Why Obama's 'number one priority' is immigration reform and not civil rights
I do not usually agree with “conservative” political huckster and professional gadfly Ann Coulter, and I have never quoted her approvingly. But, as the old adage goes, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Recall that during an appearance on ABC’s This Week at the height of the presidential campaign, Coulter made what were then considered outrageous observations regarding the politics of immigration reform and the Latino vote: “Democrats are dropping the blacks and moving on to the Hispanics.” She also noted that immigrant rights should not be considered civil rights.
Coulter’s comments come to mind because, just as she predicted, President Barack Obama has declared that his “number one priority” and the first item on his political agenda for his second term is immigrant rights. For Obama in particular and Democrats generally, Hispanics are the “new Negroes” of the American political landscape. Blacks are solidly and unshakably Democratic, and can therefore be ignored by the party and the president without any serious consequences. Not so for Hispanics.
“That’s why the Democrats are dropping the blacks and moving on to the Hispanics, because they’re a larger group of Hispanics now,” says Coulter.
Indeed, in her new book, Mugged: Racial Demagoguery From the Seventies to Obama, Coulter charges that the entire political left—from feminists to gay-rights groups to those defending immigrants—has, over time, actually commandeered and co-opted the tactics and strategies of the black civil rights movement and used them as a template to chart and further its own fight against the powers that be. Madam Coulter, in her ABC appearance, continued:
“I think what—the way liberals have treated blacks like children and many of their policies have been harmful to blacks, at least they got the beneficiary group right. There is the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow laws. We don’t owe the homeless. We don’t owe feminists. We don’t owe women who are desirous of having abortions, but that’s—or—or gays who want to get married to one another. That’s what civil rights has become for much of the left.”
She was asked if immigrant rights aren't also civil rights. She answered, “No. I think civil rights are for blacks … What have we done to the immigrants? We owe black people something. We have a legacy of slavery. Immigrants haven’t even been in this country.”
Again, it is not easy for me to agree with Ann Coulter. But the truth is still true no matter from where or whom it comes.
Look, in real terms, black people gave both a higher percentage (95-plus versus 70-plus) and higher raw numbers of their votes to Obama and the Democrats this past election than did Hispanics. So why isn’t the elimination of racial discrimination against black people Obama’s number one priority? Why isn’t the rebuilding of urban schools his number one priority? Why isn’t ending the war on drugs (read: war on young black males) his number one priority? Or, why isn’t the incessant roundup and mass incarceration of black people his number one priority?
I think Coulter, along with some black thinkers, activists and writers, has got this one right. It is simply, plainly more politically expedient to go after Hispanic voters who might waver toward Republicans at the drop of a Mexican hat than it is to court a group that is in, and will stay in, your corner no matter what.
That means, of course, that for Obama and the Democratic Party there is no political downside to dissing black people while currying to brown people.
Beginning in the 1960s and '70s there were serious attempts by both black and brown people to unite as a single political force in order to confront the entrenched white power structure. Those efforts have dissipated as the Hispanic population has grown larger and larger, while black people’s numbers have remained stagnant or decreased. Today’s political leaders, beginning with President Obama, have taken note of this demographic shift and are acting accordingly.