Saturday, November 15, 2008

Latino Vote: Can Democrats lock it up for a generation?

-- by Dave

One aspect of the 2008 election outcome that will likely have real long-term consequences for the nation's political alignment is the emergence of the power of the Latino vote.

It's looking increasingly as though Latinos have moved semi-permanently into the Democrats' column, in large part because the Republican brand has been semi-permanently tainted with the ugly nativist bigotry that has immersed movement conservatism. It certainly played a significant role in the voters' repudiation of all things conservative.

Andres Ramirez at NDN Blog likewise pored over the numbers and found, among other things:

Hispanics Improved The Margin of Victory in These Four States - In Colorado, Obama’s Hispanic support accounted for 7.9% of the electorate, while Obama won by 9%. In Florida, Obama’s Hispanic support accounted for 7.9% of the electorate, while Obama won by 3%. In Nevada, Obama’s Hispanic support accounted for 11.4% of the electorate, while Obama won by 12%. In New Mexico, Obama’s Hispanic support accounted for 28.3% of the electorate, while Obama won by 15%.

If These Trends Continue, the National Map Will Continue to Get Harder for Republicans – Of the nine states that flipped from Bush 2004 to Obama 2008, four were heavily Latino states. Just as Pete Wilson’s taking on Hispanics in the 1990s contributed to the transformation of California, home of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, from a swing to the bluest of blue states, the demonization of Hispanics by the national GOP is turning very critical battleground states much more blue.

A recent study by America's Voice looks at how 19 out of 21 pro-reform candidates beat nativist hard-liners in key battleground contests around the country:

Here's the essence: swing voters chose candidates that stood up for a more comprehensive approach to immigration reform than their hard-line opponents. Latino voters turned out in record numbers and voted down the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the Republican Party. Their participation in the 2008 elections contributed to Senator Obama's wins in key battleground states like Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Florida, and also helped Democrats win contested House and Senate races in these states and beyond.

Meanwhile, the anti-immigrant forces that have all but hijacked the Republican Party proved to be inconsequential at best, except for their role in potentially driving the GOP into the political wilderness with Latino and New American voters.

Even Sen. Mel Martinez, the Florida Republican who watched his state turn blue this election under the tide of Democratic-voting Latinos, understands that the party is screwed. He as much as said so on Meet the Press:

The fact of the matter is that Hispanics are going to be a more and more vibrant part of the electorate, and the Republican Party had better figure out how to talk to them. We had a very dramatic shift between what President Bush was able to do with Hispanic voters, where he won 44 percent of them, and what happened to Senator McCain. Senator McCain did not deserve what he got. He was one of those that valiantly fought, fought for immigration reform, but there were voices within our party, frankly, which if they continue with that kind of rhetoric, anti-Hispanic rhetoric, that so much of it was heard, we're going to be relegated to minority status.

Simon Rosenberg observes:

[T]he way the Republicans [have] handled the immigration issue -- by demonizing Hispanics -- was one of the biggest political mistakes made by a political party in the last 50 years of American politics. As Peter Wallsten writes in the LA Times today, this failure with Hispanics may have cost them 4 prominent states in this election, but may cost them Arizona and Texas in the coming years. If that comes about it is game over, lights out for the GOP in the Electoral College for a very long time.

It's also apparent, from these results and from polling, that the nativists' "deport them all" immigration policy is wildly unpopular -- and that, moreover, Americans in fact take a pragmatic view of immigration: They're not interested in shipping out illegal immigrants, they're interested in seeing them become legal citizens.

Yesterday America's Voice released a study of these results in combination with their own polling inside key swing districts (PowerPoint file here). It found, among other things:

71% of Latino voters in our sample favor 'a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants,' but the support is broad across the American electorate, not among Latinos. In the following swing districts: VA-11, AZ-1, AZ-5, NM-1, WA-8, CO-4, IL-14, NV-3, PA-11; 67% of swing voters favor a pathway (CIR). This matched the 67% of a nationwide sample who favor CIR (when they are required to pay a fine and learn English).

Path to Citizenship_ae87e.JPG

What this polling makes clear is that the progressive solution to immigration, once again, is the sensible solution -- and it's one that Obama can pursue with the knowledge he has the public fully behind him.

Best of all, it is a certain path to keeping the Republican Party and the toxic politics it has practiced the past four decades on the margins of our political discourse. Until they learn their lessons about coddling racists and bigots, they deserve to remain there.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Friday, November 14, 2008

Navy gets all-clear from Supreme Court to harm whales

-- by Dave

While progressives everywhere are basking in the knowledge that liberal Democrats now control two of the three estates of the federal government, it is worth remembering that despite the voters' mandate, the Right still controls (barely, by a one-vote margin) the third: namely, the Supreme Court. And the right-wing Federalist Society dogmatists now sitting on the court are not only capable, but extremely likely, to wreak havoc with that mandate.

We received an unpleasant reminder of that reality this week:

The nation's need for Navy sailors to practice using sonar to guard against enemy submarines "plainly outweighs" any legal requirement to protect orcas and other marine mammals, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday, turning back environmentalists' efforts to restrict sonar use during naval training exercises.

Quoting a 1907 statement by President Theodore Roosevelt -- "the only way in which a navy can ever be made efficient is by practice at sea" -- the high court's five-member conservative majority said lower courts had improperly restricted naval exercises off Southern California.

But the justices in the majority stopped short of endorsing a Bush administration attempt to justify using a controversial White House waiver to justify the exercises.

When the lower court's ruling was announced earlier this year, it appeared to be a significant win for environmentalists, not to mention the cetaceans affected by these tests. It was also a win for the rule of law, considering the Bush administration's egregious lawbreaking in attempting to foist these tests on us.

But the court took care not to address that issue:

Ginsburg noted that the Navy took the "extraordinary" step of going to the White House's Council on Environmental Quality to obtain a waiver.

"To justify its course, the Navy sought dispensation not from Congress, but from an executive council that lacks authority to countermand or revise (legal) requirements," she wrote.

The majority opinion sidestepped that issue.

These tests are likely causing these creatures real harm, particularly the cetaceans that have echolocation capabilities, because they are so sensitive to sonic events (it is their primary way of "seeing"). It appears even to be killing some of them, particularly the porpoises that have washed up looking like this.

The ruling's effects on wildlife are likely to be profound, especially in areas with endangered populations of cetaceans, such as the Puget Sound, where the resident killer whales have been listed under the ESA, and whose most recent population count showed yet another decline.

As the Center for Whale Research reported when the sonar was tested in the Puget Sound's canyon walls back in 2003, both orcas and porpoises were profoundly disturbed by these tests. Some 15 harbor porpoises washed up dead in short order. (More details on the tests and their aftermath can be found at the Orca Network and at

The most aggravating aspect of this is that the Navy has never attempted to demonstrate that it these tests and practices must be conducted without any consideration of the surrounding environment -- that is, they're insisting they be able to conduct them at any time and under any situation, regardless of impact.

No doubt these considerations would inconvenience the Navy, but it has never demonstrated that the tests cannot be conducted without making the appropriate situational assessments. It just wants to conduct them at its own convenience, and the public -- and the animals -- be damned.


If you're interested in getting a glimpse of the sonic world these creatures inhabit, check out the video I made last summer, which features sounds I captured through a hydrophone of killer whales communicating. The photos and sounds were taken at very nearly the same exact location as the whales you see in the video atop the post during those sonar tests.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

A word about southeastern Idaho, where schoolkids chant "Assassinate Obama"

-- by Dave

Excuse me a moment while I go throw up (no offense to David Edwards and Muriel Kane at Raw Story):

Madison County, Idaho was once dubbed "the reddest place in America" by Salon, but that didn't make it any less shocking when elementary school children started chanting "assassinate Obama on the school bus.

Matthew Whoolery told KIKD News he found out about the chanting from his second and third graders, who had no idea what the word "assassinate" meant.

"They just hadn't heard anything like this before," Whoolery stated. "I think the thing that struck us was just like, 'Where did they get the word and why would they put that word and that person together?'"

Whoolery, a psychology professor at Brigham Young University in Rexburg, is not an Obama supporter, but he was shocked that any public official would be threatened in that way. "I don't think that the majority of people in Rexburg have extreme ideas like that, but we were just surprised that it would go that far," Whoolery told KIKD.

The Madison County School District has sent out an email saying that students are to be told this sort of behavior is unacceptable.

OK. I grew up in southeastern Idaho -- Idaho Falls, to be exact, about 30 miles south of Rexburg. I've spent a fair amount of time in Madison County; it was where one of my more traumatic experiences as a young adult occurred. So I can talk a little about why this kind of thing might happen there.

This particular corner of the country, as the Raw Story piece notes, is heavily Mormon. Roughly 90 percent of the population there is LDS. And because of that, there is a virulent and entrenched strain of John Bircherite extremism in the body politic. That in turn has helped produce a long-running parade of right-wing extremists (particularly tax protesters and "constitutionalists") who have made Madison County their home.

At the same time, it is by nearly all outward appearances a classic slice of American heartland. My great-aunt and -uncle, both non-Mormons, lived most of their lives there and were not just perfectly comfortable, thoroughly accepted members of the community, but they loved it. There is a decency and integrity to the town and that transcends political considerations.

So having their schoolkids chant "assassinate Obama" must have shocked their sensibilities deeply, which is why school officials and parents made a point of standing up against it.

At the same time, it's not terribly surprising. And not just because there is such a deep streak of ultra-right thinking that runs through this community -- but also because the campaign just finished by Republicans was so rife with rabble-rousing rhetoric that it is, frankly, a wonder this hasn't happened more often, and in more places than just southeastern Idaho.

In fact, it very likely -- indeed, almost certainly -- has. And it's to the credit of Rexburg's conservative Mormons that they drew attention to it. Perhaps they will stop and take a good hard look at the kind of hate they've been spewing before their children.

If only other Republicans in the rest of the heartland would do the same.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Decline and Fall of the Minutemen

thumb_mediumJim Gilchrist-772350_dcb0c.jpg

-- by Dave

Zvika Krieger at TNR has a solid report on the demise and dissolution of the Minuteman movement:

In this environment, Gilchrist's movement is falling apart, overtaken by new members whom he describes as "troublemakers with personality disorders and criminal propensities." In contrast, he insists that the group's original members were able to give voice to the immigration concerns of ordinary Americans because they demonstrated "a passionate allegiance to the United States of America and its priceless principles." There is no doubt that the Minutemen--aided by sympathizers in the media like Lou Dobbs--drove the national conversation in 2005. But whether the enormous wellspring of American anger over illegal immigration that they claim to have tapped into actually existed is another question.

However, it's not merely Gilchrist's organization (The Minuteman Project) that's falling apart; so is the other major "Minuteman" outfit, cofounder Chris Simcox's Minuteman Civil Defense Corps.

For what it's worth, I reported on this aspect of the story, as well as Gilchrist's, back in October for The American Prospect:

Today the Minuteman movement is beyond mere disarray; it is in the early stages of complete decay. The arc of the Minutemen's decline and fall happens to trace almost precisely that of previous right-wing populist movements, notably the Klan of the 1920s and the militias of the 1990s. The pattern goes like this: The group is beset by financial manipulators who seem naturally drawn to them. Then, following an initial wave of popularity, the group splinters under the pressure of competing egos into smaller, more virulent entities who then unleash acts of public ugliness and violence that eventually relegate them to the fringes.

The Minutemen haven't quite reached that final stage yet, but they are well on their way. And while that may be welcome news to those who oppose the Minutemen's nativist agenda, that last stage represents some natural and equally toxic consequences.

'Obamahitler' rises again

thumb_mediumAdolph Obama_25784.jpg

-- by Dave

The "Obama is a Liberal Fascist Hitler" meme has been floating around since at least February, if not before. And now that the election's over and voters can't punish Republicans for spouting this kind of nonsense, it's getting a fresh life.

F'r instance, there's the Georgia Republican congressman who foresees young Brownshirts emerging from Obama's proposal for a national civilian-service corps:

A Republican congressman from Georgia said Monday he fears that President-elect Obama will establish a Gestapo-like security force to impose a Marxist or fascist dictatorship.

"It may sound a bit crazy and off base, but the thing is, he's the one who proposed this national security force," Rep. Paul Broun said of Obama in an interview Monday with The Associated Press. "I'm just trying to bring attention to the fact that we may — may not, I hope not — but we may have a problem with that type of philosophy of radical socialism or Marxism."

Broun cited a July speech by Obama that has circulated on the Internet in which the then-Democratic presidential candidate called for a civilian force to take some of the national security burden off the military.

"That's exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it's exactly what the Soviet Union did," Broun said. "When he's proposing to have a national security force that's answering to him, that is as strong as the U.S. military, he's showing me signs of being Marxist."

Sounds like someone's been reading too much Jonah Goldberg. Of course, Jonah's adherents at sites like Red State and Gateway Pundit think Rep. Broun is on the right track.

Meanwhile, there's also the Texas state education-board member who fears that Obama is secretly plotting with Muslim terrorists to destroy America:

State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar isn't backing down from her claim that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is plotting with terrorists to attack the U.S.

The Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog group that monitors the board, released a public statement on Monday asking Dunbar to retract the statement.

"I don't have anything in there that would be retractable," said Dunbar, R-Richmond. "Those are my personal opinions and I don't think the language is questionable."

In a column posted on the Christian Worldview Network Web site, Dunbar wrote that a terrorist attack on America during the first six months of an Obama administration "will be a planned effort by those with whom Obama truly sympathizes to take down the America that is threat to tyranny."

She also suggests Obama would seek to expand his power by declaring martial law throughout the country.

Though Dunbar is defiant, the article seems to have been removed from the CWN site. You can read the cached version here.

In a similar vein, we're also hearing that Obama is the antichrist from the religious-right wingnuts.

This really is a double case of deja vu. Not only did we hear this crap circulating around the right during the campaign this year, we heard almost exactly the same thing 16 years ago when Bill Clinton won the White House -- the supposed "looming dictatorship" and the nefarious conspiracies with dark forces.

That only produced eight years of "New World Order" conspiracy theories and their accompanying militias and right-wing domestic terrorists. You'll forgive us if we're not very eager to see what this go-round produces.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Monday, November 10, 2008

So much for Sarah Palin's 'misinformation'

-- by Dave

Sarah Palin whines to the Anchorage Daily News that too much of the reportage on her record was "based on misinformation." An example?

But just looking into the record. It was reported that I tried to ban Harry Potter when it hadn't even been written when I was the mayor.

When I was in Wasilla to look into her record, I never found any evidence that Palin tried to ban Harry Potter from the local library (she seemed to be more concerned about a local pastor's book written for closeted gays).

But the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, was published in 1997.

Palin was mayor of Wasilla from 1996 to 2002. By the time her term of office expired, four of the Potter books had been published.

It is true that the Potter books had not been published at the time there was a discussion of bannings at the Wasilla library, which took place in January 1997. And the whole Potter claim is based on a spurious e-mail anyway.

But that's the real problem with Palin citing this as an example of bad media reporting, even beyond the fact that her "proof" is afactual: It never made it into any serious media account of her record that I can find, other than to dismiss it.

Palin seems to be trying divert attention from the serious reporting on her record by building up a strawman about nonexistent reportage.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Secret Service blamed Palin for sudden spike in Obama death threats

-- by Dave

All of the talk about the special Newsweek report describing the backstage events in this year's presidential campaign has focused on various revelations about Sarah Palin's astonishing lack of knowledge about global and national affairs, as well as her spending sprees.

But this passage seemed at least as significant, if not more so:

The Obama campaign was provided with reports from the Secret Service showing a sharp and disturbing increase in threats to Obama in September and early October, at the same time that many crowds at Palin rallies became more frenzied. Michelle Obama was shaken by the vituperative crowds and the hot rhetoric from the GOP candidates. "Why would they try to make people hate us?" Michelle asked a top campaign aide.

Tim Shipman at the Telegraph (UK) has more:

Details of the spike in threats to Mr Obama come as a report last week by security and intelligence analysts Stratfor, warned that he is a high risk target for racist gunmen. It concluded: "Two plots to assassinate Obama were broken up during the campaign season, and several more remain under investigation. We would expect federal authorities to uncover many more plots to attack the president that have been hatched by white supremacist ideologues."

Irate John McCain aides, who blame Mrs Palin for losing the election, claim Mrs Palin took it upon herself to question Mr Obama's patriotism, before the line of attack had been cleared by Mr McCain.

There was a reason, I think, that people were repelled by the ugliness that proceeded from the McCain/Palin campaign this year -- common sense, after all, should tell you where this kind of ugliness was heading. It showed up at the polls.

The problem is finding a way to put out the fuse that they lit.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]