounded by friends with sarcastic or defiant faces [faces that could have appeared in the cover of a reggaeton CD under the title ‘We take pride on our ignorance’ or ‘Honoring our stereotype’], turned her sarcastic face into a sad one to say that the reason of academic failure was family problems. Family problems, fear of failure, unfair conditions, bigotry, underfunded schools, in this picture, lose part of their power as arguments and look as lame excuses. It is also hard to talk about family values when these young Hispanics seemed to be on their own. Then a teacher, interviewed, said that the main problem was attitude: they had no interest in school no matter how many times they said in the polls to have a higher regard for education than other groups. To the high drop out rate (motivated by an early entrance to the labor market as low skill labor according to the report) you could add an important percentage of young people who never even dropped in.
- At nobody’s surprise, schools of poor neighbors are centers were poor people are taught to be poor and good part of these schools’ poverty is its property taxes-based funding. Nevertheless, you will hardly gain the support and credibility to push for a change in the right direction if you not only does not look deserving of more resources and opportunities but also look happy with your stereotype. [See my entry ‘The Children of Prejudice’]
- In my entry ‘The pro-immigrant movement. Necessity of having a strategy on immigration now,’ I criticized the so-called immigrant leaders, especially in the Hispanic Community. In this entry I want to add the names of at least two more groups: America’s Voice and Immigrant’s List. I am really tired of people telling me that they cannot embrace a comprehensive strategy because their charter and tax status does not allow them to do so. If your charter and/or tax status does not allow you to take the steps you need to succeed, create a new organization that does or change your status because it is ridicule to embrace an organization whose characteristics you yourself admit will not let you do what you need to succeed. If the problem is your charter then what do you have that organization for?! To justify a salary?! Other moronic answer I am tired to find is ‘Yeah, we admit that what we have done before doesn’t work but we have already offered contributions to campaigns and they don’t want them.’ Are you surprised? If candidates take your money, their opponents will expose them. They would not fear exposition if the positioning of the pro-immigrant movement were good but the irresponsibility of organizations like Casa de Maryland and Consejo Nacional de la Raza has made a terrible damage to the immigrant’s image. Then I have heard ‘We are promoting the Latino vote’ (what reminds me the promise four years ago of a million votes that never materialized) even though the Pew Hispanic Center have shown that attitudes against immigration are stronger in districts with low Hispanic density [In other words, where you can get more Hispanic votes are places where the attitudes towards immigration are already positive and you need to focus on other districts. In example, a volunteer in Maryland helps very little because his support will not make the candidate win more than once but he could help a lot in Virginia, with persuasion or GOTV tactics depending on the personal characteristics of the volunteer]. The results are what they are. Just in the last three years, new anti-immigrant legislation, no effective organization on volunteer and fundraising issues, misconceptions about immigration positioned in the minds of the American people by the anti-immigration noise machine and, periodically, bizarre dancing-marches with Mexican flags that, like a bizarre army of occupation yelling in Spanish, seemed to validate the most absurd conclusions made by Pat Buchanan. Of course, I am also tired of those organizations that admit in private that all they have tried has failed buy reject any ideas that not lead them to precisely do what they have been doing during these last years. They seem to realize today that 2 plus 2 equals 4 after each failure but then expect to do the same operation and get 16. To be honest, they like the catharsis of the dancing-marches because in those events immigrants, seduced by the easy solutions offered by these leaders, the multitude cheers their names and claps. Do you remember my entry ‘Lessons from 1924 our pro-immigrant leaders didn't want to learn’? Well, expect the following: in the next year and a half the xenophobic Right will push for ‘local enforcement’ of immigration laws but, especially, for some symbolic achievements in federal legislation they could label as ‘enforcement by attrition.’ The so-called immigrant leaders will waste the opportunity to participate in the Congressional and Senatorial elections (Actually, they have already wasted that chance) and will prefer to wait for the Presidential candidates (Yes, I said ‘Presidential’ no matter how absurd it seems in this context to anybody who knows something on this issue) to offer them a solution they like (This, of course will not happen). Of course, they will not waste the opportunity to convoke more dancing-marches to hear their names clapped, to uselessly chase state-level ghosts (the baits the xenophobic Right is going to put in places like Prince Williams, Virginia, to lure them to waste time and money in battles of little relevance) and to take contributions from Hugo Chavez or whoever (Here I am talking about Casa de Maryland, happy to take the donation. Ike Leggett, the Montgomery County Executive, here in Maryland, had the good political instinct to reject a similar donation from Hugo Chavez because it would constitute less a financial help than a distraction once that information reached the hands of the local Right. Of course, our pro-immigrant leaders are invulnerable to experiences like that of Herndon, Virginia) so giving flags for the xenophobic Right to use not deservedly against Casa de Maryland but against immigrants, who will pay the bill at the end with pain and suffering. Once the opportunity gets definitely wasted, the economy will have to adjust to the energy and balance of payments crisis (For those who could watch today the interview to Warren Buffett at CNBC’s Squawk Box, today more and more economists admit what they did not six months ago: that this crisis will be long, like that of the 70s, and the adjustment will be painful. For those who like books, an interesting one to put this crisis in context is ‘American Theocracy’ by Kevin Phillips. In 1924 one of the most anti-immigrant legislation was issued but the net levels of immigration would not suffer severe declines until, a few years later, the Great Depression smothered the labor demand – On the effects on immigration, you can see more details in Roger Daniels’s work "Not like us"). Nevertheless, as the then nativists said that the low net levels of immigration were the successful result of the anti-immigrant legislation and its enforcement, now, when the economy engages in the necessary adjustment, the xenophobic Right will say the same of those symbolic achievements on legislation they will seek to legitimate the sadistic ‘enforcement by attrition’ approach. What you can do next is going to depend on what the economic scenario looks at that moment and that, in turn, is going to depend on the characteristics of the adjustment. In other words: if you do nothing now do not pretend to solve the problem procrastinating later.
- The temptation of taking pride on typical dances and tamales is too big, especially when the leadership is mediocre and the environment is heavily conservative on this issue. That misled sense of pride is also very comfortable for the racism that is at the roots of anti-immigrant sentiments because it validates the image of the good savage, genetically poor and incapacitated to learn English, of whom you could not seriously ask real achievements so making justifiable to see immigrants as a cheap commodity. I will never be emphatic enough about this point because it is as if Martin Luther King, instead of fighting the Jim Crow, would have preferred to look tough and talk like a ‘gansta’ with a heavy accent at the entrance of a ghetto. Fortunately, the black community had that debate long before, when Booker T. Washington, embracing a naïve pride on the black subculture resulting from the segregation (something black supremacists of course saluted) lost the debate against anti-segregationist W.E.B. Dubois. While Jorge Ramos has become the reincarnation of Booker T. Washington, in the Hispanic community, the reincarnation of our W.E.B. Dubois is still to come.
- It is sad to see, beyond the discourse, how important parts of the Hispanic community seem to despise knowledge, how too many young people prefer to embrace traditions and identities that involve no effort or sacrifice. There is nothing racist in this conclusion. Low-income people in the Mid West have been led by conservatives to vote against their own interest and to consider knowledge elitist. It is almost universal to find that, where conservatism gets strong, educative levels fall, the gap between poor and rich widens and social mobility is less available. [On this point, see ‘What’s the matter with Kansas,’ by Thomas Frank]
- On the other hand, we find not only the xenophobic Right, which admits its conservative roots and has as tacit premise that race determines culture. You could not reach Pat Buchanan’s or David Duke’s conclusions without that premise. Unfortunately for these group, their tactics could turn immigration in a self-fulfilled prophecy: Alienating the immigrant community [especially in times where Hispanic media could make more difficult the conditions for integration that were easier to find in the early twentieth century and that manifested themselves even in hard generational conflicts] could deliver it to the arms of demagogues, creating a dangerous path in a few decades, when the Hispanic community gains the numbers to decide elections. Meanwhile, they have successfully scapegoated immigrants and convinced many people that the root of their problems is those brown immigrants instead of underfunded schools, crony-biased fiscal spending, fiscal irresponsibility and overprotected health care-related markets. We find also the comfortably self-deluded Left. There is a growing number of self-claimed liberals that find convenient to believe they are liberals because they are at the losing end of the present conservative status quo but does not hesitate of claiming similar exclusive conditions in a scenario where these so-called liberals are in the winning end and brown minorities are in the loosing one. For these pseudo-liberals, the catch phrase ‘corporate welfare’ becomes useful. This catch phrase, to be true, would require that illegal immigrants were overwhelmingly hired by big business and that big business were the main source of labor demand [Actually, the main source of labor demand is small business and, different from workers and small business, big business can always go easily to China and other countries to get cheap labor, if that is what is decisive for their product’s or service’s cost. For more on this, see my entry ‘Economic myths on immigration’]. [From yesterday’s Bill Moyers’s Journal about China, I remember the question about the 2.3 million jobs the Economic Policy Institute estimates we have lost to China over the last seven years and the hostile position of Microsoft, Nike, Ford, Dell and Wall-Mart to unions in China. Nevertheless for some deluded liberals, nothing is good enough to take the place of ‘the Mexicans’ –immigrants, whatever your nationality of origin- as the favorite scapegoat]. A real liberal’s dream is not one in which a caste of birth (to use JFK’s terminology) is replaced by another caste of birth but one in which the accidental circumstances of having been born in a certain country, family or social class does not impede you to compete to reach your dream and achieve it if you put enough character and talent on it.
- Another example of how conservatives have seduced the American people with easy slogans and where the tactics of progressive movements have many times backfired is the war. Many conservatives love to support the John Wayne-kind stereotype they have of the national security. According to that tale, while Americans bought War bonds during World War II and the draft could reach practically everybody, nowadays you support the troops with yellow ribbons, claiming for tax cuts and with shopping sprees. It’s the patriotism of the flag pins. Nevertheless, how could liberals stand to such wave of slogans and deceit when many of them have their own slogans, like ‘corporate welfare’ to exclude immigrants? When they have let themselves to be cornered in pseudo-debates about the war in which historical precedents does not seem to count as if insurgencies were something new? When a Minneapolis bridge collapsed in the winter of 2007 and out of that tragedy liberals do not take the opportunity to change attitudes about taxes but instead stay coy [not to mention the shyness that even many more liberals have demonstrated each time a conservative call the inheritance tax the ‘death tax’]? When each concession is sign of a new concession ahead?
- Getting back to the Hispanic community. Is it possible the change of attitude we need. Of course it is. If Felipe Gonzalez, President of Spain and then leader of the Socialist Party (PSOE), taught us something is that when a people gets decided to achieve something, that something is possible. In this case, an honorable place in the European Economic Community (today, European Union). In the 80s, when Spain was seen very condescendingly by its European neighbors, it got the opportunity to get in the EEU but it decided not to take the pet’s place. Spain engaged in a national effort that went far beyond the efforts made by the Santander and Bilbao Viscaya banks to take a leading role in Europe. It was a national cultural effort on which the Spaniards could later take pride. Want a closer example? The Civil Rights movement.
- Update to ‘Michael Gold-fart and the elusive Obama campaign’: Nobody at the Obama campaign seems interested in its sub-Web pages Contribute, Events, Volunteer and Blogs being still blocked at the Montgomery County Public Libraries internet service. To report problems with accessing the Web page, the Web page tells you that you can use only the same Web page that is precisely what is not working. Using info e-mails (that have already reached you) is discouraged. When I finally contacted by phone a volunteer by phone, he promised to open an alternative channel of communication for me [Yes Sunny, I received your e-mail but you never sent me the information I asked you, you never e-mailed me back.]
- The attack of the 7 houses is moronic. So what? McCain would not be the first rich person who becomes President and the 7 houses are not going to destroy the aura of sanctity that the POW label has given him. McCain’s former condition of POW has become the default answer to any question because they want to project an image of personal integrity and have been successful in doing so. They know that repetition and opportunity are the conditions of positioning [and Steve Schmidt, the person in charge of the McCain campaign, believes in that]. The Obama campaign has been too soft with McCain but personal attacks to McCain, the POW, are moronic and even counterproductive. You need to attack hard but where you need to attack hard is on the issues and you need surrogates to spread those attacks. In the case of McCain, you need to attack his strengths [Karl Rove’s valuable lesson] through surrogates and occasionally by Obama. McCain’s main strength is national security. Then you need to show, what in a political ad would be, first, the moments when he confused Sunnis and Shiites, and then a voice in off saying ‘Do you think that was the worst?’ and then Barack explaining how the historical experiences available (Alger, Indochina, Vietnam, Kenya, Malaysia, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru, etc.) show that the militaristic McCain’s approach does not work, that it has never bring lasting results. People will not understand the specifics of each case but will reach the conclusion you want: national security is McCain’ strongest point and Barack is in short telling McCain ‘Dude, you do not know what you are talking about; you only have the pose’. Obama must seem to know more than McCain on the issue. Is this enough? No. Remember the first debate Kerry-Bus. As I showed in my entry ‘Michael Gold-fart and the elusive Obama campaign,’ this is far from being achieved. The closest you should effectively get to a personal attack is exposing the opportunity of McCain flip-flopping. The McCain campaign appeals all the time to the McCain’s maverick record (that earned the respect of many people, me included) from the time when he was still a Maverick but when he stopped being a maverick? When his possibilities to get the Republican nomination became realistic. Another effective tactic is linking him to Bush. Yesterday Mark Shields, also at the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, revealed a poll showing that 77% believe that McCain will follow Bush’s policies if elected. All policies? No. Positioning requires repetition, especially in a communications saturated space. If you disperse your attacks among diverse issues, you will waste your most valuable resource, the time people will effectively employ in paying attention to you (despite the fact that, for specific audiences, you can always use specific messages). It is not difficult to choose an issue to stick to. Have you heard the phrase ‘It’s the economy, stupid’?