[Marxism] Alexander Cockburn's curious affinity for Ron Unz

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Oct 3 09:35:36 MDT 2011

You do not have to be a  Sun Tzu of political science or even Karl 
Rove who famously insisted on cultivating the Hispanic vote  for 
his client George W. Bush, to see that the middle and long-term 
future of the Republican Party will not be enhanced, may even be 
doomed to permanent minority status,  by bashing  immigrants. 
There have been political parties in history whose ideological 
colors are so obdurately nailed to rotten masts that ultimately 
they slide forever beneath the waves. Is this to be the fate of 
the Republican Party, despite the disastrous consequences of its 
earlier amours with nativism during the Irish and kindred ethnic 
immigrations a century and more ago?

Original thinking on this issue is rare, which is why an  essay by 
Ron Unz in The American Conservative is so interesting. Unz is the 
publisher of TAC, and some readers may recall a Diary I devoted in 
March of 2010 to his conclusive demolition of the scare stories, 
promoted by Lou Dobbs and other rabble rousers, about a Hispanic 
crime wave swollen by brown gangbangers to city-destroying 
proportions. As I noted back then, I count Unz as a friend, 
supportive of left ventures such as CounterPunch as well as of The 
American Conservative, whose tiller he took over in 2007.



> By David Bacon
>         OAKLAND, CA (4/25/98) -- As the television ads opposing Proposition
> 226 begin to air, a divergent strategy for defeating it is taking shape
> among campaigners on the ground.
>         The initiative would make labor participation in lobbying and
> electoral politics much more difficult, by requiring unions to obtain the
> signature of each member every year authorizing the use of dues money for
> political purposes.  The new ads question the funding for the initiative,
> pointing out that Republican tycoons and lobbyists close to House Speaker
> Newt Gingrich have put up much of the money to get it on the ballot, not
> only in California, but in many other states as well.
>         What the ads don't do is to connect the proposition to the other
> tycoon-financed measure on the state ballot - Proposition 227, funded by
> Silicon Valley software magnate Ron Unz.  The Unz initiative would
> effectively eliminate bilingual education.
>         While the two blockbuster propositions would seem to have little in
> common, opponents increasingly see them as related threats.  Opposition to
> 226 comes mostly from union members, while teachers and immigrant rights
> activists have been the core of the anti-227 campaign.
>         Yet in big anti-226 kickoff rallies in recent weeks in Los Angeles,
> San Francisco and Oakland, both unionists and advocates of immigrant rights
> shared the platform, linking the two together.  "The demographics of the
> state's population are making many of us see a connection between the two,"
> explains Maria Abadesco, who coordinates the Labor-Neighbor campaign for
> the Alameda County Central Labor Council.  "Attacks on immigrants, like 187
> and now 227, are increasingly attacks against our own members.  And if
> unions lose their ability to organize political campaigns, which is what
> 226 would do, it will be much harder to defeat anti-immigrant legislation
> whether on the ballot or in the legislature."
>         Freddy Tejada, a community organizer for the Northern California
> Coalition for Immigrant Rights, says changing demographics are a factor in
> another way as well.  "We expect tens of thousands of new immigrant
> citizens to vote in June," he predicts.  For over two years, the coalition
> has registered voters at the ceremonies conducted by the Immigration and
> Naturalization Service, in which hundreds of immigrants are sworn in as
> citizens every week.
>         Recently, the coalition was told by the INS it could no longer
> register voters at the ceremonies.   In addition, last week the Coalition
> for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles, together with the coalition in
> Northern California, released reports documenting extreme delays on the
> part of the INS in swearing in new citizens.  "We believe the INS is
> feeling the pressure of Republican politicians," Tejada charges, "who fear
> immigrants have been motivated to become citizens in order to vote against
> people like Pete Wilson and propositions like 187 and 227."
>         The importance of new citizen voters isn't lost on unions either,
> who are beginning to see them as a source of votes on class and labor
> issues as well.  Labor leaders like Miguel Contreras, head of the Los
> Angeles Federation of Labor, and Walter Johnson, who heads the labor
> council in San Francisco, are putting together well-funded and organized
> grassroots campaigns for getting out labor votes.  The possibility of using
> those organizations to mobilize a growing base of new citizen voters could
> make a radical shift in the state's politics.
>         That could eventually end what has seemed to be an endless string
> of rightwing initiatives - wedge issues playing on a substratum of racist,
> sexist and anti-labor sentiment to boost vote totals for rightwing
> politicians and their agenda.  That possibility is giving seasoned
> political activists, angry and frustrated by losing Propositions 187 and
> 209, a new sense of hope.  It is also renewing what has been a bitter
> debate over the tactics used in those losing opposition efforts.
>         UC journalism professor Lydia Chavez highlights one set of answers
> in her recent book which chronicles the anti-209 campaign, The Color Bind
> (UC Press, 1998, 305pp., paper, $16.95).  She believes that defeating 209
> was possible, and that its victory was a product of the opposition's
> internal dissension, its failure to use television advertising effectively
> to reach mainstream voters, and confusion over the public message of the
> opposition campaign.
>         "From the very beginning, polling data made it clear that there was
> only one message which resonated with the general public:  'mend it - don't
> end it,'" she asserted in a recent interview.  "But for reasons, some of
> which are still unclear, the opposition campaign just didn't get it
> together to concentrate."
>         "Mend it - don't end it" refers to the argument that some
> affirmative action programs do not work well, but that those programs
> should be changed, rather than eliminating the system of affirmative action
> as a whole.  It is similar to the argument made by some strategists in the
> campaign against 187 - that "illegal immigration" is a problem, but that
> the initiative was the wrong way to go about stopping it.
>         Critics accuse both arguments of failing to challenge racist
> assumptions underlying each initiative.  Immigration and affirmative action
> are both socially positive, they say, while the initiatives scapegoated
> immigrants, minorities and women for problems rising from social and
> economic inequality.
>         Chavez accuses the Democratic Party of abandoning the anti-209
> campaign until the last moments before the election, when it came in with
> money to help air an ad claiming that Ku Klux Klan official David Duke was
> a 209 supporter.  The ad, she says, kept the public focused on race, which
> she believes was a mistake.  "It was clear that you couldn't win with a
> negative message," she says.
>         Despite voicing praise for the grassroots campaign mounted by
> Californians for Justice, fundamentally she still believes that initiatives
> like 187 and 209 can't be defeated on the ground.  "For issues as full of
> conflict as immigration and affirmative action, even among progressive
> people, you need a top-down campaign," she says.  Such a campaign has to
> concentrate on television advertising to reach an audience of mainstream
> voters, who are generally older and whiter than the population as a whole.
> It has to present a single, simple message, and stick to it.
>         Kenneth Burt, the political director of the California Federation
> of Teachers, says the heated debate over the tactics used in the campaigns
> against 187 and 209 is still going on.  "While we can't change the past,"
> he cautions, "we can certainly try to draw some lessons from what happened,
> and use them to build the campaigns we're waging today."
>         Changing demographics produced by immigration is one of those
> lessons.  Richie Ross, manager of the campaign against the Unz initiative,
> predicts that 3-400,000 new citizens will vote for the first time in June.
> Presumably, this is a population which potentially can be convinced to vote
> against 227 in large numbers, since it strikes at the ability of
> non-English speaking immigrant children to learn English while still using
> their native languages.
>         But Burt cautions that this vote can't be taken for granted, and
> notes that recent polls, even among Latinos, still show a large percentage
> of support for 227, as well as 226.  Groups like the immigration coalitions
> and the statewide Latino Network are the core of an on-the-ground effort to
> reach these new voters, as, increasingly, are unions.
>         The rise in immigrant voters is part of a shift in the state's
> population.  By the first decade of the next century, racial and national
> minorities will become a majority of the state's population.  Already, in
> the Los Angeles Unified School District, minority children are a majority
> of the students.  Because this shift is far from complete, Burt says that
> some opponents of 187 and 209 viewed the campaigns as impossible to win,
> but ones in which a core of activists could be trained for similar battles
> to come.
>         "While I don't believe in throwing elections away, that core of
> activists was an important factor in the victory of Gil Cedillo's campaign
> for State Senate in Los Angeles just a few months ago," he recalls.  "We
> had the power of labor, the power of immigrants, a few elected officials,
> and we beat the machine.  Eventually, California campaigns will look like
> what we did there."
>         In the meantime, Burt says that the campaign against 226 is
> concentrating on getting out its base, union members, while that against
> 227 is mobilizing immigrants and Latinos.  Both are necessary steps towards
> reaching out to the larger voting population, which is not made up of
> immigrants or union members.
>         "Our challenge is to come out of these campaigns with more
> activists, and to win at the ballot box as well.  If we just emphasize
> television advertising, we won't be any stronger afterwards than we are
> today.  And if we concentrate just on activists on the ground, we won't
> reach out far enough, and we'll fail at the polls.  We have to do both.  If
> we win 75% of our own members, and 45% of everybody else, then we'll win."
>         "I don't think we can win either one of these campaigns by itself,"
> Tejada says.  "Our only hope is to use the strength of each one to
> reinforce the other."

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