race

More on Magic Negros and the GOP

Huff Post has a neat clip of Chip Saltsman getting beaten around on MSNBC about his sending out of the now infamous song.  When confronted with it on the air, watch his defense - it's the media's fault. 

For more on the GOP. magic negros and race check out this recent post.   

Weekly Update on Immigration: It's the Economy Stupid! Will Dems Seize Opportunities? Is White Uncool? WSJ Promotes the Hate

In Politics:
One reason why the economic recovery plan matters to  immigration reform - 
There's been much written debate in major publications about whether the economic recovery plan is causing tension between Congress and the incoming Obama administration.  With Obama not even in office yet, a major concern of mine: if the alleged tension is true, I hope this doesn't cause major rifts that could damage discussions for an overhaul of the current - broken - immigration system.

Another Example of the Broken Immigration System - Even Tim Geithner's cleaning lady couldn't keep her status in check.  Again, we need to fix the current broken system that is so impossible to manage, which is why people fall out of status.  And as for Mr. Geithner's appointment - this guy is going to have to help solve the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression...this whole cleaning lady controversy - let's keep our eye on the ball, people.

Debate in Congress this week - The House is set to vote on legislation to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) this week, and the Senate Finance Committee will also take up companion legislation.  This bill includes provisions that would eliminate the existing five year waiting period LEGAL immigrant children must endure before qualifying for coverage.  We agree this requirement only threatens the well-being of already eligible children, but this debate has equally important political implications.  I know many thought SCHIP could serve as a "mini victory" before going for the "big enchilada," comprehensive immigration reform, but I disagree.  Time and time again, this Congress will try to take action on major domestic policy issues, and time and time again the issue of how these programs deal with the undocumented will come up (even though this bill deals only with legal immigrants), so the best way for Democrats to tackle this challenge is to clear the table - fix the root of the debate, a broken immigration system, and then we can actually make progress on the rest.  Most of the constituency that both Dems and Reps now admit they need to win elections - Latinos and immigrant communities - are unfortunately not monitoring the SCHIP debate, they want to be able to stop having to walk around with their passports in hand for fear of being stopped for no reason other than their appearance.  That is the reality we live in.  This tone will change to a great extent if Democrats seize the opportunity CIR affords them.

Everyone expects Republicans to try to bring up the old anti-immigrant mongering, but right now the Hill is actually buzzing due to Democrats that oppose eliminating this waiting period.  By going for SCHIP first, if it fails, Democrats have put themselves in a position that makes them seem divided (see Sen. Baucus), opened the door for more immigrant hate-mongering, they have taken up their time "preempting" potential Republican attacks on the bill instead of leading the debate and dictating a new agenda, and lost political capital and energy that is going to be needed if CIR legislation is introduced.  And if the bill passes, they have still invested political capital that will be needed for CIR, and if Republicans actually "get it" and shift their tone to an immigrant-friendly one, then that opens the door for Republicans to start making their way back among Latinos and immigrants - while certain Dems oppose this bill.  Until CIR passes, there will continue to be bickering over immigrants and "illegals" on every single policy issue that hits the floor.  And even if SCHIP passes, state and local governments are still left with the unfunded mandate of having to act as immigration agents, which will not stop until we have fixed our broken immigration system.  

It's the economy stupid - The San Antonio Express had a piece by Hernan Rozemberg this week on why immigration reform is on the "back burner."  The article accurately posits that anti-immigrant forces will argue that, "hard economic times" will impede making reform politically feasible.  We argue that the broken immigration system exacerbates economic problems because - as stated by Rep. Hilda Solis - it affects all workers, not just immigrants.

The economic crisis will not be solved in two months, or in one year.  And in one year, when legislators have to go back to their districts to campaign - what are they going to campaign on exactly? What major achievement? It's not likely that a tangible result like peace in the middle east, or a complete economic turnaround, or a major overhaul of the education system will be achieved in a year, but fixing the broken immigration system can happen in one year.  It is a major issue, recognized by the general public as a "problem" that needs fixing.  SHCIP, Equal Pay...these are all necessary and worthy achievements, but they are not recognized by voters as one of the top five major issues on their mind.

The piece also states, "Other leading national immigrant advocates said in the past week they'll wait patiently while Obama takes care of the economic mess, but they're not willing to let the crisis push the issue aside," which worries me.  Again, those of us for CIR should be advocating that immigration reform is one tool to begin to solve the major economic mess! This issue cannot wait until the economy turns around in two or five years.

Rozemberg adequately points out that the anti-immigrant voices will echo Roy Beck - a prominent member of the white supremacist hate network as reported by SPLC - shifting their focus away from the "illegal" argument (because they now see that Americans don't blame the immigrants), to "protecting American workers from competing for jobs with unauthorized immigrants."  And we have to preempt this strategy.  Our mistake in 2007 was responding to these PR stunts as opposed to anticipating them.  The truth is: 

- 12 million people are currently working outside the system - these people contribute to all our lives and the lives of all Americans will benefit from bringing them out of the shadows.
- The undocumented who are already here do not compete for American jobs, those who are employed work because they take jobs Americans will not fill, for wages Americans would not accept, outside of U.S. labor laws.  The economic crisis has also created many illegal immigrants - many have come into the country legally, and in hard economic times have lost their job or work less hours and thus cannot afford the ridiculous fees charged by USCIS to renew or change their status.  

- Whoever argues, "temporary worker programs or visa programs would only have more immigrants in the U.S. competing for U.S. jobs," completely misses the problem.  The reality is that: 1) visa programs are limited, but the current limits are unrealistic and do not meet business demands (hence 12 million undocumented).  Whether we take action to accept legal immigrants or not, they will come, let's accept that.  The question is: do we want them coming in legally, or illegally?  2) In hard economic times businesses might be particularly predisposed to hire workers who will work for less, and have no rights.  Let's work out a system that is amenable to American workers and helps meet labor demands in specific areas - the reason we have a broken system to begin with is that we are never forward looking, we've always tried to fashion a law that meets our "ideal" as opposed to meeting reality, which is why the 1986 and 1996 laws have not worked. 

Roy Beck said Obama would, "commit political suicide" if he tried to legalize millions of unauthorized workers with so many Americans out of work - that's also what everyone (including Democrats) said after he came out in favor of drivers licenses for the undocumented in the 2008 Primaries, remember? The bottom line is: the American people want Congress to solve problems.  And the broken immigration system is a problem. 

President-elect Obama met with President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon. Click here to see NDN's statement on yesterday's visit.  The statement released by Obama spokesman, Robert Gibbs:

"President-elect Obama underscored his commitment to working with Congress to fix the broken U.S. immigration system and fostering safe, legal and orderly migration.  He expressed his strongly held view that immigrants should be treated with dignity and that the immigration debate should not be a vehicle for vilifying any group, and that our two countries need to work more effectively to stop the flow of illegal immigration into the United States." 

Mexico Human Rights Comission Speaks Out Again - This time, the CNDH (initials in Spanish) spoke out against the border fence during a tour of the border, explaining that a fence does not deter immigration, and criticized Mukasey's recent decision to strip immigrants of any semblance of due process during immigration proceedings (see below). 

Still No Commerce Secretary - There are many rumors regarding potential appointees - I think the thought of Federico Pena as Secretary of Commerce sounds excellent.  Not only does Secretary Pena - member of NDN's Hispanic Advisory Board - enjoy a wealth of executive experience, he is a community and business leader, he's pragmatic, respected, and most importantly, he is an ally in the fight for immigration reform.  Secretary Pena has acted as advisor to Barack Obama on this issue, and has submitted four key points for immigration reform.

Immigration reform legislation affords opportunities - In 2008, Republicans lost 3 of the 5 seats in the Senate opened by retiring members. In 2010, Republicans must defend 16 incumbents and 3 open seats, while Democrats have to defend 15 incumbents and two open seats.  Passing comprehensive immigration reform in order to solve the very broken immigration system affords Democrats an enormous opportunity to demonstrate a solid achievement as they battle for these Senate seats in states that do not clearly favor either party.  The seats up for grabs:
Jeb does not go to Washington
- Jeb Bush had been mentioned as a contender for the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, but this week he announced he is in fact not going to run for U.S. Senate in 2010.  One can only speculate as to Mr. Bush's reasons for not running, but I have the feeling a major factor is discontent with what the Republican brand currently stands for - or lack thereof.  In part it is a shame because he might have followed Sen. Martinez's moderate Republican voice in the Senate, and like Martinez, supported immigration reform.  Bush governed one of the states with the largest Latino populations in the country, and as husband to Columba Bush - an immigrant from Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico - is inclined to be more sympathetic to immigrants than most of his colleagues.  On the other hand, given the Democratic win in Florida during the 2008 Presidential, maybe this paves the way for Democrats to make new inroads into what used to be the Republican solid south.

Someone else who won't be seeking reelection - U.S. Sen. Kit Bond announced this week that he will not seek re-election in 2010.  The Republican party is also losing U.S. Sens. Mel Martinez (Florida) and Sam Brownback (Kansas).  These retirements provide Democrats - and those in favor of CIR - major openings (both Bond and Brownback acted as voices against immigrants and immigration reform). Missouri voters have been unpredictable in statewide elections lately. They handed Democrat Jay Nixon an easy victory last year in the governor's race, then backed Republican John McCain in the presidential election. Two years prior, Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, managed to win her seat by a slim margin.

Friends in high places - President-elect Obama officially introduced the new DNC Chair, Gov. Tim Kaine, last week - good news for pro CIR advocates.  A little known fact about Gov. Kaine, of Virginia, is that he began his career in public service outside of the U.S., as a missionary in Honduras.  He is still fluent in Spanish.  Virginia has suffered among the highest number of anti-immigrant policies and legislation at the state and local level, but Gov. Kaine has remained committed to respecting the rights and humanity of immigrants in Virginia, arguing for comprehensive immigration reform, and ending divisive and ineffective tactics in Virginia.

George is schizophrenic on immigration - Since early December, NDN reported on President Bush's recognition that not passing immigration reform was among his biggest disappointments.  He repeated the same idea yesterday during his final interview as President, adding that the GOP must be "compassionate and broad-minded," in order to return from its 2008 electoral defeat, and the President highlighted that the immigration debate was particularly harmful because those opposed to reform made it appear that, "Republicans don't like immigrants."  At the same time, he turns around and strips immigrants of their rights through the Attorney General's last major act in office:

GTMO for Immigrants - On Wednesday, Michael Mukasey ruled that aliens have no constitutional right to challenge the outcome of their deportation hearings based on their lawyers' mistakes.  This effectively scraps a 15-year old precedent set in a case referred to as the Matter of Lozada, which stated that while "aliens" have no 6th Amendment right to counsel, Lozada recognized their right to effective assistance under due process.  This is absolutely abominable, and we hope Eric Holder's first act in office is to reverse this ruling.  NDN and other major organizations will be interested in seeing whether Mr. Holder is asked about his position on this issue during confirmation hearings.

Immigration and Race:
Demography is Destiny (continued) - This week The Atlantic and Ron Brownstein talk about race.  Brownstein goes into detail on how Democrats' efforts to pursue the vote of minorities paid off in 2008:

"The biggest source of Hispanic population growth is not immigration, but from the children of recent immigrants. And, by definition, they are voting citizens once they turn 18."

The Atlantic has a very interesting piece, "The End of White America?" While I agree with the article's general premise that the future will belong to those who can navigate what we at NDN consider a new racial construct of America, I disagree that we live in a "post" racial America.  The Atlantic piece also weaves in the role of race in pop culture, is it "cool" to be white? Will other ethnic groups grow to be considered more "American" now?  The article explores how the role of race has changed as our demographics have changed - you no longer need to be "white" to be included, incorporated into society, to be able to run for office or to be a Hollywood star. An excerpt:

Whether you describe it as the dawning of a post-racial age or just the end of white America,  we're approaching a profound demographic tipping point....those groups currently categorized as racial minorities-blacks and Hispanics, East Asians and South Asians-will account for a majority of the U.S. population by the year 2042. Among Americans under the age of 18, this shift is projected to take place in 2023.......it's now very cool and in to have multicultural friends. Like you're not really considered hip or 'you've made it' if you're rolling with all the same people."

People should be recognized as individuals, not for their color or creed (and as Obama said, we're all muts anyway).  At the same time, we're not there yet. Just because we're in a new, very exciting, stage of the racial construct of America, does not mean that we are "post" racial. 

Hence the current case before the Supreme court trying to do away with the landmark Voting Rights Act is absolutely preposterous.  The act ended literacy tests and other state measures that had kept blacks from the polls, and now helps ensure that all minorities are ensured the right to vote.  Obama's election reflects an enormous advancement in race relations, but voting, particularly in the South, remains significantly polarized.  Exit polls from the Nov. 4 presidential election show whites in many Southern states heavily favored John McCain to Obama. In Texas, 73% of whites favored McCain, in Georgia, 76%, and in Alabama, 88%. Nationally, the percentage of whites for McCain was 55%.

The Wall Street Journal joins the White Supremacist groups who have changed their strategy from openly demonizing Hispanics to arguing that "population control" is needed and that overcrowding - largely caused by "immigrants" - is the reason we have a climate change problem.  Now the WSJ joins the chorus by blaming us (Hispanics) for the economic crisis, namely the Latino members of Congress, Joe Baca and the CHC. Deplorable.  

Muslims and Hispanics - Victims of racial profiling.  Thanks to the Bush fear mongering machine, we are "suspect" just by virtue of being in a room.  After an American family who happens to be of Muslim faith was detained last week due to overzealous passengers who thought they "posed a threat" because of "suspicious" remarks (yeah, I'm sure it was the remarks), DC Rep. Eleanor Holmes-Norton calls for a hearing to look into the way these people were treated when detained.

U.S. to collect immigrants' DNA - Beginning on Friday, the U.S. government will collect DNA samples from people arrested and detained for suspected immigration violations (which are not criminal, immigration violations are civil).  Key word: SUSPECTED, previously the government only obtained DNA from persons convicted of certain crimes.

Setting the Record Straight - Great, updated version of IPC's fact sheet on the myths of immigrants and criminality released this week. Keep it handy.

In case you missed it - The GAO released a report on USCIS’s processes for screening individuals applying for permanent residence, and found vulnerabilities that need to be addressed, like backlogs and improved collaboration with FBI in the case of FBI checks. 

Frank Rich on This Election and Race

Frank Rich is a remarkable writer.  His work this year has been especially powerful.  I excerpt a passage from his column today that I have been thinking about all day:

Early in the campaign, the black commentator Tavis Smiley took a lot of heat when he questioned all the rhetoric, much of it from white liberals, about Obama being "post-racial." Smiley pointed out that there is "no such thing in America as race transcendence." He is right of course. America can no sooner disown its racial legacy, starting with the original sin of slavery, than it can disown its flag; it's built into our DNA. Obama acknowledged as much in his landmark speech on race in Philadelphia in March.

Yet much has changed for the better since the era of "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," thanks to the epic battles of the civil-rights movement that have made the Obama phenomenon possible. As Mark Harris reminds us in his recent book about late 1960s Hollywood, "Pictures at a Revolution," it was not until the year of the movie's release that the Warren Court handed down the Loving decision overturning laws that forbade interracial marriage in 16 states; in the film's final cut there's still an outdated line referring to the possibility that the young couple's nuptials could be illegal (as Obama's parents' marriage would have been in, say, Virginia). In that same year of 1967, L.B.J.'s secretary of state, Dean Rusk, offered his resignation when his daughter, a Stanford student, announced her engagement to a black Georgetown grad working at NASA. (Johnson didn't accept it.)

Obama's message and genealogy alike embody what has changed in the decades since. When he speaks of red and blue America being seamlessly woven into the United States of America, it is always shorthand for the reconciliation of black and white and brown and yellow America as well. Demographically, that's where America is heading in the new century, and that will be its destiny no matter who wins the election this year.

Still, the country isn't there yet, and should Obama be elected, America will not be cleansed of its racial history or conflicts. It will still have a virtually all-white party as one of its two most powerful political organizations. There will still be white liberals who look at Obama and can't quite figure out what to make of his complex mixture of idealism and hard-knuckled political cunning, of his twin identities of international sojourner and conventional middle-class overachiever.

After some 20 months, we're all still getting used to Obama and still, for that matter, trying to read his sometimes ambiguous takes on both economic and foreign affairs. What we have learned definitively about him so far - and what may most account for his victory, should he achieve it - is that he had both the brains and the muscle to outsmart, outmaneuver and outlast some of the smartest people in the country, starting with the Clintons. We know that he ran a brilliant campaign that remained sane and kept to its initial plan even when his Republican opponent and his own allies were panicking all around him. We know that that plan was based on the premise that Americans actually are sick of the divisive wedge issues that have defined the past couple of decades, of which race is the most divisive of all.

Obama doesn't transcend race. He isn't post-race. He is the latest chapter in the ever-unfurling American racial saga. It is an astonishing chapter. For most Americans, it seems as if Obama first came to dinner only yesterday. Should he win the White House on Tuesday, many will cheer and more than a few will cry as history moves inexorably forward.

But we are a people as practical as we are dreamy. We'll soon remember that the country is in a deep ditch, and that we turned to the black guy not only because we hoped he would lift us up but because he looked like the strongest leader to dig us out.

I would strongly recommend reading the whole column.  This theme - that our changing demographics is offering America the opportunity to turn race into something other what it has been in our history - is something we've been exploring here at NDN a great deal these last few years.  If you haven't read it check out an essay I wrote earlier this year, On Obama, Race and the End of the Southern Strategy, which looks at all this in greater detail.

How will Obama play overseas?

Anne Applebaum has an interesting but sobering take on how a President Obama might play overseas.

Of course the Illinois Senator overcame historic bias against those of African descent here in the US. So should be optimistic about his reception throughout the rest of the world? Given my travel abroad this year I found great optimism. But her piece is well worth considering.

For more on Obama, race and the changing American electorate, check out my recent essay, On Obama, Race and the End of the Southern Strategy.

Also, it is worth noting, that in many people's opinions, President Bush, a white leader, caused serious harm to America's global standing, particularly because of his policies in the Middle East. I recently re-posted an essay on The Bush legacy in the Middle East.

Obama, pride, and possibility

Watching all this tonight I feel pride, and a powerful sense of possibility. I am proud of our nation, I am proud of Senator Clinton and I am proud of Senator Obama, his family and his remarkable campaign.

As each day goes by I am more and more convinced that we are entering a new age of politics, an age of possibility, where so much is possible now, where we can imagine, imagine a tomorrow and an America so much better than today.

I end my brief post by reposting something I wrote just after Senator Obama's impressive win in the Iowa Caucuses, called Obama, Race and the end of the Southern Strategy:

For the past several years NDN has been making an argument that for progressives to succeed in the coming century they would have to build a new majority coalition very different from the one FDR built in the 20th century. The nation has changed a great deal since the mid-20th century, as we've become more Southern and Western, suburban and exurban, Hispanic and Asian, immigrant and Spanish-speaking, more millennial and aging boomer and more digital age in our life and work habits than industrial age. 21st century progressive success would require building our politics around these new demographic realities.

Looking at the leadership of the Democratic Party today, there is cause for optimism on this score. The four leading Presidential candidates includes a mixed race Senator of African descent, an accomplished and powerful woman, a border state governor of Mexican descent and a populist from the new South. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi represent areas west of the Rockies. Taken together these leaders represent a very different kind of politics, a 21st century politics, for the Democrats.

But of all these great changes the one that may be most important today is the growth of what we call the "minority" population. When I was born in 1963 the country was almost 89 percent white, 10.5 percent African-American and less than 1 percent other. The racial construct of America was, and had been for over hundreds of years, a white-black, majority-minority construct, and for most of our history had been a pernicious and exploitive one. Of course the Civil Rights Movement (particularly the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act) began to change our understanding of race around the time of my birth, but it was the Immigration Act of 1965 that changed the face of America. That act changed who would enter America, reorienting our new immigrant pool from Europe, as it had been for over 300 years, to Latin America and Asia. And America changed.

As the chart below shows, today America is 66 percent white and 33 percent "minority". While the African-American population has grown a bit, most of that increase has come from the recent historic wave of Asian and Hispanic immigrants. In my half a lifetime the "minority" population in the United States has tripled. When I was born one of out ten people walking around America were non-white. Today it is one out of three.

I think it is safe to say that America is going through the most profound demographic transformation in its long history. If current trends continue, America will be majority minority in my lifetime or soon thereafter. In a single lifetime we will have gone from a country made up largely of white Europeans to one that looks much more like the rest of the world.

If Senator Obama becomes the Democratic nominee this profound change will become something we all begin to discuss openly. Today the nation is having a big conversation about this change - whether it understands it or not - through our ongoing debate over immigration. While this debate has seen some of the most awful racist rhetoric and imagery since the days of Willie Horton, what should leave us all optimistic is that only 15 percent of the country is truly alarmed about the new wave of immigrants arriving in America. Consistently about 60 percent of the country says we need to leave all the undocumenteds here, indicating a pragmatic acceptance of the changes happening around our people and their families. Once again the uncommon wisdom of the common people appears to be prevailing here, and it is my hope, perhaps my prayer, that if Obama is the nominee American can begin to have a healthy and constructive discussion of our new population rather than what we have seen to date.

My final observation this morning is a point we focus on in our recent magazine article, The 50 Year Strategy. This election is the first post-Southern Strategy election since its early emergence in 1964. The Southern Strategy was the strategy used by Conservatives and the GOP to use race and other means to cleave the South from the Democrats. This strategy - welfare queens, Willie Horton, Reagan Democrats, tough on crime, an aggressive redistricting approach in 1990 - of course worked. It flipped the South (a base Democratic region since Thomas Jefferson's day) to the GOP, giving them majorities in Congress and the Presidency. 20th century math and demography and politics dictated that without the South one could not have a majority in the US. But the arrival of a "new politics" of the 21st century - driven to a great degree by the new demographic realities of America - has changed this calculation, and has thankfully rendered the Southern Strategy and all its tools a relic of the 20th century. As Tom Schaller has noted, today the Democrats control both Houses of Congress without having a majority of southern Congressional seats, something never before achieved by the party of Jefferson, Jackson and Lyndon Johnson.

In our article we lay out what might become the next great majority strategy, one yet unnamed, that we believe may be used by the Democrats to build a durable 21st century majority. It will be built upon an America described above, and will embrace the new diversity of 21st century America at its core. At a strategic level, resistance to the new demographic reality is futile, which is why GOP leaders like George Bush, Ken Mehlman and even the Wall Street Journal's editorial page (here and here) have railed against the GOP's approach to immigration. They rightly understand that positioning their party against this new demography of America may render them as much a 20th century relic as the Southern Strategy itself.

Liberating American politics from the pernicious era of the Southern Strategy should be one the highest strategic priorities for left-of-center politics. Last night a powerful and thoughtful man emerged on the national stage who deeply understands - and is himself the embodiment of - the moral and political imperative of moving beyond this disappointing age. He appears to be summoning the courage, the vision, and the conviction to usher in a whole new - and better - era of politics for America. At its core this new politics will embrace diversity and difference rather than exploit it; at its core this new politics will be defined by hope and tolerance not fear and Tancredoism; at its core this new politics of tolerance is not just a requirement for a more just America here at home, but is a requirement if America is to reassert itself abroad in the much more globalized, multi-polar, interconnected, and open world of the 21st century.

And of course the arrival of this new post-Southern Strategy age of American politics will be accelerated by the extraordinary level of political participation of Millennials, the largest generation in American history, whose life experiences and values are much more Obama than Nixon.

Whatever happens in this campaign, the arrival of Barack Obama and his politics is a welcome development for our nation struggling to find its way in a new and challenging day.

Race and 21st Century America

Senator Obama will give a major address today on race. Somehow this feels like one of those defining moments in a campaign, where a candidate must rise to a powerful challenge to his or her candidacy. Successful candidates seize this moments. Failed candidates don't.

For this campaign, and this candidate this issue of race is one of the defining issues of our times. In my recent essay On Obama, Race and the End of the Southern Strategy I talk about all the demographic changes happening in America today, and write:

Of all these great changes the one that may be most important today is the growth of what we call the "minority" population. When I was born in 1963 the country was almost 89 percent white, 10.5 percent African-American and less than 1 percent other. The racial construct of America was, and had been for over hundreds of years, a white-black, majority-minority construct, and for most of our history had been a pernicious and exploitive one. Of course the Civil Rights Movement (particularly the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act) began to change our understanding of race around the time of my birth, but it was the Immigration Act of 1965 that changed the face of America. That act changed who would enter America, reorienting our new immigrant pool from Europe, as it had been for over 300 years, to Latin America and Asia. And America changed.

As the chart below shows (click it for a larger version), today America is 66 percent white and 33 percent "minority". While the African-American population has grown a bit, most of that increase has come from the recent historic wave of Asian and Hispanic immigrants. In my half a lifetime the "minority" population in the United States has tripled. When I was born one of out ten people walking around America were non-white. Today it is one out of three.

I think it is safe to say that America is going through the most profound demographic transformation in its long history. If current trends continue, America will be majority minority in my lifetime or soon thereafter. In a single lifetime we will have gone from a country made up largely of white Europeans to one that looks much more like the rest of the world.

If Senator Obama becomes the Democratic nominee this profound change will become something we all begin to discuss openly. Today the nation is having a big conversation about this change - whether it understands it or not - through our ongoing debate over immigration. While this debate has seen some of the most awful racist rhetoric and imagery since the days of Willie Horton, what should leave us all optimistic is that only 15 percent of the country is truly alarmed about the new wave of immigrants arriving in America. Consistently about 60 percent of the country says we need to leave all the undocumenteds here, indicating a pragmatic acceptance of the changes happening around our people and their families. Once again the uncommon wisdom of the common people appears to be prevailing here, and it is my hope, perhaps my prayer, that if Obama is the nominee American can begin to have a healthy and constructive discussion of our new population rather than what we have seen to date.

Given our nation's shameful racial history, building a national narrative, and a politics, around these powerful new demographic realities is one of the most urgent governing challenges facing our nation's leaders at the dawn of this new century. As the nation changes, and becomes more "intolerant of intolerance," there simply is no way to lead this new America, at this time, in this century, without getting this defining development of our day right.

NDN has been at the forefront these past 3 years in pushing back on manifestations of the anarchronistic - and morally unacceptable - politics of racial resentment that defined American politics in the latter half of the 20th century, the era of the Southern Strategy. And I am proud of that to no end. But now the end of the conservative ascendency in 2006, the current debate over immigration, the emergence of the Democrat's historically diverse field in 2008 is giving the country a chance to redefine our national conversation about race, to move beyond an era of racism to an era that celebrates and embraces our diversity, and lives up to that powerful American prayer of "e pluribus unum."

As I wrote in my Obama and Race essay, redefining race is a prerequisite for any post-Southern Strategy progressive majority. Moving beyond an era of racial resentment is not just the right thing to do, but as I argue it is a necessity for progressives if they hope to build a durable governing majority in this much more racially diverse - and much more tolerant - America of the 21st century. Which is why the mixed signals on race and tolerance coming from the Clinton campaign is not just morally questionable, but also dangerous for the long-term interests of the progressive movement itself.

This is the challenge and moment Senator Obama faces today. To talk about what is universal rather than specific, to embrace the inspirational principles on which this great nation was founded, to help the nation move beyond a shameful period in its history, to make it clear that he believes that as a nation, and as a world that "we are all in this together." Let us hope that he seizes this important moment and helps usher in a new and better politics for our nation.

Update: The speech was simply amazing. Read it here. We will have video links in a bit. I remain deeply proud of Barack Obama, his courage, his eloquence and his abiding faith in us and this great nation.

Update II: Video of the speech is below:

America and race, 2008

Lots of news this Sunday morning, but we zero in on two important pieces - Frank Rich's Sunday column and a major Carolyn Lochhead essay in the SF Chronicle. Both take a look at theme we've written about a great deal - how our changing demography and Barack Obama's candidacy is starting a very important conversation about the changing nature of race in 21st century America.

From Lochhead's excellent article:

It seems odd that during a time of war and terrorism, a mortgage crisis, health care worries and a teetering economy, that race would assert itself. Last summer, the Democratic contest seemed destined to focus on Iraq. Instead, it has become a lesson in demography.

With few domestic policy differences separating Clinton and Obama, the patterns that have emerged revolve around age, income, education and the ethnic and racial composition of various voting blocs. Clinton has drawn her highest support from white women, Latinos, seniors and lower-income workers. Obama's inroads among each of those groups in Virginia recast the contest and now threaten Clinton's last hopes in Texas and Ohio on March 4.

"That race has become an issue in 2008 should come as no surprise in light of enormous immigration-driven population changes," said Simon Rosenberg...

"The country is undergoing its most profound demographic change in its history," Rosenberg said. "When I was born, the country was 89 percent white and 10.5 percent African American and 0.5 percent 'other.' Today, it's 66 percent white and 33 percent minority. We've seen a tripling of the minority population in the United States in a very short period of time."

Race began percolating as an issue most recently with the 2005 immigration debate, he said, and continued in that guise through the early GOP primaries, where he contends Republicans "demonized" Latinos. "For any civil society, that kind of transition is going to be hard."

Thanks to the fast-growing Latino vote, many analysts believe 2008 will be the year when a presidential election will be decided for the first time by minorities. Some contend that milestone was already passed when President Bush drew more than 40 percent of Latino voters in 2004, providing his victory margins in closely contested Southwestern states...

Frank Rich's op-ed covers similar terrain but in his typical penetrating fashion, talking about the GOP's embrace of its race-based Southern Strategy and this year's all white, very 20th century Presidential field. In the piece he refers to a new book, Millennial Makeover, by our good friend Morley Winograd, who is the one who introduced NDN and NPI to the importance of the coming Millennial generation.

For more on this whole subject of the changing demographics of America, come see Morley and his partner Mike Hais at our upcoming forum, A Moment of Transformation?, in Washington, DC on March 12th. It is free, open to the public and will be full of big ideas and powerful leaders. I hope you will join us.

You can find more on our thinking about our changing people in our recent magazine piece, The 50 Year Strategy, in our recent report Hispanics Rising and in a new essay, On Obama, Race and the End of the Southern Strategy and in our recent study, The Progressive Politics of the Millennial Generation.

And I will be talking directly about all this at a public NDN forum on the 2008 elections this Wednesday, Feb 20th, in Washington, DC. This one begins at 12:30pm, is open to the public and also features the ever interesting Joe Trippi and Amy Walter, the editor in chief of the Hotline. I hope you will join us for this one too.

NPR's Juan Williams on Race in the Presidential Race

A lot has been made of the "race card" since the New Hampshire primary and who said what first or when and what they "really" (or not) meant by it, and the back and forth between the campaigns, their surrogates and the pundits on this issue... but this morning National Public Radio's Juan Williams gave an interesting analysis.  To listen, click here.

The campaigns go national, onward to Nevada and South Carolina

After snowy Iowa and New Hampshire the Presidential campaign has gone national, adding states like Florida, Michigan, Nevada and South Carolina and then the unprecedented Super primary on February 5th.

On the Democratic side we are seeing the first year of a new nominating calendar which was designed to involve two regions - the South and the West - and two groups - African-Americans and Hispanic - to the traditional Iowa and New Hampshire Midwest, Northeast and largely white mix.

The idea of broadening this primary calendar to include these 2 new regions and 2 important communities was something I championed in my race for DNC Chair in 2005. Of all the candidates running I was the only one who was willing to challenge the old system, a system that only once had produced a Democratic candidate who received more than 50 percent of the vote in the general election (Carter 1976), and which was simply not representative of the nation America had become. I was very pleased when the DNC adopted a plan very similar to mine in the spring of 2005, which choose Nevada and South Carolina as the representatives states of these regions.

Embracing these regions and voters is particularly important to Democrats, the much more diverse party of the two political parties. In 2008 minority voters will make up perhaps 25% of all those who vote, and may be as much as 40% of those who vote Democratic in 2008. While it may be another 40 years before the nation becomes majority "minority," the Democratic Party is likely to become a majority minority Party within the next ten years or so as the African-American, Hispanic and Asian populations grow in the US and remain largely Democratic. Given the way the Electoral College has played out in recent elections, the Democrat's new emphasis on Hispanics and the heavily Hispanic states of AZ, CO, FL, NM and NV could alone swing the Presidential race to the Democrats in 2008 (see our recent magazine article "The 50 Year Strategy" for more on this).

As I wrote the other day helping our people embrace this new much more diverse America of the 21st century - and other emerging demographic realities like the rise of Millennials and the movement of the population to the South and West - is one of the modern progressive movements most urgent strategic challenges. By adopting this new map, by the historic diversity of the Presidential field, by the emergence of a Western-based Congressional leadership and the placement of their convention in Denver this year, it is clear that the Democrats are increasingly becoming a party built around the emerging demographic realities of 21st century America.

Vist here for a new NDN Backgrounder on Nevada, Immigration and Hispanics, here for an excellent Dan Balz overview of the upcoming Super Duper Tuesday in the Washington Post today and see below from on the ground reports from NDN staffers Joe Garcia and Travis Valentine from Nevada. This more national orientation should be on full display tonight in the Democratic debate from Las Vegas.

Reflections on a remarkable campaign

It was this week I think that the campaign of 2008 no longer became like some other year, or the candidates like some previous presidential aspirant. After the remarkable comebacks, the rise of Obama and Huckabee, the new and very different calendar, the replacement of burgers with tacos, this race has now officially just come the Presidential campaign of 2008, unique, unlike any other. And it is a quite a campaign.

Building on two previous posts (here and here) I offer my latest take, long, and occassionally cogent:

We are entering a very different stage of the campaign where free media and the reach of the campaign’s supporters will matter much more. There are 3 stages to this year’s primary campaign. Stage 1 is all the states prior to Feb 5th, where voters will see a great deal of candidate time, paid advertising and field-based voter contact. These voters had a great deal of information about the candidates to make up their minds.

Stage 2 will be what amounts to a national primary, where 23 states, some big ones, vote. The campaign will move from a target audience of a million or so voters to a target of tens of millions. Despite the large amounts of money raised by the Democrats, these voters will be voting with much less information. Few will have seen the candidates live, few will have seen a substantial amount of paid media, and the field operations of the campaigns simply cannot touch all these voters in a meaningful way. Voters will be increasingly dependent on the talk in the free media (the press, blogs etc), the debates and contact from trusted friends and colleagues to help them make up their minds. Stage 3 will be the states that come after Super Duper Tuesday, and will take shape only after the enormous vote on Feb 5th.

This means several things. First what happens in Nevada and South Carolina will matter much more than the delegate count. If Obama sweeps in both states he will get a tremendous lift, a lift big enough to potentially give him the nomination. And since he is expected to win in South Carolina, the coming fight for Nevada is going to be very consequential. Which helps explain why the Clinton camp has taken the desperate tact of challenging the Caucus system Nevada has established and approved by the DNC. This move could end up truly blowing up in their faces as it will likely motivate their opponents in Nevada, anger Nevada voters, increasingly turn the labor movement against them and re-evoke the worst of the angry imperial face the Clintons have occasionally shown throughout the campaign.

Second, as the campaign goes national and voters have less information to make their decisions, the vast networks established by Obama and Clinton will become much more central to their campaigns. Much attention has gone to the amount of money raised by the campaigns, but now each of them will be turning to these unprecedented in size networks to engage their friends and colleagues across the country in the campaign. I am already getting in my personal inbox more passionate appeals for and against candidates than any time I can remember. And imagine what will happen if the 1m or so people in Obama’s network all reach out several times to everyone in their own social networks – that 1m could reach 15-20m more. Most studies show that personal contact from a friend, relative or trusted colleague is the most persuasive form of all voter contact. That’s why one data point to track closely in the next few weeks is not only how much money each campaign is raising but how many new people are either giving up or signing up. Which is also why the endorsement of someone like John Kerry, or an organization like Emily’s List, with a very active list of supporters nationally, matters so much more than it used too.

Third, despite’s Barack’s possible sweep of NV and SC, this scenario favors Hillary. Call it the politician we know scenario. Whatever they think of Hillary the voters in the Feb 5th states know Hillary. She has been vetted. She has been around. Her husband has become essentially a running mate, and will allow her campaign to hit twice as many media markets each day. Barack is still unknown to so many, and for all the reasons described above, few voters in the Feb 5th states will be able to directly connect with his charisma and magic as they have in these early states. He has fewer tools to fill in the information gap voters have about him, which why for him winning NV and SC becomes so important. For the Obama world they should be very worried about voters on Feb 5th just deciding to go with the politician they know rather than the one they don’t.

Two new national polls tonight capture both the opportunity and challenge Barack now facing Barack. A Post/ABC Poll has it 42 Clinton, 37 Obama, showing a 25% point gain for Barack over the last few weeks, indicating what could happen if he wins NV and SC. But another poll, a NYTimes/CBS Poll, has it 42 Clinton 27 Obama, largely unchanged since their last poll. This 2nd poll reminds us how hard it is going to be for Barack to fill in the gaps with voters in this coming national primary in just a few weeks time, at the same time the Clinton assault against Barack is growing more pointed, and I think effective.

Hillary’s overall strategy is formidable. The campaign appears to be bearing down on women, Democrats struggling harder to get ahead and Hispanics. Her Hispanic campaign got a boost this week as Sec. Henry Cisneros joined her campaign, and she did very good events Hispanic events in East Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Women were, remarkably, 57 percent of the Democratic vote in both IA and NH. And her laser-like focus on the economy produced for her in New Hampshire as she won this issue – the most important in the campaign today – nine points. Her quick roll out of a credible stimulus plan this week was dexterous, and allows her to maintain the upper hand on this defining issue. In the new Post poll, which had the race close, Clinton leads Obama on the economy by a whopping 13 points.

Obama’s lack of significant engagement on economic issues these past few weeks has to be one of the biggest strategic mysteries of the campaign so far. Obama’s post-partisan positioning, and the absence of a serious campaign in the Hispanic community, will be more challenging for him in the many Feb 5th states with large numbers of Hispanic voters and Democratic-only voters. In the coming days I expect to see Obama toughen up his language on Bush, promote his wife and other female surrogates, emphasize the economy more and significantly ramp up his Hispanic campaign, including letting the very talented Jimmy Learned (his Hispanic media advisor) do his thing.

I thought Senator Clinton was very good on Meet the Press today, and certainly seems to have regained her stride.

The Obama campaign has shown remarkable political strength. Much more than a speech, the Obama campaign now has to be considered one the most impressive Presidential campaigns ever put together. Imagine that this man, African-American, young, unknown to most Americans a year ago, has raised more money and has more donors and more supporters than Hillary Clinton. He won the Iowa Caucus handily, and came within a few thousand votes of also winning New Hampshire, a place steeped in Clinton lore.

The campaign has earned the endorsement of 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry, respected Senator Bill Bradley, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, influential Congressman George Miller and the governors or Senators of the tough, swing states of Arizona, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Virginia. In New Hampshire both Democratic members of Congress supported Barack. And just this week he earned the support of a very powerful set of unions in Nevada, a truly impressive political feat.

If Romney beats McCain in Michigan this week, it could slow the McCain momentum, once again exposing the weakness in their field, but also leaving more independents open for Barack in those states where independents can vote on Feb 5th. The strength Barack has shown throughout this campaign – and particularly these tough days after New Hampshire – increasingly leads me to believe this race could decided after Feb 5th, with two very strong, well funded and competent campaigns going at it till the very end.

I don’t think we saw a Bradley-Wilder effect in NH. The thesis simply doesn’t fit the facts. First, Barack’s vote percentage didn’t drop from the polls leading up the vote. Hillary gained. Thus no one lied about supporting Barack. Second, Barack won men 42-30. This means the Bradley-Wilder effect would have only worked with white women not white men. How exactly would that have worked?

A much more plausible explanation is that women surged for Hillary (something aided by the many moms home that day taking care of their kids – many public schools were closed that day to allow the voting to take place). John Judis makes a similar argument here.

And let me join the chorus of voices expressing their disappointment at both the public and quiet whispering campaign of the Clinton world about Obama’s race, family history and religion. For the Clintons, who ran on healing the racial divide in 1992, I hope we hear no more of secular madrassas, adopted Christianity, shuck and jive, urban drug use or the incredible claim that it is Barack’s campaign fanning the racial fires in America today. The Clintons may want to win this thing but if they do it by continuing to stumble all over Barack’s race and heritage, particularly right before we head to states with heavy Hispanic and African-American populations, they may have a very hard time putting their party back together at the end of the day.

Mark Leibovich of the Times has a very good piece today looking at the history making campaigns of both Clinton and Obama, and the legacy of both the women's rights and civil rights movements. And while we have much to be proud of with their candidacies - and the candidacy of Bill Richardson - the difficulty of the conversation about Barack's candidacy and the role of race reminds all of us how just important the Obama campaign is for the much more racially diverse America of the 21st century.

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