Monday, September 10, 2007

Univision Debate Last Night; First Ever for Latino Voters

In a first time ever nationally televised debate broadcast to an Hispanic audience, the Hispanic channel Univision compromised with a field of presidential campaign managers and advisers who insisted that the debates exclude the use of Spanish, accepting a rule designed to nullify the cultural appeal of bilingual candidates. Governor Bill Richardson and Senator Chris Dodd, both fluent in Spanish, were said to have surrendered the most ground because of it, but the compromise insured the participation of those who are not bilingual. Thus, a complete forum was achieved, but the controversy lingers among cultural hard-liners; although, it seems to be diminishing quickly in the interest of moving on. [Okay, so the photo is from St. Anselm's and not Univision but it free on Flickr and there's nothing up yet from last night's debate.]

The AP reported from Coral Gables, Florida:
"I'm disappointed today that 43 million Latinos in this country, for them not to hear one of their own speak Spanish, is unfortunate," said Richardson, the governor of New Mexico. "In other words, Univision is promoting English-only in this debate."

Dodd, who served in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic, also speaks Spanish fluently. He called for more U.S. engagement with Latin America, including a lifting of trade embargo against Cuba. "We're allowing a Hugo Chavez to win a public relations effort in Latin America because we don't invest enough in Latin America," he said.

Former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel boasted that he's also bilingual -- in French. "I honor everyone who comes to this country as an immigrant because we are all immigrants."

Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich said he would make Spanish a second national language, but no leading candidate was willing to go that far.
From our own Progressive perspective, the remarks of Senator Chris Dodd were significant. His call for investment in Latin America is the first hint from any of the candidates that an alternative to building fences exists to address Mexico's economic related emigration phenomenon.

Reminiscent of John F. Kennedy's "Alliance for Progress," announced in 1961 and proffered by the late-great Texas journalist Molly Ivins [as well as the Progressive bloggers in West Texas], Senator Dodd's inferred -- if not implied -- challenge to address the cause rather than the symptom was perhaps not as clarion as preferred; but at least it was a nod, if only a quiet allusion to true progress to all parties interested in making real progress on immigration and getting beyond the race bating that is the current context for discussions on reform.
The candidates were asked why they supported a wall along the Mexican border -- and not a similar fence along the U.S.-Canadian border -- a question that seemed to catch them somewhat off-guard. Most avoided answering directly, saying simply that they believed security was a key part of comprehensive immigration reform.
Thus far in the campaign, Governor Richardson seems the most sure footed of all the candidates in promoting border security (without wasting capital and political resources on fences) as the place to begin. He even has shown his hand early in favoring some type of migrant worker program that could lead to citizenship for them. But so far he hasn't dared to take the step that Senator Dodd appeared to have last night in his tentatively implied forwarding of a fair trade policy that hints at the renegotiation of the Clinton negotiated NAFTA treaty, a treaty that has served the neoconservative-Corporatist designs for exploitation in Mexico and Latin America while exacerbating the immigration problem. At least, among political hacks, a fair trade alliance is the most recently established context for such allusions to renegotiations.

Richardson's reticence in this area may represent an early campaign strategy emphasizing caution -- perhaps there is a political wisdom in placating those in the middle who fear a renewed progressive policy which echoes the long-term reaching-out of the Kennedy years, a program many believe would be too expensive.

Of course, any such proposal from the Progressive wing would invite discussion concerning the extent of government participation in partnership with private investment. Notwithstanding the nervousness of some given this context, we should brook no such argument of fiscal restraint from the neoconservative right after they have poured so much into an unnecessary war with Iraq in the interest of establishing "the economic independence of Israel," as their Policy for a New American Century touts.

Neither should a renegotiated economic alliance with our southern neighbors involve another attempt like NAFTA to hoodwink or bribe the leaders of our trading partners as well as labor union leader in the U.S. These shenanigans in Central America -- including diplomatically expressed economic threats -- were turned down flatly when presented in the form of a South American Free Trade Agreement. Naturally, as we have come to expect in response to the Bush Administration, when South American countries walked away laughing in our faces, it so angered our shamelessly neoconservative negotiators that they increased the level of threats and name-calling, especially against Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, to whom Sen. Dodd made reference in last night's debate, revealing his ignorance of the part the Bush Administration has played in driving him even more leftward.

This Corporatist American arrogance reveals yet another example -- in addition to our behavior in the Middle East -- of the one-sided, ethnocentric, amoral and imperialistic thinking of this neoconservative cabal of pork-pie-chasing oligarchs who want to piss on the people of Latin America and expect them to call it rain. When the astute, socialist leaning leaders of Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Ecuador, Chile, and Bolivia turned them away, their mouths stood agape "like Death standing in the corner sucking on a LifeSaver," as the Texas colloquialism goes.

Perhaps the editors here at TAMFR are making an unfounded assumption. Perhaps Dodd's allusion was unintentional. At any rate we want more clarification from both Dodd and Richardson, for it is clear that Clinton offers the neoconservative status quo of NAFTA as a concession to middle-of-the-roaders like her life-partner, formerly known along with the likes of Sen. Lieberman as "New Democrats," but now labeled "Blue Democrats."

John Edwards is clearly not an intellectual capable of researching and posing solutions on his own. Like most politicians, he can only respond politically along the recommended lines of his handlers. Even JFK depended to some extent on the brilliance of Sorenson. Not to denigrate Edwards unfairly, it must be noted that George Bush never even knew what his handlers were talking about -- he was known, in crucial political situations, to simply repeat what he heard in his earpiece. Who knows, maybe that is what Elizabeth's role will become.

The AP went on to report that John McCain, Republican senator from the border state of Arizona, is the only GOP candidate who has responded to the invitation to debate before a Latino audience.


NEXT WEEK'S FEATURE STORY:
Julio
[photo on the left], an Illegal Immigrant from a well known border state in northern Mexico south of Presidio on the Rio Grande, crosses the International Bridge at Ojinaga in broad daylight in order to "do a job in Texas." When apprehended by U.S. border police, the illegal alien insisted that he was absolutely not a "terrier" but a "Chihuahuan Citizen with rights just like anyone else."

-progress

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