Ethnic Politicking in El Paso

By James R. Edwards, Jr. on May 15, 2011

Many commentators and observers, including myself, have analyzed President Obama's El Paso immigration speech this week. In this blog, I want to look at it in political, rather than policy, terms. I mean legislative politics vis-a-vis electoral politics.

My take: This has everything to do with Obama's reelection, particularly his standing with Latino voters and activating their participation, in the campaign and at the polls. The "red meat" talk of "immigration reform," mass amnesty, the DREAM Act amnesty, etc. is similar to when Republican candidates make the obligatory genuflection about protecting unborn babies. They have little intention of expending political capital to effect such policies. Those politicians are just tickling the ears of specific segments of their political base in order to motivate their getting out and voting for them.

Among the best analysis of the El Paso speech came in the column by the Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer. It was headlined, "Demagoguery 101." Krauthammer wrote:

This impugning of motives is an Obama constant. "They" play politics with deficit reduction, with government shutdowns, with health care. And now immigration. It is ironic that such a charge should be made in a speech that is nothing but politics. There is zero chance of any immigration legislation passing Congress in the next two years. El Paso was simply an attempt to gin up the Hispanic vote as part of an openly political two-city, three-event campaign swing in preparation for 2012.

Accordingly, the El Paso speech featured two other staples: the breathtaking invention and the statistical sleight of hand.

Sen. McCain's former chief of staff wrote on how Obama wasn't serious about any immigration legislation, but was merely playing to Latinos with electoral politics foremost in mind. Mark Salter said, "To be clear, he did not go to El Paso to encourage Congress to pass reform legislation, the purpose he claimed in his remarks. On the contrary, his very partisan speech castigating Republicans for their continued insistence on improved border security in advance of other reforms almost certainly made that task harder, not easier, to achieve, as he surely knew it would."

This observation is absolutely on the money. Combining the insults, jeering, baiting, and utter divisiveness contained in Obama's remarks, his speech served as a slap on the face of everyone, in Congress and among the American people, who don't agree with mass amnesty and massively more legal immigration. He hardly offered a hand across the aisle. Neither did he even show any respect for those who disagree with him on these issues. Obama threw salt, not salve, in old political wounds.

Another piece on RCP – rather lame in its analysis, buying too much spin from politicos – at least reported what the Obama team is doing to shore up its Latino Left for purely political purposes. "Political realities prompted President Obama and his team to lavish time and attention this week on Latinos – during a speech about immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, a prayer breakfast in Washington, interviews with Hispanic media, and White House conference calls to Hispanic elites and online entreaties – a full 19 months before Election Day." And don't forget Obama's widely publicized visit with the lovely Hispanic star of TV's "Desperate Housewives" to chat about immigration.

In addition to the panderama, the White House closely coordinated lobbying efforts by an array of ethnic identity groups last week while Obama pitched mass amnesty at the Texas border. Representatives from these organizations hit Capitol Hill to push the DREAM Act amnesty and "comprehensive immigration reform." These wide-eyed people got played big-time. They seem to have believed they were actually getting legislative cooperation from the Obama White House, that the president really, truly intends to invest what political capital he has left on immigration – instead of raising the debt limit, protecting his party's pet programs from budget knives, and a few other big-ticket items. There's that whole high unemployment rate, growing trade deficit, and Obamacare implementation. These all take higher priority than pushing immigration legislation.

The Obama team used the identity politics practitioners, made them actually believe that Obama really wants congressional action on the various amnesties, and that he'll invest political capital to achieve it. Not a chance. The Obamaites even sent these sheep into the offices of anti-amnesty Republican lawmakers, who have endured the abuses, cheap shots, and below-the-belt Saul Alinsky tactics of these very same groups – who, like Obama in his speech, have employed name-calling, making personal attacks, and viciously questioning the motives of their opponents.

Another commentator captured the reality for Obama's pivot to immigration: "Latinos are imperative to presidents when running for office, less so when in it. Now, in the middle of the most consequential fiscal debate the nation has faced in memory, the administration shifts to immigration reform? We can guess why." Indeed. The big speech, the prayer breakfast, the lobbying exercise in futility were all designed for political payoff for Obama and Obama alone.

The Hispanic elites aren't stupid people; however, they are emotionally invested in both their cause and this administration. Their ideology has them locked in, and their emotions have blinded them and impaired their judgment. They possess the same pathetic mentality as self-appointed black leaders who disregard any conservative black, who doesn't buy the racial or ethnic party line, as less than human and certainly not a member of their race.

Were Obama or the Latino elites serious about achieving a legislative solution on immigration, they'd stop trying to sell the same old rejected package that McCain, Bush, Kennedy, et al. tried to cram down the American people's throats. They show no willingness to negotiate an honest-to-goodness compromise, involving CIS and other immigration-control leaders.

In short, the old community organizer is up to his old tricks. He's out hustling people, preying upon their grievances and prejudices, playing con games with their emotional weaknesses and blind spots. It's politics at its basest, all cynicism and zero sincerity.