Politico's Advice Regarding Wooing Hispanics, Part I: Pander to Their Narrow Self- Interest

By Stanley Renshon and Stanley Renshon on November 9, 2010

Every once in a while an immigration news story comes along that is just so bad, that there is no other word to describe it but awful. Regretfully that is a case with a story on the role of "Hispanics" in the just concluded 2010 elections. The Politico story is entitled "Hispanic vote a 2012 wild card" and is written in part by the ordinarily sensible journalist Ben Smith.

The premise of the story is contained in its title and more specific the view that "Hispanics" are now a "wild card." A wild card is defined as "an unknown or unpredictable factor" and the story's premise is that "Hispanics" have emerged from the 2010 election as such an electoral factor for the 2012 presidential race.

Why? Well, it can't be that this group's political leanings were hard to discern in the 2010 election. The authors dramatically announce that "Hispanic voters saved the Democratic Party Tuesday." And how did they do that? Well by "buoying Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, keeping California blue, playing an outsized role in preserving the party's Senate majority …"

But wait! If "Hispanics" did all this for the Democrats how is it possible to say they are a "wild card" for the 2012 election? Well, you see, it's because "Hispanics" demonstrated, "a partisan loyalty Democrats didn't exactly earn in two years of inaction on immigration policy."

Did Politico have an particular immigration policy in mind? Yes, it did. The article notes that "Democrats face open demands from Hispanic leaders for a reward for their votes." And what kinds of demands would they be? Well, according to Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the only source on that question quoted, "President Barack Obama could erect a Western bulwark for his reelection campaign," he was paraphrased as saying, "by pressing for broad immigration reform in the lame-duck session."

So, according to Politico's analysis, "Hispanics" saved the "Democratic Party" on Tuesday, demonstrating a loyalty to that party the Democrats didn't earn "in two years of inaction on immigration policy" (a/k/a "comprehensive immigration reform," whose major core is the legalization of the 10-12 million people now living and working in this country in violation of our immigration laws). But not to worry. Democrats can presumably earn the advanced payment given to them this past week by bypassing normal procedures for major legislation by pushed it through in a lame-duck session of Congress.

Americans of all parties were, of course, very impressed with the procedural contortions used to pass the president's health care plan and would not doubt be pleased with yet another example of the presidents and his Democratic allies' total disregard of their wishes.

Worse, the article, perhaps inadvertently, also paints "Hispanics" as narrow, selfish cynics. Education? Jobs? Perhaps even American's role in the world?

Nope. Not interested. The "Hispanics" presented in this article have one and only one interest. Legalization of the millions of undocumented immigrants now living here and an open pipeline for future "Hispanic" immigration.

It is always been somewhat of a mystery why "Hispanics" would support the arrival of millions of illegal immigrants with low levels of education while many legal Hispanic legal immigrants are struggling economically to gain and retain a foothold in American society. A recent report from Pew suggests that legal immigrants are losing economic ground to newer, in many cases undocumented, immigrants.

But perhaps culture of origin trumps economics. "Hispanics" may want their group to be able to have aunts, uncles, married children, and others legalized so that they too can make use of family preferences – other groups and other possible national immigration interests be dammed.

That's the implicit narrative of a story like this. It presents "Hispanics" on this issue as essentially selfish and single-minded in the pursuit of that selfishness.

But I doubt very much this narrative is accurate. As any immigration researcher knows, "Hispanic" is a made-in-America term, not one that persons from the various countries and cultures that make up the category use. They do not all think alike, regardless of what the Robert Menendezes of the world would have us believe.

Moreover, I know of no political official who has directly and forthrightly raised the issue of fairness and appropriateness of the singular concerns with the gains of one group, with little consideration of its effects on others that "Hispanics" are presented as having, ironically by those who say they represent them.

Americans, and this includes "Hispanics," are fair people and it would be very hard to sustain the view that "our people" ought to have a primary role in immigration policy, almost to the extent of exclusivity.

That is, if anyone had the courage to make that argument.

Next: Politico's Advice Regarding Wooing Hispanics, Part II: Tokenism