Racism isn't just the GOP
Ruben Navarrette: Anti-immigration Republicans are spoiling the Grand Old Party
Navarrette: Some Democrats say race is a reason for failure of immigration reform
He says racism isn't limited to one party; it never has been in history
Navarrette: There are anti-Latino elements in Democratic and Republican parties
Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the
Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette. The opinions expressed
in this commentary are solely those of the author.
(CNN) -- There are two groups of Republicans: Those who pander to nativists by encouraging anti-
Latino prejudice and exploiting the fear and anxiety that come from changing demographics, and
those who tolerate the first group.
Both groups are spoiling the Grand Old Party. And they're making life too easy for Democrats, who --
while never particularly good at addressing the needs and concerns of Latino voters -- have lately
excelled in the neglect department. The more Latinos are antagonized by Republicans, the more
they get ignored by Democrats.
Ain't that swell? The result for America's largest minority is a political paradox, where the media
insists this community has tremendous power while those of us within the community know the
opposite is true. We're not getting stronger. We're getting weaker.
Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Such is the misfortune of today's Latino voter, and it's the goal of Democrats to bring it up. When
you don't have much to offer, you cling to what little you have -- even if it's just a bumper sticker
slogan: "Vote Democrat. Because we're not as bad as Republicans."
Look at what happened with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Rep. Steve Israel,
D-New York, when he made remarks about Republicans and racism on CNN's "State of the Union"
And recently, Pelosi was asked by reporters if she thought race factors into how Republicans deal
with the Obama administration.
Pivoting to a hot topic, Pelosi responded: "I think race has something to do with the fact that they're
not bringing up an immigration bill."
First, that took chutzpah. This is the same Nancy Pelosi who, when she wielded the gavel from 2007
to 2009, deliberately kept immigration off the congressional agenda. This was no secret. Her top
lieutenant at the time, Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who talked openly about his reluctance to engage the
issue, went so far as to label immigration the "third rail" of American politics.
Did the Democrats' failure to bring up immigration during the two years they controlled both houses
of Congress also have http://www.crunchbase.com/company/youtube something to do with race?
It seems only fair to ask, given what Pelosi said about the GOP. The real reason Democrats put
immigration on the back burner wasn't racial but political. Labor leaders give lip service to backing
the idea of giving legal status to the undocumented, but the rank-and-file aren't sold. Democrats are
no more eager to divide their party than Republicans are to divide theirs.
Democrats benefit from Republican missteps. If the GOP acts as an obstacle, it saves the Democrats
from having to play the villain.
Pelosi is right about race -- or more precisely, ethnicity, since Latinos aren't a race -- having a lot to
do with why House Republicans won't bring up an immigration bill.
Since most immigrants to the United States, both http://money.howstuffworks.com/youtube.htm
legal and illegal, are now Latino, Republicans are afraid that -- whichever way the debate goes --
they'll be painted as "anti-Latino," which will lead to another beating at the ballot box. Besides, if
they restart the immigration debate, Republicans can count on someone in their party saying
something idiotic or incendiary that will turn off Latinos.
Then along comes Israel. When asked by reporters to comment on what Pelosi had said (notice how
helpful the liberal media can be in advancing the narrative that Republicans are hostile to
minorities), Israel said, "To a significant extent, the Republican base does have elements that are
animated by racism. And that's unfortunate."
Israel has a point. Many Americans approach the immigration debate by succumbing to racism. They
have for 250 years, starting when Benjamin Franklin railed against the Germans in the mid-1700s.
That's a ready made constituency. In the last 20 years, a faction of the GOP has stepped up to
service it. And whereas, a hundred years ago, the political pi?ata would have been the Irish or the
Italians, today it's the Latinos.
Yet, that's only half the story. Here's the rest: Racism isn't limited to one party. It never has been.
Today, you'll find anti-Latino elements of the Democratic Party. Democratic politicians are careful
not to say anything ugly. But rank-and-file Democratic voters are more uninhibited with their
comments. Travel the country, as I have, and you'll hear the same remarks from Democrats that you
hear from Republicans -- about how Latino immigrants are defiant, dangerous or deficient. This is
why you see resistance to legalizing the undocumented from normally liberal voters in the South,
Midwest and Northeast.
Listen up, Latinos. We don't have political power, and we're suffering through a litany of bad
choices. But there's a way to improve our lot, and it has nothing to do with demographics. We have
to avoid oversimplifying our predicament by blaming only Republicans for the poisonous mood of the
immigration debate. Over the years, leading up to the Obama administration's dubious record of
deporting 2 million people in five years, Democrats have done their share of damage.
Are racism and nativism part of the immigration debate? Of course they are. But the antidote to such
bigotry isn't tolerance or open-mindedness. It's respect. And there is only one way for Latinos to get
it, and that's by staying in play and making both parties compete for our votes.
That's not politics. It's common sense. And oftentimes, one doesn't have anything to do with the
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