The Dying Gasps of Nativism

Here's the latest video from Chase Whiteside and Erick Stoll of New Left Media interviewing attendees at Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor rally held this past Saturday in Washington. 

The sentiments being expressed are really no different than say the ones that were expressed at this McCain/Palin rally (video at The Guardian) in Colorado Springs back in late October 2008. The Guardian, at the time, wrote of Palin's adoring crowd that day that "beneath the cheers and applause, there was a lingering mood of defeat - a sense that it was all over, and that as much as anything, this was a goodbye rally for the woman who just months ago had so energised social conservatives." There's no question that "lingering mood of defeat" on the right has over the past two years been further transformed into a Lernaean Hydra of ignorance, anger, bigotry, righteous indignation, fear, sheer stupidity and irrationality.

That these people sincerely hold the belief that Obama is a racist Muslim Socialist born in Kenya underscores the influence of the right-wing propagandist machine that is Fox News and the right-wing blogs. Today a "hydra-like problem" or "hydra" refers to a multifaceted problem that seems incapable of step-by-step solution, or to one that worsens upon conventional attempts to solve it, for example, attempts to suppress a particular piece of information resulting in it being disseminated even more widely.

And we clearly face a hydra-like problem when it comes to the right-wing echo chamber. Let's face it, they have more money and their own media empire, a purveyor of misinformation like no other on the planet. But as Hercules did slay the Lernaean Hydra, so too we will slay the multi-headed serpent that is the nativist right with the sword that is demographics.

Back in 1998 at a speech at Portland State University, President Clinton noted:

Today, largely because of immigration, there is no majority race in Hawaii or Houston or New York City. Within five years, there will be no majority race in our largest state, California. In a little more than 50 years, there will be no majority race in the United States. No other nation in history has gone through demographic change of this magnitude in so short a time ... [These immigrants] are energizing our culture and broadening our vision of the world. They are renewing our most basic values and reminding us all of what it truly means to be American.

Indeed in 2001, California, the nation's most populous state, joined New Mexico, Hawaii and the District of Columbia where non-Hispanic whites are also in the minority. And in 2005, Texas became the fourth state to have a non-white majority population. As of 2008, the percentage of non-Hispanic white residents has fallen below 60 percent in Maryland, Georgia, Nevada, Arizona, New York and Mississippi. 

In thinking about Arizona's anti-immigration SB 2281, my thoughts are that the law is really not much more than an pathetic attempt at ethnic cleansing, a last ditch effort to drive Hispanics from the state. According to a Brookings Institution report, Arizona's Hispanic population has shot up 180 percent in the last 20 years, with the white population dropping from 72 percent to 58 percent. Hispanics account for about one-third of the state's 6.6 million people, and 90 percent of Hispanics under age 18 were born in the US. Even if all immigration from Mexico were halted tomorrow, the high birthrate of this young population would continue Arizona's population boom and its demographic shift. Arizona will become majority-minority state by 2020.

According to the US Census Bureau, the dominance of non-Hispanic white people, who today account for two-thirds of Americans, will be whittled away, falling steadily to less than half in 2042 and just 46 percent by 2050. In the opposite trajectory, those who describe themselves as Hispanic, African-American, Asian and Native American will increase in proportion from about a third now to 54 percent by 2050.

Such a rapid demographical shift is in tune with trends that we have been seeing for quite some time, but it is happening much faster than experts had predicted 12 years ago when President Clinton gave his speech. When I hear Tea Baggers talk about "taking back their country," I can't help but think that what they really mean is reversing that demographical shift. I suspect as that demographical shift takes increasing hold we will continue to be subjected to the dying gasps of nativism but they are grasping at straws if they think that the demographic shift can be reversed.

It's game, set, match for the nativist right but whether the non-nativist right can make inroads into the growing Hispanic electorate will depend on whether they amend their vitriol on immigration issues. For Democrats, it is certainly a political imperative that we enact a comprehensive immigration reform and remain attuned to the social justice concerns of most Hispanics but more importantly, I think, we need to demonstrate that our basic values include tolerance and cultural pluralism. These are the values to which President Clinton was referring to back in 1998 and these are the values that will ultimately assign the nativist right to irrelevancy.

Tags: Right-Wing Extremism, Tea Party Movement, Glenn Beck, US Demographic Trends, nativism (all tags)



The Democrats big future problem is how to get these new immigrants to vote.

The majority is out there but presently it's only an abstraction, a statistic, if voting power is not derived from it. Apathy and feelings of powerlessness may just make what seems like an edge an insignificant number.

by MainStreet 2010-09-01 11:01AM | 0 recs

Anyone who can use the term "lernaean hydra" in a blog post deserves points! Good work Charles =)

by Trey Rentz 2010-09-01 11:26AM | 0 recs
"Ethnic Cleansing"? "Bigotry"? There you go again.

Even for you, tossing around words like "ethnic cleansing" and "bigotry" is a little bit melodramatic. And it is this kind of shrillness that, at least in the current election cycle, is driving the left into irrelevancy. Ethnic cleansing is variously defined in terms of murder, rape, and torture, and the forcible removal of populations. It has nothing to do with school textbooks/curriculums, which is what HB 2281 in Arizona seeks to address.

In one post, you've attempted to tar the right with words like "bigotry, fear, and stupidity".......I'd submit to you that this kind of silliness is one reason that things are looking so bad for the left as we approach the midterm elections. Gallup has the largest lead on the generic ballot (51-41%) for the Republicans in over 60 years.

Dynamic politicians like Marco Rubio are talking about hope, growth, and opportunity. I don't see "ignorance, anger, bigotry, etc......" in any of his speeches. Further, he doesn't get involved in targeting his message to specific demographic or ethnic groups. The strategy of "victimology" is a game played not by the right, but by the far left, and it's pretty condescending. Liberals see their target audience as a patchwork coalition of victims' groups, to whom they'll offer various entitlement programs and goodies---all in an effort to cement their loyalty. Center/right politicians simply see us all as Americans. 

It's funny: liberals are falling all over themselves to protect Muslims in the current debate over the Ground Zero Mosque, arguing that it's wrong to paint all Muslims with a broad brush based on the actions of a few despicable terrorists. Fair enough. But these same liberals have no problem doing the same thing to the Tea Party movement in this country: finding a few ugly signs and/or nut jobs at a march, and then using words like "bigotry" to define the entire political movement.


by BJJ Fighter 2010-09-01 12:39PM | 0 recs

First of all, the Tea Party gatherings you take note of always had more than just a "few ugly signs and/or nut jobs."  There is a reason, after all, that Beck told people to leave their signs at home for the weekend rally in Washington. He didn't want all those ugly, angry signs filling television screens, reminding voters just how extreme this far right group of the Republican party is -- though, of course, he could do nothing to paint over the fact that it was like Ivory soap: 99.99% pure white.

Second, if one examines the rhetoric of many of the spokespersons for the Tea Party and far Right, terms like bigot, racist, and xenophobe are not far off the mark. There is also a reason why Marco Rubio avoids using such language, while politicians in Arizona, Texas, and other states do not: he knows that if he goes along with targeting the Hispanic people so very much in the sights of the Arizona polls, he will turn off the expanding Hispanic population of his state of Florida, where the Cuban vote has long supported the Republican party, but the growing demographic of nonCuban Hispanics soon may eclipse the Cuban Hispanic part of the Florida electorate. Unlike in Arizona, Texas, and other Western states where the Mexican/Hispanic has been made into the bad "other," the voters of FL do not embrace this type of racist, bigoted politics. Rubio is an astute politician and very much aware of this, and that is why he refused to endorse the AZ law when so many other Republican politicians all around the country were onl too happy to jump on board that train.

Finally, the reason that Democrats are not doing so well (at least at this point in the election cycle) has nothing to do with them being viewed as bigoted or racist, but rather is directly related to the dire economic circumstances the nation finds itself in at present. Poll after poll shows that voters are even less impressed with the Republicans than they are with the Democrats, but as with long-standing historical norms, the party in power almost always loses seats in Congress during the mid-term elections, and that situation is always exacerbated by a weak ecnonomy.

If voters really were planning to punish Democrats for their "victimology" politics, this election would be much, much worse for Dems than it obviously is. But voters are confronted with voting out the party in power (standard history) when they are upset with the economy on the one hand, and voting in power the even more despised Republicans whom the voters know put this country in the ditch in the first place. That is why the so-called conventional wisdom which says Dems are in serious trouble is not so easily analysed, because so far during the primary elections, far more Republican incumbents (7 to date) have been turned out of office by voters than have Democrats.

I do believe that the Dems are going to have a bad election this November, but not because voters view THEM as bigots or racists (labels much more readily applied to Republican extremist candidates); rather, I think Dems will lose moreso because the Dem base is highly unhappy with Obama for not carrying out his campaign promises and for being too conservative in his governance of this nation. If the Dems were as excited about voting as the Republican reactionaries are, this would be a very, very different election. What remains to be seen is whether the divide in enthusiasm continues right up to the November election, or whether people really do begin to focus on the extremism of the Republicans and their lack of a new agenda to move the country forward (going back to the same policies that drove up the deficit by trillions, contracted economic growth over multiple fiscal quarters, and forced hundreds of thousands out of their homes to foreclosures would be repeated if Republicans regained power).

Nice try to attempt to put all the blame on Dems for the bigoted, racist, xenophobic language more typical of some of the far right candidates for office on the Republican/Tea Party tickets. Unfortunately, the truth is just much, much different.





by mcarnes 2010-09-01 01:59PM | 0 recs
RE: Really!?

Well, all that aside, we are still left with the Shiny Object Strategy being an abysmal failure eversince it was released. At some point, one hopes that the uselessness of this sort of strategy is revealed to have counter-electoral consequences than for what is hoped. Is that asking too much?

The party in power trying to demonize the insurgency (one which is decentralized and empowered through new media strategies)... when was the last time that worked?

Change the names to Moveon, Netroots, anti-war Democrats, hippies, and DKos, and you are living in 2006 with this sort of strategy on display by an incumbent party. The problem is, that its an admittance of failure from the start-- we haven't governed well so we can't run on our record... but they are worse because... (insert name-calling here).


by Jerome Armstrong 2010-09-01 03:20PM | 1 recs
RE: Really!?

Well you can argue calling moveon et all bad names didn't work in 2006, but then you'll have to explain why it worked in 2002 and 2004.

Clearly when it comes to politics something more fundamental is at work. 

by vecky 2010-09-01 04:50PM | 0 recs

Not many younger people in that crowd :-)  What do you think the average age of those who attended was?


by Airpower 2010-09-02 06:36PM | 0 recs


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