Saturday, April 30, 2005

Arnold and immigration

Polls Push Governor to the Border

As his popularity wanes, Schwarzenegger revisits a Republican mainstay: illegal immigration.
By Robert Salladay
Times Staff Writer

April 30, 2005

SACRAMENTO — If Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's decision to speak out forcefully against illegal immigration seems familiar, it is. The governor is using a well-worn tactic to seize public attention amid plummeting approval ratings, analysts and others said Friday.

Speaking to reporters, Schwarzenegger on Friday likened the armed Minuteman group that has roamed the Arizona-Mexico border looking for illegal immigrants to a "neighborhood patrol" that has succeeded where the government failed. A day earlier, he called their work "fantastic" and chastised the Bush administration for failing to secure the border.

Schwarzenegger also had said Thursday that a Spanish-language billboard characterizing Los Angeles as a Mexican city was "divisive," a comment echoed by conservative groups. Last week, the governor said the U.S. should "close the borders" — a remark his staff said was imprecise and for which he later apologized.

The governor outraged Latino activists and his Democratic opponents with his comments, but he was treading an often effective path, analysts said. Republicans have used California's permeable border as political fodder for years. And Schwarzenegger was elected in 2003 after demanding that people in the state illegally not be issued driver's licenses.

"It wasn't just Republicans who were upset that [former Gov.] Gray Davis signed a bill granting licenses to illegal immigrants," said Elizabeth Garrett, director of the USC-Caltech Center for the Study of Law and Politics.

But by highlighting the Minuteman group this week, Garrett said, Schwarzenegger may have unnecessarily aligned himself with a fringe element and given Democratic opponents, already in political high dudgeon, another tool to use against him.Administration officials scoffed at suggestions that they had a calculated plan to buoy sinking poll numbers by attacking illegal immigration.

Schwarzenegger, they said, was simply addressing a controversial issue, billboards for KCRA-TV Channel 62 that show the words "Los Angeles, CA" with the "CA" crossed out to make the ads read "Los Angeles, Mexico."

When he made the comment praising the Minuteman group, he was responding to a question, as he was when he said earlier that the border should be closed.

Rob Stutzman, his communications director, cautioned against over-analyzing Schwarzenegger or his intentions. He said the governor remains committed to the multipart agenda he unveiled in January for changing state government.

"So any issue that he speaks on that may be popular to the public is somehow pandering to poll numbers?" Stutzman said. "That to me is an absurdity."

Schwarzenegger stood by his comments Friday: "I think the most important thing to note is I am a champion of immigrants," he said at a news conference. "I promote immigration. I am an immigrant myself. I think it's extremely important that we do it in a legal way."

He also said the federal government should step up patrols. "Their job is to secure the borders, and they have not done their job. And when the government — the state or the country — doesn't do its job, then the private citizens go out and it's like a neighborhood patrol."

Bruce Cain, director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, said the governor may well be speaking from the heart: Many legal immigrants are resentful of undocumented immigrants.

But Cain added a caveat: Many of Schwarzenegger's top advisors worked for former Gov. Pete Wilson, who rode the issue of illegal immigration in the mid-1990s by campaigning for Proposition 187, which denied state services to illegal immigrants but which was later overturned by courts.

"They have played this card before," Cain said. Focusing on immigration, Cain added, "probably gets people away from obsessing on his defeats. It's possible this is a conscious strategy, but I also believe this is true to his heart."

The polarizing debate over Proposition 187 has been blamed for sinking the Republican Party in California and allowing Democrats to dominate Sacramento — until Schwarzenegger came to power.

Assemblyman Dave Jones, a Sacramento Democrat and former advisor to former U.S. Atty. Gen. Janet Reno, said Friday that Schwarzenegger is invoking the border in a conscious effort to shore up his approval ratings — which have fallen 20 points since January — and distract Californians from his troubled policy agenda.

"That's the consistent theme here," Jones said. "There's a deliberate effort on his part — I think out of desperation with regard to what's happening to his poll numbers and public response to his initiatives — to shift the debate away from the things he's trying to do in California, because people are rejecting those things."

In January, Schwarzenegger unveiled a wide-ranging government overhaul that included merit pay for teachers, automatic curbs on the state budget, sweeping changes in the public pension system and a new way of determining voting districts. Under pressure from unions and Democrats, Schwarzenegger has retreated from or been pushed to compromise on each of the issues.

Schwarzenegger also is facing a Republican Party upset about repeated conciliations with Democrats on key issues and about the influence of liberals, such as his wife, Maria Shriver, over policy and the direction of the administration.

Schwarzenegger, political analysts said, can use the issue of immigration — one the public understands well — to get people in his party energized and on his side. One senior aide told the governor recently: "At least when you make a gaffe, make one that jumps you 10 points in the polls."

Indeed, it's not just conservatives who believe illegal immigration is a problem. A Los Angeles Times poll taken just before the 2003 recall election showed a majority of Californians disagreed with Davis' decision to allow illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses. The poll found 63% of likely voters disapproved of the law, including 68% of self-described moderates and 40% of Latinos

But Wayne Johnson, a longtime GOP political consultant, said he worried that Democrats could turn Schwarzenegger's remarks into a political liability by alienating Latino voters.

"I am personally an advocate for going overboard in making sure that everything we say and do recognizes the future of the Republican Party in California relies on Hispanic voters," Johnson said. "Who is buying the new cars? Hispanic surnames. Who is sending their kids to college? Hispanic surnames. Who is starting new businesses? Hispanic surnames."

Shaun Bowler, a professor and California government expert at UC Riverside, said the Republican Party is putting intense pressure on elected officials to turn more conservative on immigration because of the Minuteman Project and other groups. Schwarzenegger may be able to appease his fellow Republicans at small political cost, he said.

"You get various groups that will complain about this, but voters don't so much," Bowler said. "And so it's an easy shift in policy for him."

But on Friday, some of the most forceful criticism of Schwarzenegger's comments came from Latino officials and activists, who said he is out of step with most Californians and a political opportunist.

"I don't think the governor is a racist. I don't think Pete Wilson is a racist," said state Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres.

"I think they are encouraging scapegoating of people in this country for political purposes," Torres said, "and I think that is the lowest form of political behavior.",0,7929804.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Times staff writers Peter Nicholas and Andrew Wang contributed to this report.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

While Crucial Programs Starve

Fiddling While Crucial Programs Starve

Has the U.S. become like ancient Rome, in love with costly conquest?
Robert Scheer

April 26, 2005

Notice the price of gasoline lately? Isn't it great that we have secured Iraq's oil? And as Congress signs off on yet another huge supplementary grant to supposedly protect U.S. interests in the Mideast, our president pathetically begs his Saudi buddies for a price break. As the fall of Rome showed, imperialism never pays.

Of course, back in 2003, conquering Iraq looked like a great package deal, what with all that oil — second only to Saudi Arabia — and the manufactured photo ops of cheering Iraqis. So what if those pesky weapons of mass destruction weren't really there? So what if no solid links to Al Qaeda are ever found? This was a win-win, as the corporate guys like to say: Not only would we be able to conduct this operation for next to nothing, we would be welcomed with flowers.

"There is a lot of money to pay for this. It doesn't have to be U.S. taxpayer money," then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told Congress days before the war, in testimony on the potential costs of invading Iraq. "We are talking about a country that can finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon." In the real world, however, this turned out to be utter nonsense.

With approval of the latest spending bill, taxpayers will have been forced to cough up more than $300 billion for the war to date — above and beyond the annual $400-billion Pentagon budget — and tens of billions for a bungled reconstruction. Even if the United States can lower its troop commitment to 40,000 troops in Iraq by 2010, as some Pentagon strategists optimistically anticipate, the war could still end up costing U.S. taxpayers up to $646 billion by 2015, according to Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee. If insurgency, corruption and incompetence continue to plague the U.S. occupation as they have steadily for the last two years, however, the number could surge to a trillion dollars or more.

We need to put such gargantuan numbers in some perspective. The emergency funding that the Senate passed 99 to 0 last week gives the military roughly $80 billion and pays for the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan only through September. That is twice what President Bush insists he needs to cut from the federal support for Medicaid over the next decade.

Already the red state of Missouri is set to end its Medicaid program entirely within the next three years because of a lack of funds. As the Los Angeles Times reported, that will save the state $5 billion, but at the cost of ending healthcare for the more than 1 million Missourians enrolled in the program. That sum is less than half of what Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney's old company, alone has been paid for reconstruction efforts in Iraq, without much to show for it in terms of improving the Iraqis' quality of life.

Similarly, with roughly 10% of what we've spent in Iraq, we could make up the $27-billion federal funding shortfall in paying for Bush's controversial No Child Left Behind Act, which tells public schools that they will be all but scrapped if they don't improve — yet it doesn't provide the means to do so. This number comes from a lawsuit filed by school districts in Texas, Michigan and Vermont and the National Education Assn., the nation's largest teachers organization.

Sadly, these domestic failures provide a far greater long-term threat to our nation's security than the hyped-up claims surrounding our foreign adventures. Abroad, we must "support our troops" at all costs — even if the cost is their lives — while at home, the nation's leaders are all about tough love.

"Government is not here to do everything for everybody," admonished Missouri state Rep. Jodi Stefanick, a Republican representing suburban St. Louis. "We have to draw the line somewhere." Just not in Iraq, apparently.

Welcome to late-era Rome, where mindless militaristic expansion is considered patriotic and where demagogues who recklessly waste taxes and young lives in empire-building are deemed valorous. Wolfowitz, for example, has been rewarded for his ignorance and arrogance with the top job at the World Bank.

It is not too late, however, for us to wake up and recall that, in the end, once militarism trumped republicanism, the glory that was Rome proved to be a hollow boast.

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Saturday, April 16, 2005

How to steal an election in Mexico

Greetings from Mexistan
As democracy goes south of the border, the Bush administration is notably silent.

By Harold Meyerson

It may be just about the most inspiring sight imaginable: hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the main square of some capital city, demanding democratic self-rule. "They're doing it in many different corners of the world," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said last week, "places as varied as Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan and, on the other hand, Lebanon, and rumblings in other parts of the world as well. And so this is a hopeful time."

It is a process in which the United States claims more than an observer's role. The business of America, says President Bush, is spreading democracy. "The leaders of governments with long habits of control need to know: To serve your people, you must learn to trust them," Bush said in his inaugural address this January. "Start on this journey of progress and justice and America will walk at your side."

Unless, of course, you're Mexican.

Apparently, there are several kinds of capital city rallies. There are those in Kiev, where multitudes turned out to protest the subversion of a national election and the attempted murder of the opposition leader. There are those in Beirut, where people gathered to protest the murder of an opposition leader and to demand self-determination. These were outpourings that our government encouraged.

And there was the one last Thursday in Mexico City, where 300,000 protesters filled the Zocalo, the great plaza in the middle of the city, to show their outrage over the decision of their Chamber of Deputies to keep that nation's opposition leader from running for president next year.

The government had not murdered the opposition leader, Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador; it merely proposed to imprison him -- and thereby disqualify him for the presidency -- because someone in his city government disregarded a court order to stop construction of a short access road leading to a hospital, over land that was acquired by Lopez Obrador's predecessor but whose ownership was still in dispute.

For this the congressional deputies from Mexico's two conservative parties -- President Vicente Fox's PAN and the PRI, which had governed Mexico for six decades before Fox was elected in 2000 -- voted almost unanimously last Thursday to strip Lopez Obrador of his official immunity, with the clear goal of imprisoning him and knocking him out of the 2006 presidential race. Not coincidentally, all polls show Lopez Obrador -- standard-bearer of the left-leaning PRD -- to be the front-runner in that contest.

And what was the response of our government? Did we invoke the president's mighty line that leaders of government with long habits of control must learn to trust their people? Did we tell the crowds gathered in the Zocalo that America walks at their side?

Not quite. While Condi Rice waxes eloquent about our concern for democratic rights in Central Asia and the Middle East, the most the Bush administration has managed to say about democracy in the unimaginably faraway land of Mexico has been the comment of a State Department spokesman that this is an internal Mexican affair.

Democracy may be all well and good, but Lopez Obrador is just not Bush's kind of guy. As mayor of Mexico City, he's increased public pensions to the elderly and spent heavily on public works and the accompanying job creation. He's criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement as a boon for the corporate sector and a bust for Mexican workers. (As economist Jeff Faux has documented, while productivity in Mexican manufacturing rose 54 percent in the eight years after NAFTA's enactment, real wages actually declined.) He's opposed to Fox's plan to privatize Mexico's state-owned oil and gas industry -- a stance that probably doesn't endear him to the Texas oilmen currently employed as president and vice president of the United States.

Worse yet, Lopez Obrador's populist politics and smarts have made him the most popular political leader in Mexico today. The much touted "free-market" economics of President Fox have done nothing to improve the lives of ordinary Mexicans. Lopez Obrador's victory in next year's election would mark a decisive repudiation of that neo-liberal model. Coming after the elections of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brazil, Nestor Kirchner in Argentina and Hugo Chavez (repeatedly) in Venezuela, it would be one more indication, a huge one, that Latin America has rejected an economics of corporate autonomy, public austerity and no worker rights.

So, democracy in Ukraine? We'll be there. Lebanon? Count on us. Kyrgyzstan? With bells on. Mexico? Where's that? Maybe they should move to Central Asia, change their name to Mexistan and promise to privatize the oil. That's the kind of democracy the Bush guys really like.

Harold Meyerson is editor at large of The American Prospect. This column originally appeared in The Washington Post.

Copyright © 2005 by The American Prospect, Inc. Preferred Citation: Harold Meyerson, "Greetings from Mexistan", The American Prospect Online, Apr 14, 2005. Direct questions about permissions to

Friday, April 15, 2005

News and Notes: Spring 2005

News and Notes : Spring 2005
As reported in prior issues, we completed a reconsideration of the role of the Anti Racism and Latino Commissions within DSA. In response we have decided to end publication of our newsletter Our Struggle/Nuestra Lucha. In its place we will use our new blog. It is at Many other organizations have switched over to electronic communications.
DSA is preparing for its national convention in Los Angeles in November of 2005. The convention will be important for the organization. If willing, you should get yourself selected as a delegate. Contact the national office of DSA for instructions.
Bob Wing described our current situation well in his analysis of the 2004 elections. “The 2004 presidential contest was a warning shot across the bow of all progressives. While the president and the Republican pundits vastly overstate their "mandate," progressives need to become clear on the motion of racial politics if we are to get ourselves in shape for the coming battles.”
This charge gives us much work to do. In Sacramento we have decided to work for now with Progressive Democrats of America ( as a vehicle for working within and outside of the Democratic Party. But PDA, for all of its promise, has begun like most left projects with a largly White leadership. They were excellent at recruiting African American voices to their founding convention.
At the time of this writing it looks as if Antonio Villaraigosa will be elected Mayor of Los Angeles following in the footsteps of Henry Cisneros and A. Peña. And the California legislature now has a Latino caucus of 26. Even as this growth of voting power occurs, there is a distinct shift to the center within Latino politics. Even with of caucus of 26 the legislators can not achieve equal funding or quality schools for students of color. And, they are not really trying to . See the blog
In California and most states unfair tax system damages our schools. We rank about 37 in the nation in per pupil expenditures. And, the recent study by the Harvard Civil Rights Project reveals once again that California schools are failing Latinos, Blacks, and low income Whites. We grossly under fund our schools, and we get reading and math results appropriate to our funding levels. This inadequate funding is confirmed each year in the state budgets and the Latino Caucus does not try to change this. They accept inequality as inevitable.
To return to the evaluation of Bob Wing of our ally United for Peace and Justice,
”The good news is that people of color--African Americans, Latinos, Native peoples, Asian Americans and Arab Americans--surged to the polls in unprecedented numbers and voted overwhelmingly in opposition to the Bush agenda despite an unprecedented Republican attempt to intimidate them. People of color constituted about 35 percent of new voters and, despite their dazzling diversity, showed uncommon political unity.

A key lesson of this election is that progressives and Democrats need to stop chasing the Republicans to the right and instead adopt a clear vision that mobilizes our main social constituencies and wins new allies. Only a long term strategy that draws deeply and skillfully from the high moral ground of peace, jobs and equality and refuses to cede the South and Southwest to the right can enable us to staunch the country's longstanding movement to the right. Otherwise what Lani Guinier calls the "tyranny of the (white) majority" will continue to lead us into authoritarianism and empire.
The bitter truth is that the election marks a substantial and dangerous victory for the rightwing forces in this country.”

In a sense both parties have failed the people. Elected officials have a minimal responsibility to protect our democracy. They have not. Instead, both parties redistrict, gerrymander, and conspire to gain a few more seats at the table. And, our democracy is weaker for this.
The working people, people of color, do not have- in most cases- representatives in our government nor a party which fundamentally represents our interests. Both mainstream parties are dominated by corporate interests, as illustrated by their unity on ‘free trade” , on tax cuts, on the war and other corporate agendas.
Our task then is to figure out where to go from here. We invite you to join us in this quest.

Race and the Election of 2004

The White Elephant in the Room: Race and Election 2004

By Bob Wing

(Bob Wing is national co-chair of United for Peace and Justice and was the founding editor of War Times/Tiemp de Guerras newspaper and ColorLines magazine.)

The 2004 presidential contest was a warning shot across the bow of all progressives. While the president and the Republican pundits vastly overstate their "mandate," progressives need to become clear on the motion of racial politics if we are to get ourselves in shape for the coming battles.

Many spin doctors would have us believe that the story of the 2004 election turns on evangelicals and moral values, the better to advance their rightwing agenda in both the Democratic and Republican parties, not to speak of the halls of power.

But an examination of the exit polls shows something very different (though not at all new): the centrality of race in U.S. politics. The bad news is that the Republicans, trumpeting their program of aggressive war and racism, swung the election by increasing their share of the white vote to 58 percent. This represents a four-point gain over 2000; a 12-point gain over 1996 and a grim18-point gain over 1992.

The good news is that people of color--African Americans, Latinos, Native peoples, Asian Americans and Arab Americans--surged to the polls in unprecedented numbers and voted overwhelmingly in opposition to the Bush agenda despite an unprecedented Republican attempt to intimidate them. People of color constituted about 35 percent of new voters and, despite their dazzling diversity, showed uncommon political unity.

A key lesson of this election is that progressives and Democrats need to stop chasing the Republicans to the right and instead adopt a clear vision that mobilizes our main social constituencies and wins new allies. Only a long term strategy that draws deeply and skillfully from the high moral ground of peace, jobs and equality and refuses to cede the South and Southwest to the right can enable us to staunch the country's longstanding movement to the right. Otherwise what Lani Guinier calls the "tyranny of the (white) majority" will continue to lead us into authoritarianism and empire.

The bitter truth is that the election marks a substantial and dangerous victory for the rightwing forces in this country. Despite a presidency marked by numerous impeachable offenses; despite daily exposure by the press over many months of the administration's lying and incompetence; despite both a disastrous war and an unprecedented loss of jobs; despite an impressive effort by the Democrats, unions and allied groups to mobilize and protect the vote; despite a massive voter turnout led by African American voters; despite the fact that people of color constituted 23 percent of all voters as opposed to 19 percent in the last election, the president turned a 500,000 vote loss in 2000 into a 3.5 million vote victory and the Republicans increased their majorities in both the House and the Senate.

Progressives have much to be proud of in our tremendous effort and substantial impact in the 2004 presidential election. But we must also face the fact our loss was not the result simply of the Republicans having more money or of a low voter turnout. The Republicans flat out organized us and methodically found white voters receptive to their racist program of "permanent war on terrorism at home and abroad."


There has been much talk by the punditry about how the evangelicals were the key to the Republican victory. They counsel the Democrats to move to the right to remain politically competitive. There was indeed a tremendous mobilization of Christian religious conservatives (and National Rifle Association members) to work the campaign for the Republicans. They were the critical ground troops for the Republicans but they were not the critical voters.

Alan Abramowitz points out, "Between 2000 and 2004, President Bush's largest gains occurred among less religious voters, not among more religious voters." Among those who attend church weekly or more, his gain was only one point. But among those attending services a few times a month he gained 4 points. From those attending a few times a year, he increased his share by 3 points and from those who never attend services he racked up a 4-point gain.

The emphasis on the evangelical vote is a smokescreen motivated by the attempt by Republicans (and conservative Democrats) to move the country rightwards. Meanwhile, most pundits, left and right, refuse to squarely face the white elephant in the room: race.

The Republican victory turned almost exclusively on increasing its share of the white vote. In 2000 Bush won the white vote by 12 points, 54-42; in 2004 he increased this to a 17-point margin, 58-41. That increase translates into about a 4 million vote gain for Bush, the same number by which Bush turned his 500,000 vote loss in 2000 into a 3.5 million vote victory this time around.

This increase came mainly from white women. Bush carried white men by 24 points in 2000 (60-36) and increased that margin by only one point in 2004 (62-37). But he increased his margin of victory among white women from only 1 point in 2000 (49-48) to 11 points in 2004 (55-44). This accounts for a 4 million plus vote swing for Bush. (Women of color favored Kerry by 75-24.)

Another overlooked exit poll result is that Kerry actually increased the Democrats' share of the vote among rural and small town voters and held steady among suburbanites. However, his share of the vote in cities fell considerably. In cities of 500,000 or more Kerry won 60 percent of the vote, compared to 71 percent for Gore. Bush increased his big city vote by 13 points, from 26 percent in 2000 to 39 percent in 2004. We are apparently looking at a significant rightward motion among white women in big cities, a real blow to progressive strategy.


The other issue that has disguised the centrality of race in this campaign has been the National Exit Poll (NEP) survey of the Latino vote. The poll concluded that Latinos voted for Kerry by 53-44, a steep decline from Gore's 62-35 victory among Latinos in 2000. But the NEP's results are self-contradictory. Larger Latino exit polls show a tremendous Latino turnout that went for Kerry by as much as 68 percent.

Since the NEP polls only 13,000 voters, the size of the sample for Latinos was very small and therefore probably not very accurate. Latinos make up eight percent of the electorate, and their geographic location (more urban) and income/education (lower) are quite different from the majority white population that shapes the polling sample.

In addition, the NEP does not include the numerous Latino nationalities in appropriate proportions. This is important because these nationalities differ politically. For example Cubans tend to vote much more Republican than all other Latino groups, while Puerto Ricans tend to vote more Democratic.

More importantly the NEP's conclusion about the national Latino vote is not compatible with its own state-by-state polling results. For example, the NEP says that Bush won a mind-bending 64 percent of Latino votes in the South, the region with the most Latino voters (35 percent of the national total). But it simultaneously reported that Bush won 56 percent of Latino votes in Florida, the state where Cuban Republicans make up most of the Latino vote and 59 percent of the Latino vote in Texas. Something is clearly wrong when it is reported that the two states where Latinos are most likely to vote Republican voted less Republican than the South as a whole.

Indeed it is statistically impossible for both the NEP's results for individual states in the South and its conclusion that 64 percent of all Latinos in the South voted for Bush to be correct.

The William C. Velásquez Institute, as it has for many elections, performed a much larger exit poll of Latinos. The Institute polled 1,179 Latino respondents in 46 precincts across 11 states, and took into account the unique demographic characteristics of Latinos. Its survey concluded that Kerry won the Latino vote by 68-31, a strong showing in the face of unprecedented efforts by Republican operatives and Catholic priests to sway Latinos the other way.

It also found that 7.6 million Latinos voted, a record number that represents an increase of an impressive 1.6 million (27 percent) over 2000. This turnout was even more remarkable considering the widespread attempts by Republicans to intimidate Latino voters and the chronic shortages of Spanish language ballots.

Antonio Gonzalez, president of the Velásquez Institute, concludes, "President Bush tried unsuccessfully to increase his support among Latinos. The Democratsmessage appears to have resonated with Latinos.


The Republican spin-meisters, as well as some "centrist" Democrats, are even claiming a Republican breakthrough among African American voters based on appealing to conservative Christian values. However, veteran political consultants Cornell Belcher and Donna Brazile counter: "Those who trumpet inroads by Bush into the African American vote ignore history and show a strong prejudice against basic arithmetic."

The NEP concluded that Kerry won the black vote by an overwhelming 88-11 percent. Although this is two points fewer than Gore won in 2000, those two points are well within the margin of error of the poll. Even if correct, the results indicate that Bush received a lower percentage of the black vote than Nixon, Ford, Dole or Ronald Reagan in 1980.

This outcome is even more notable when one considers that, according to a Nov. 17 public memo by Belcher and Brazile, fully 60 percent of African Americans in the key battleground states, where the Republicans messaged heavily against abortion and gay marriage, consider themselves "born again Christians."

Their polling also indicates that, "The more likely African Americans are to be frequent church goers, the more likely they are to identify themselves as a strong Democrat." Clearly when pundits argue that the Republicans won by appealing to "moral values" or "evangelicals," they should really qualify their statements racially.

Perhaps most importantly, Belcher and Brazile point out that more than three million new black voters thronged to the polls in 2004, accounting for more than 20 percent of the total voter increase. They also erased the traditional 6-10 point voter participation gap between whites and blacks and increased their percentage of all voters from 10 percent in 2000 to almost 12 percent this year.

Black voters defeated the unprecedented Republican voter intimidation and suppression effort in the run-up to the election. Belcher and Brazile conclude that, "The real story is the reawakening of civic participation by African Americans in 2004."


Asian Americans also surged to the polls in historic numbers and, in all their great internal diversity, voted overwhelmingly Democratic.

The political trajectory of Asian voters has been striking. Like most immigrant groups, most Asians have historically registered and voted Democratic. However, as their incomes rose and the percentage of Asian voters who had fled Asian socialist countries climbed as a result of the 1965 immigration reform act, many became "Reagan Democrats" in the 1980s. By the 1990s a higher percentage of Asians were registered as independents than any other racial/ethnic group.

Asians were not included in national exit polls until 1992. In that election, won by Clinton, their Republican and independent bent showed through, with Bush Sr. receiving 55 percent of the Asian vote, Perot 15 percent and Clinton only 31 percent. However, since 1992 Asians have turned strongly toward the Democrats. Clinton won 43 percent in 1996, Gore won 54 percent and Kerry at least 58 percent. This trend is probably connected to the hard right turn of the GOP in the 1990s, especially its fierce attacks on immigrants.

The NEP sample of Asian American voters was tiny, as Asians represent only 2-3 percent of all voters. By contrast, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund conducted a multilingual, non-partisan poll of 11,000 Asian voters in eight states. Mindful of the diversity among Asians, it surveyed them in 23 Asian languages and dialects as they left 82 polling places in 20 cities in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Virginia, Michigan and Illinois.

AALDEF executive director Margaret Fung said: "The record turnout of Asian American voters demonstrated our community's extraordinary interest in the electoral process this year." A tremendous 38 percent of Asian voters reported that they were first time voters despite what AALDEF called "an array of barriers that prevented them from exercising their right to vote."

The poll found that Asian Americans favored John Kerry over George Bush by 74-24 percent. First timers voted for Kerry by 78-20. A Los Angeles Times poll of 3,357 California voters found that 64 percent of Asian Americans voted for Kerry and 34 percent for Bush.


The National Congress of American Indians spearheaded Native Vote 2004, a nationwide voter registration and turnout effort. In a press release dated Nov. 3, NCAI President Tex Hall reported, "Native voters turned out to the election polls in greater numbers for this election day than any other in history." The release documented voter turnout successes across Indian country, including a doubling of Native voters in Minnesota. This show of political force was especially impressive considering widespread reports of Native voter intimidation by Republicans.

Although no exit polls on Native peoples are available, the county-by-county map of the 2004 vote indicates that the Native vote was largely Democratic. In addition, the NEP results by race shows the "Other" vote (which includes but is not limited to Native voters) as going for Kerry by 57-43. A Democratic Native vote would be in line with historical trends and pre-election polling.

The NCAI states that "The 2004 election will be the first time Native votes will be quantified in a way to benchmark the population for future elections" and that "rising political clout [by Native voters] will only grow going forward."


The only available analysis of Arab American voters indicates a major political about face by this group. According to a Zogby International poll, George Bush carried the Arab vote by 46-38 in 2000, with a strong 13 percent choosing Ralph Nader. The final Zogby poll for 2004 found Kerry winning by a landslide 63-28-3.

Arab voters contributed to Kerry's slim victories in Michigan, where they represent 5 percent of voters, and Pennsylvania, where they constitute 1.5 percent of the electorate. The Zogby poll indicates that Bush carried Arab Orthodox voters by one point, Arab Catholics favored Kerry 55-34-5 and Arab Muslims voted overwhelmingly for Kerry, 83-6-4. Both immigrant and U.S. born Arab voters went strongly for Kerry.

There are no figures available on Arab American voter turnout but, according to the Arab American Institute, there was an unprecedented Arab Get Out the Vote effort spearheaded by Yalla Vote. The Institute reports that Arabs organized GOTV efforts in 11 states that directly contacted at least 300,000 Arab American voters.

The Bush administration has rudely informed Arab Americans that they, like other immigrant groups from the Global South before them, are not just part of the "melting pot." They are also a group that is singled out by the government, the media and much of the public for racist stereotyping and harsh treatment.

As they have been increasingly treated like a racially oppressed group, Arab Americans have responded by voting like other people of color.

Taken together, people of color represented 23 percent of the total vote, but they accounted for about 35 percent of Kerry's tally. Their sense of political urgency was demonstrated by the fact that they represented about 35 percent of first time voters in this election. They are, unquestionably, the main base of the Democratic Party and the most avid anti-Bush constituencies.

White people and people of color are tremendously diverse groups and neither vote uniformly, but they are clearly trending in opposite political directions. How can we staunch the one and encourage the other?


The political map of Election 2004 has a depressing but telling resemblance to the pre-Civil War map of free versus slave states and territories. And, although blacks and other people of color now have the right to vote, the outcome of the electoral college vote in the South shows that the 55 percent of black voters who still reside there have as little impact on the presidential race today as they did when they had no right to vote at all.

The same disenfranchisement afflicts Latinos in the Southwest and Native voters in the heartland. Quiet as its kept, the racist remnants of slavery and the Monroe Doctrine are alive and well in the political life, institutions and consciousness of Americans of all colors and classes up to today.

Racism--at home and abroad--is a central element of the Republican "moral values" and strategy. And racism is conciliated if not actively promoted by the Democratic focus on winning more white voters by moving to the right while taking voters of color virtually for granted.

The Democratic refusal to mount a fight for electoral reform and for the Southern vote leaves all its residents to the tender mercies of racist white fundamentalists, oil magnates, sugar barons and militarists. And it disarms progressives' ability to invoke the political and moral weight of the fight for racial and economic justice that still has deep Southern roots. And so it also is with urban racism and the burgeoning issue of immigrant rights concentrated (though by no means exclusively) in the Southwest.

It is about time for progressives, including those in the Democratic Party, to show the same basic common sense that the right has demonstrated. We should prioritize the issues and organization of our most powerful social bases as the foundation upon which to extend our influence to the population at large. It is time to stop chasing the Republicans--and the money--to the right. It is time to develop and fight for a coherent progressive political vision and set of policies that appeal to the positive sentiments of all people, and to fight for this vision over the long haul.

The fight for social and economic progress now, as in the past, cannot be won without challenging the racist, militarist right in its historic Southern heartland and its deep Southwestern echoes. We must have the confidence that skillfully doing so will win increased support from whites as well as people of color.

This is not just rhetoric. The future of our country and the well-being of the world depend on us. We cannot stop the right's incessant drive to dominate the world's resources and to steamroll all opposition to that program unless we pose a clear alternative. A powerful vision of peace, jobs and justice is our only chance to mobilize the democratic sentiments and courage of all the people of our country.

This is a delayed posting of this essay. Our web site was not functioning well at the time of the original posting.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

CAFTA and Central American workers


By David Bacon


        PUERTO CORTEZ, HONDURAS (4/12/05) -- When the Honduran Congress took up ratification of the Central American Free Trade Agreement last year, over a thousand demonstrators filled the streets of Tegucigalpa, angrily denouncing the effort.  Congress ratified CAFTA anyway, but the crowd was so angry that terrified deputies quickly fled.

        "We chased them out, and then we went into the chambers ourselves," says Erasmo Flores, president of the Sindicato Nacional de Motoristas de Epuipo Pesado de Honduras (SINAMEQUIPH), the union for Honduras' port truckers.  "Then we constituted ourselves as the congress of the true representatives of the Honduran people, and voted to scrap Congress' ratification."
    Similar demonstrations have multiplied across Central America, and just weeks ago police shot into a crowd of protestors in Guatemala, killing one.  Meanwhile, however, growing controversy has not helped the treaty's main supporter, US President George Bush, to find the votes he needs to pass it in Washington.
While admittedly an act of political theater by the leftwing Bloque Popular, the Honduran protest showed dramatically how unpopular the agreement is in Central America, at least among workers and farmers.  This is quite a change from Mexico, where the promises of then-President Carlos Salinas de Gortari deceived large sections of Mexican society, especially its labor unions, into supporting the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1991 and 92.  While US workers might suffer job loss, Salinas cajoled, Mexican workers would get those jobs.  The country would be come a "first world" economy, he promised, with first world living standards.
   The truth was bitter.  Currency devaluation cost the jobs of a million Mexicans in the first year after NAFTA went into effect alone.  While US President Bill Clinton bailed out investors threatened by the crash, it came at the cost of Mexico's oil, which then had to guarantee the loans, instead promoting economic development.  Tying hundreds of thousands of low-wage maquiladora jobs to the US economy also made them vulnerable to it.  When consumers north of the border stopped buying goods during the 2000-2001 recession, 400,000 border workers were laid off.  And export-industry wages, far from rising, remained flat, while prices of milk, tortillas, gasoline, bus fare and most working-class necessities skyrocketed.
    But the most devastating effect on workers came from privatization, enforced by NAFTA's mandate to make Mexico more investor-friendly.  As ports, railroads, airlines, mines, telephones and many other large national enterprises were sold off, sometimes for just a fraction of their worth, new private owners cut labor costs by slashing jobs and gutting union contracts.  In NAFTA's first decade, Mexico's privatization created more billionaires than any other country in the world.
        CAFTA is built on the same political premise.  It seeks to reinforce the transformation of Central American economies, maintaining a low standard of living as a means to attract investment in factories producing, not for an internal market, but for export to the US.  Understandably, this vision is hardly popular among workers and unions.  But hundreds of thousands of Central American jobs are already tied to export production, and the Bush administration can and does use them as bargaining leverage, threatening economic disaster by raising the specter of import barriers against countries that won't adopt CAFTA.     
        CAFTA promises to extend the harmful impacts of NAFTA to Mexico's weaker southern neighbors.  Most Central American nations currently belong to the Caribbean Basin Initiative, which requires participating countries to uphold internationally recognized labor norms.  Using the example of NAFTA's notoriously ineffective labor side agreement, CAFTA only requires that governments enforce their own laws, which are often far weaker.

        Central American public sector workers have been especially keen observers of the Mexican experience.  Honduras' longshore workers' union has twice beaten back government efforts to privatize the docks of Puerto Cortez, successfully mobilizing the whole town in the process.  "We put our union's assets, like our soccer field and clinic, at the service of the town," explains Roberto Contreras, a union officer and Honduran representative for the International Transport Federation. "When the government tried to privatize our jobs, we told people that if we didn't cooperate to defeat it, the whole town would lose, not just the port workers."
    In El Salvador, huge protests accompanied government efforts to privatize the healthcare system.  And in Costa Rica, a massive strike by public telephone and electrical workers forced the government to withdraw from CAFTA negotiations in 2003.
     On March 9, Guatemala's National Civilian Police sealed off the streets around the Guatemalan Congress after it voted to ratify CAFTA, and then used clubs and teargas against almost 2000 demonstrators.  Following the vote, popular organizations began mounting highway blockades throughout the country, effectively halting commerce and travel. At a blockade in Colotenango, at the Puente Naranjales crossroads, police and the army fired on the crowd.  Juan Lopez Velásquez was killed, and nine others wounded by bullets.
Ironically, the Bush administration has had more success strong-arming Central American countries than their more powerful South American neighbors, or the US Congress.  In 2003 the World Trade Organization talks in Cancun collapsed amid huge protests, and later in Miami, the big South American economies of Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela told the administration they had little interest in its carefully-orchestrated march towards a Free Trade Area of the Americas. 
   Even in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the administration could only muster a one-vote 216-to-215 majority in the US Congress to give it fast track trade negotiating authority.  Almost all observers agree that if Bush had the votes to ratify CAFTA, he would have introduced it into Congress long ago.  The fact that the agreement has been negotiated, has been ratified in most Central American countries (although amid bullets, clubs and chanting protestors), and has yet to be introduced for ratification in Washington, is the best indication that CAFTA's political support is shrinking, not growing.
While Bush and the agreement's corporate backers still want it, it's getting harder for them to point to anyone else who does.

After the empire

After the Empire by Emmanuel Todd

Review by Thom Hartmann

In 1976 -- long before American conservatives would claim that Ronald Reagan's 1980s debt-driven massive military spending "bankrupted" the Soviet Union -- French demographer and author Emmanuel Todd wrote a best-selling book titled La Chute finale (The Final Fall), predicting the imminent fall of the USSR. He based his projection, in large part, on a careful study of the increase in infant mortality in that empire, one of the leading indicators of the health of a nation.

Time proved him right, and hindsight tells us that Reagan and Bush had nothing whatever to do with the fall of the USSR, con claims notwithstanding. It rotted from within, something that I witnessed in the 1970s and 1980s visiting both the USSR and several of its captive states, and living a year in 1986-1987 within 30 miles of Soviet-dominated East Germany and Czechoslovakia. Any 70s or 80s visitor to the USSR or its vassal sates, in fact, could have come to the conclusion that -- barring a world war -- it was an empire about to expire, and the CIA and others in the American, European, Israeli, and Japanese intelligence services had been saying the same thing since, in some cases the 1960s.

Yet it was Emmanuel Todd who captured Europe's attention by explicitly saying that the Soviet Emperor had no clothes - and doing so in a way that was widely discussed across Europe. Thus, when my best friend and former business partner Jerry Schneiderman and I found ourselves in Budapest in early November, 1989, the week before the Berlin Wall fell, as East German refugees were streaming into the country and the Soviets seemed helpless to stop it, we discovered that the reaction of the Hungarian shopkeepers and bartenders we talked with was a resigned shrug: "We knew it was coming. Everybody knew it was coming." Other than, of course, the average American.

Now comes Emmanuel Todd to predict the fall of another empire: America.

In Après l' empire ("After The Empire"), a runaway bestseller across Europe and in Japan, Todd points out that many of the same demographic and historic indicators that led him to boldly predict the looming collapse of the Soviet system can now -- with some variations that are even more alarming -- be applied to the United States.

Every American should read this book. First, we must read it to understand how Europe, Russia, China, and Japan (among others) view us. Second, we must read it because its logic, facts, statistics, and conclusions are unassailable.

The main thesis of Todd's book is that America is posturing, playing the role of the leader of the "free world" and head of the new American Empire, when, in fact, we are militarily, economically, and morally bankrupt -- and the rest of the world knows it. In fact, he suggests, much of the posturing is for the consumption of the domestic American audience, as the rest of the world (with the exception of a few dependent Third World nations) knows we're already in decline and perhaps even ready to implode.

Economically, twenty-five years of conservative Reaganomics -- "free trade" elevated to a virtual religion (including complicity by Clinton in signing GATT/WTO and NAFTA) -- and the massive budget and trade deficits that have resulted from this, have turned the United States from an independent manufacturing powerhouse and the world's leading creditor into a bankrupt nation with little manufacturing capacity left, dependent on other nations for the imports that maintain our unsustainable standard of living. The result is that the US "has become the center of a system in which its number one job is to consume rather than produce."

"If the United States has greatly declined in relative terms as an economic power," writes Todd, "it has nevertheless succeed in massively increasing its ability to siphon off wealth from the world economy. Objectively speaking, America has become a predator; ... [and] is going to have to fight politically and militarily in order to sustain the hegemony that has become indispensable for maintaining its standard of living."

In his concluding chapter, Todd writes, "The United States is unable to live on its own economic activity and must be subsidized to maintain its level of consumption -- at its present cruising speed that subsidy amounts to 1.4 billion dollars per day."

Referring to the "bizarre behavior" of the Bush administration's America, Todd asks the question -- in italics for emphasis -- "How does one deal with a superpower that is economically dependent but also politically useless?"

In "The Fragility of Tribute" chapter, Todd suggests the world won't -- or can't -- long continue to support our "parasitic" lifestyle by loaning us money to sell us goods, while we export our manufacturing industries and hollow out our internal productivity. "The most likely scenario" he sees as a result of this "is a stock market crash larger than any we have experienced thus far that will be followed by a meltdown of the dollar -- a one-two punch that will put an end to any further delusions of 'empire' when it comes to the US economy."

Our moral bankruptcy, Todd suggests, is the result of these same economic and political policies emanating from the radical right (neoliberals) in America, and are rapidly morphing our nation from a democracy into an oligarchy.

Without irony, he notes, "It is a surprising return to the world of Aristotle in which oligarchy may succeed democracy." As "American society is changing into a fundamentally unegalitarian system of domination..." he notes that this turnaround of increasing rule by the rich in America and a wiping out of our middle class "explains the strained relations between the United States and the rest of the world. The progress of democracy around the world is masking the weakening of democracy in its birthplace [America]." The result? "...the United states is beginning to lose its democratic characteristics..."

Because America has become a "parasitical" nation of importers of oil and goods from around the world, paying with debt, Todd says, "From now on the fundamental strategic objective of the United States will be political control of the world's resources."

Thus we have had to invent a "myth of global terrorism" so we can convince ourselves that our projection of power into oil-rich regions of the world is to "save" both America and the world from "terrorists." Because our military power is insufficient to take on any serious foes, we rattle sabers, proclaim "Axis of evils," and attack essentially defenseless nations, while proclaiming our efforts great military victories comparable to the defeat of the Third Reich in World War II.

The world, Todd notes, isn't buying it. And they're getting tired of our constant hectoring about "democracy" even as we cut back on civil liberties and economic opportunity at home, support "strategic" dictators abroad, and are increasingly ruled by oligarchic families.

Which brings us to his third conclusion -- that we have become militarily impotent. Todd notes that, "In the childlike universe of Donald Rumsfeld, for example, only physical force matters." Thus, we stir up problems in the militarily weak (but oil rich) Arab world, destabilizing the entire planet. This is not a situation European and Asian powers take lightly. Europe, Todd notes, "cannot accept indefinitely the continuous disorder in the Arab world sponsored by the United States..."

The result is clear, he says. "But make no mistake, all the ingredients are there for a serious conflict between Europe and the United States in the near future." Such a conflict could be devastating to the US.

Dissecting -- and dismissing -- numerous American "strategic" books like Zbigniew Brzezinski's "The Grand Chessboard," Todd notes that our leaders in the post-Carter world have always taken the lazy way out, rather than building the strategic alliances and offering the moral leadership that would have been necessary to maintain America as the moral, economic, and political international leader we were before Reagan began the destruction of the traditional American way of life.

In part, this has been the result of the capture of our political system by oligarchs, powerful rich interests including multinational corporations with little allegiance to America (or any nation). "This is why," he notes, "the United States' export of its specific model of unregulated capitalism [necessary to sustain oligarchy] constitutes a danger for European societies, as well as for Japan...."

The result of our export of privatization, deregulation, and unrestrained oligarchic capitalism (called "the liberal model" in Europe) is that "the constant attempts to foist the liberal model onto the strongly rooted and state-centered societies of the Old World is in the process of blowing them apart -- a phenomenon that can be observed nowadays in the regular gains of the far right in a number of recent elections. Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Italy, and Austria have all been affected."

Rush Limbaugh/Newt Gingrich politics have led to the rise of a neofascist right in America, and our export of these ideas are inspiring the return of right-wing politics in Europe, threatening to tear apart the social fabric of that continent.

Todd notes that Portugal and Spain are the least affected by these ideas, because of their recent experience with Franco's fascism.

But our increasing moral bankruptcy (detention without trials, phony war on terror), economic bankruptcy (living on debt borrowed from Europe, China, and Japan, along with the dramatic oligarchic trends in America toward richer rich, poorer poor, and the loss of the middle class), and military impotence (leading us to loudly attack relatively defenseless countries to create "show victories" and a "bloody vaudeville show" in Iraq) are causing many in Europe to reevaluate their relationship with -- and support of -- America.

If they decide to throw their lot in with Russia and Iran instead of the US -- and Todd suggests this is a growing probability -- then the result is "easy to predict."

"The United States," he says, "will then have to live like other nations, notably by reigning in its huge trade deficit, a constraint that would imply a 15 to 20 percent drop in the standard of living of the population."

And this, he suggests, may be a good thing, long term. "What the world needs is not that America disappear but that it return to its true self -- democratic, liberal, and productive."

One can only hope that America will return to the ideals we held prior to Reagan, and do so with a minimum of damage to our working class. Reading Emmanuel Todd's book "After The Empire" will help crystallize in your mind so many of these issues, and help provide a roadmap for Americans to a return to domestic and international political sanity, hopefully as soon as the 2006 elections...

Thom Hartmann (thom at is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk show. His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People: A Call To Take Back America," and "What Would Jefferson Do?: A Return To Democracy."

Poor nations must work together : Lula

Lula: Poor nations must unite to change world

By Tansa Musa
April 1, 2005

Developing countries must unite to change the balance
of power in the world and face the challenges of
globalisation together, Brazil's president said on
Monday on the first leg of a five-nation African tour.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has sought to
expand ties with Africa, both to boost his profile as a
developing world leader and to build on historical
links between Brazil and Africa.

"There's a need to reinforce South-South cooperation in
the face of the challenges of globalisation that
confront particularly developing countries," a joint
statement from Lula and Cameroon's President Paul Biya

Brazil has also been at the forefront of a campaign at
the World Trade Organisation challenging U.S. subsidies
for cotton farmers and Brazilian companies are
increasingly looking to Africa for business

During his stay in Cameroon, Lula called for increased
trade between developing countries to eradicate poverty
and hunger. He also reiterated that poor nations should
work together to end huge subsidies paid by rich
countries to their farmers.

"We have to change the balance of power in the world,"
he said at a banquet in Cameroon on Sunday night. "We
can no more continue to be passive spectators of
decisions that have a direct effect on our destiny."

Lula started his trip in the central African country of
Cameroon on Sunday and landed in oil producer Nigeria
on Monday evening. He is due to visit Ghana, former
Portuguese colony Guinea-Bissau and Senegal

Lula said he supported Africa's drive for greater
representation on the U.N. Security Council while
Cameroon expressed support for Brazil's bid to get a
permanent seat.

Brazil and Cameroon signed accords on agriculture,
fisheries, culture, sports and higher education but the
details were not immediately available.

Brazil and Cameroon established relations in 1960
shortly after the central African country's
independence. In 1979, the Brazilian embassy closed for
economic reasons. It reopened two years ago and Lula
said this time it was for good.

And we in the U.S., must work in solidarity with this effort.

Rudolpho Corky Gonzales: Presente


And so - Rodolfo Gonzales, a political activist destined to take the lead, set the example, and inspire many people, chose his fight: “The Crusade For Justice”. Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales was born in Denver on June 18, 1928 to Federico and Indalesia Gonzales. He was the youngest of four brothers and three sisters, Nattie, Beatrice, Tomas, Esperanza, Federico, Severino, and Arturo. Corky's mother died when he was two years old and his father never re-married, but managed somehow to keep the Gonzales family together. The senior Gonzales ruled his household with a firm hand, tempered with love.

The children grew up in the tough eastside barrio of Denver during the devastating Depression. Rodolfo said, "Though the Depression was devastating to so many, we, as children, were so poor that it (the Depression) was hardly noticed."

Corky's father had emigrated from Mexico to Colorado early in life and often spoke to Corky about the Mexican Revolution, Mexico’s history, and the pride of the Mexican people. Thus leaving little doubt in Corky's mind about his own identity - and possibly his destiny.

With the tremendous obstacles that faced Rodolfo from an early age, it is truly astonishing that he persevered in the Denver educational system to earn his high school Diploma at the age of 16. The accomplishment is magnified by the fact that from an early age, Rodolfo worked in the beet fields and at various other jobs that left little time for study. Corky attended many schools including schools in New Mexico as well as schools in Denver, Gilpin, Whittier, Lake, Baker, West, and finally Manual High School from which he graduated in 1944.

During his final year in high school and the subsequent summer, Corky worked hard to save money for a college education. With a keen interest in engineering, Corky entered the University of Denver, but after the first quarter realized that the financial cost was insurmountable. Rodolfo then pursued a career in Boxing. An outstanding amateur national champion Rodolfo became one of the best featherweight (125 lb) fighters in the world. Even though Ring Magazine ranked Corky number three in the world, he never got a justly deserved title shot.

In the mid-1960's, Rodolfo Gonzales founded an urban civil rights and cultural movement called the Crusade for Justice. Soon he became one of the central leaders in the Chicano movement and a strong proponent of Chicano nationalism. In the late sixties and early seventies, Corky Gonzales organized and supported high school walkouts, demonstrations against police brutality, and legal cases. He also organized mass demonstrations against the Vietnam War.

In 1968 Gonzales led a Chicano contingent in the Poor People's March on Washington, D.C. While there, he issued his "Plan of the Barrio" which called for better housing, education, barrio-owned businesses, and restitution of pueblo lands. He also proposed forming a Congress of Aztlan to achieve these goals.

One of the most important roles played by Gonzales was as an organizer of the Annual Chicano Youth Liberation Conference, an ambitious effort to create greater unity among Chicano youth. These Conferences brought together large numbers of Chicano youth from throughout the United States and provided them with opportunities to express their views on self-determination. The first conference in March 1969 produced a document, “EL PLAN ESPIRITUAL DE AZTLAN (THE SPIRITUAL PLAN OF AZTLAN)”, which developed the concept of ethnic nationalism and self-determination in the struggle for Chicano liberation. The second Chicano Youth Conference in 1970 represented a further refinement in Corky Gonzales's efforts toward Chicano self-determination, the formation of the Colorado Raza Unida Party.

In many ways, Corky Gonzales has greatly influenced the Chicano movement. His key to liberation for the Chicano community is to develop a strong power base with heavy reliance on nationalism among Chicanos. His contributions as a community organizer, youth leader, political activist, and civil rights advocate have helped to create a new spirit of Chicano unity.

Rodolfo "Corky” Gonzales' life has been a collage of challenges that have been met and overcome. He has never wavered in his commitment to enhance the lives of his people in this country, to change what is not fair, what is not right. As long as there are injustices, double standards, racism, and apathy, Corky's dedication, loyalty, and love of the struggle against these diseases of society will serve as an inspiration for all people to act.

In his column in the Denver Post of January 6, 1988, Tom Gavin wrote,

"He’s grizzled now, and gray,
but he stands tall, Corky Gonzales does,
and taller still, Rodolfo "I am Joaquin" Gonzales.
The one was a pretty good boxer, the other is a leader of men."

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Whiter is Wealthier

Whiter is Wealthier

White Americans enjoy an 11-to-1 wealth advantage over Hispanics, and an even higher 14-to-1 advantage over blacks, according to a new study by the Pew Hispanic Center. In both cases, disparities of wealth far exceed disparities of income, and they are worse today than they were before the 2001-02 recession.

The accumulation of wealth is what enables low-income families to rise into the middle class and "have some kind of assets beyond next week's paychecks,” said Robert Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center. "Having more assets enabled whites to ride out the jobless recovery better.”

"Wealth is a measure of cumulative advantage or disadvantage,” Suro added. “The fact that black and Hispanic wealth is a fraction of white wealth also reflects a history of discrimination."

Among the report’s major findings:

• The median net worth of Hispanic households in 2002 was $7,932. This was nine percent of the $88,651 median wealth of White households at that time. The net worth of Black households was only $5,988.

• Between 1999 and 2001, the net worth of Hispanic and Black households fell by 27 percent each. The net worth of White households increased by 2 percent.

• Twenty-six percent of Hispanic, 32 percent of Black and 13 percent of White households had zero or negative net worth in 2002. These proportions are essentially unchanged since 1996.

• Fifty-five to 60 percent of Hispanic and Black households had wealth less than one-fourth the national median level of wealth between 1996 and 2002. Fewer than 40 percent have middle-class levels of wealth and this proportion has not changed since 1996. Nearly 75 percent of White households have middle-class or higher levels of wealth.

• The wealthiest 25 percent of Hispanic and Black households own 93 percent of the total wealth of each group. Among White households, the top 25 percent own 79 percent of total wealth.

• The percentage of White households who owned homes in 2002 was 74.3 percent. The homeownership rates for Hispanic and Black households were 47.3 percent and 47.7 percent respectively.

• Financial market participation for Hispanic and Black households is well below the norm for White households. More than 25 percent of Latino and Black households, and only 6 percent of White households, own no assets other than a vehicle or unsecured liabilities.

• Home equity is a key component of household wealth and accounts for two-thirds of the mean net worth of Hispanic and Black households. The strength of the housing market in the recent economic slowdown eased the erosion in wealth of households which can be traced to the loss in value of financial assets.

• The median net worth of renters is only one percent of the level of net worth of homeowners.

• The net worth of immigrant households is only 37 percent of the net worth of native born households. Immigrants tend to be younger and less educated and their incomes are below average. Many are also in the early stages of assimilation.

• Hispanic immigrants from Central American and Caribbean countries had a net worth of only $2,508 in 2002. Cuban immigrants led the way for first-generation Hispanics with a net worth of $39,787. Mexican immigrants are in the middle with a net worth of $7,602 in 2002.

• Immigrants, Hispanic and non-Hispanic, show initial signs of rapid assimilation into homeownership, but it takes about 20 years for the homeownership rate among immigrants to equal the rate among native-born households of the same ethnicity.

n Jim Lardner

Anti Cafta

Alerta de Acción Urgente: La Administración de Bush está impulsando un voto sobre el CAFTA en mayo – Se realizarán audiencias en el Congreso el 13 de abril (ver para más información)

El 13 de abril es un Día Nacional de Llamadas contra el CAFTA – Sea parte de la Semana de Acción Global contra el Libre Comercio y llame a los Miembros del Congreso para convencerlos de que voten contra al CAFTA.

El Acuerdo de Libre Comercio Estados Unidos-Centroamérica (CAFTA por sus siglas en inglés) – el cual incluye a Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, y República Dominicana – es el acuerdo de libre comercio más grande que el Congreso ha considerado en más de 10 años. A menos que consigamos cambiar este enfoque errado del comercio, acuerdos como el CAFTA resultarán en pérdidas de empleo para más trabajadoras y trabajadores, podrán en riesgo a agricultores rurales, dañar el medio ambiente restringirán el acceso a medicamentos esenciales para la vida y suprimirá la democracia.

La Administración Bush está enviando un mensaje fuerte que está listo para probar si tiene suficientes votos en el Congreso para aprobar el CAFTA. Esto pasará a través de audiencias formales en el Comité de Medios y Arbitrios de la Cámara de Representantes (21 de abril) y el Comité de Finanzas del Senado (13 de abril). Debido a la “vía rápida”, si cualquiera de esos comités decide enviar el acuerdo comercial al Congreso, se votará por sí o por no dentro de un periodo de 15 días.

Actúa para ayudar a parar el CAFTA: llama a su representante en el Congreso en la Cámara de Representantes y miembros del Comité de Finanzas en el Senado.
• Llama al conmutador de la Cámara de Representantes (202) 224-3121
• Si necesitas ayuda para saber quién es tu Representante, ingresa al sitio y pon tu código postal.
• Si tienes tiempo, favor llama también a tu Senador si él o ella es miembro del Comité de Finanzas del Senado. Ver lista abajo o en
• Una ‘guía’ para tu llamada está disponible al reverso o en
• Para más eventos de la Semana de Acción Global, ver
Una llamada de varias coaliciones:
Visitar nuestros sitios web para más información sobre CAFTA.

Alliance for Responsible Trade, Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment, Jubilee USA Network, Mobilization for Global Justice, Stop CAFTA Coalition, United Students for Fair Trade, and the US Gender and Trade Network

Monday, April 11, 2005

Which Way for the Left?

In his essay “The 2004 Elections and the Collapse of the Left,” Thomas Harrison in New Politics claims that the left and the anti-war movement have collapsed—and he is wrong.

The central argument in his piece is that working within the Democratic Party in the 2004 presidential election was an error. The author asserts that if the left had done politics the way he prefers we would now have a viable third party effort. But he provides no evidence.

Movements have ups and downs. The movements against the Viet Nam war, against U.S. intervention in El Salvador, and others, each of which I participated in, had times of growth and times of re-organization. There were major ups and downs in these movements, as there are now. We went from growth to dispersal many times. Often the Nixon administration saved us from obscurity, as with the invasion of Cambodia and the shootings at Kent State. The Reagan Administration did the same by blockading the harbors of Nicaragua and funding the death squads in El Salvador.

In “normal” times, a very small percentage of the population pays attention to politics, often less than 5 percent. However, in the electoral season, many more pay attention, at times up to 50 percent. Prior to 2004 a minority in the U.S. opposed the war. At present, some 53 percent of the U.S. public believes that Bush was wrong to go to war. This is quite an increase. Participation in the presidential election was a vehicle for spreading the anti-war message.

There is a new weakness in the anti-war position that was caused in part by the elections in Iraq in January, not by the U.S. elections. We have a changed insurgency. The new insurgency includes a large number of sectarian thugs, not freedom fighters. They have, for example, targeted civilians, particularly Shia civilians. They murder Shia because the Shia are a majority and want to run their own country. The nature of the insurgency—not the Kerry campaign—is the primary reason that anti-war work is now more difficult. And while I agree with some of Harrison’s analysis of Kerry, note that Kerry came within two percent of winning. We came close to defeating Bush. And, yes, we would have still needed an anti-war and anti-imperialist movement if Kerry had won. But Condoleeza Rice would not be Secretary of State, terrorist John Negroponte would not be Director of National Intelligence, and Paul Wolfowitz would not be nominated to the World Bank nor John Bolton as Ambassador to the United Nations. Election outcomes matter.

Harrison’s essay continues the debate over left-wing electoral strategy. I will not repeat all the arguments here. But because of the structural constraints of the U.S. two party system, leftists such as myself are trying to build a left inside and outside of the Democratic Party—and in a real sense the class divide in the U.S. runs right through the middle of the Democratic Party. This can be clearly seen in the recent decline of the Democratic Leadership Council. (Self disclosure: I ran as a Kucinich delegate in California and I am currently working to build a local of Progressive Democrats of America.)

The debate over third parties is an important one for the left. However, note how Harrison describes the leaders of the civil rights, women’s, environmentalist, and labor movements:

“The antiwar movement’s semi-hibernation was, in a way, bizarre. The leaders of the labor, women’s, civil rights, and environmental movements are longtime Democratic Party serfs; their prostration before Kerry was no surprise. Kerry could throw them a few symbolic concessions and get away with leaving it at that. But what could a frankly pro-war candidate concede to the millions who had come out against the imperialist occupation of Iraq? By what twisted logic could Kerry, who repeated over and over again his commitment to ‘finishing the job’ in Iraq, whose minions quashed any hint of a peace plank in the Democratic Party platform, be considered an antiwar candidate? There were no bones for him to throw.”

Now, if you agree with this position, then certainly go off and try to build a third party. I agree with his description of the Kerry war policies, but I don’t agree with his description of the leaders of labor, civil rights and other movements. And I have strong reservations about working with people who do accept this. Each of the movements criticized are in a re-thinking phase. They are having to adjust to Bush’s victory and Republican control of the House, Senate and Presidency. If the Democrats had won, the agenda would be different. Before I accept your description of the decline of these social justice movements, please tell me, what have you organized? Show me the organization and the structures with a million-plus people in them which you have created.

As for the anti-war movement, we have to recognize that at this state what we have is a loose network of local groups. The excellent coalition, United for Peace and Justice, is after all just that—a coalition. It can encourage broad participation by a very diverse series of groups and rallies. Some of the larger parts of the network, such as Peace Action, actively stayed out of the two-party election contest in 2004. Did such groups grow as a result? Show me the data.

I do not think that either side of the electoral politics debate has figured out how to deal with the corruption of the Democratic Party. I am confident that the strategy of third party advocates failed in 2004. But if you want to build a third party, please do so. There are some significant reasons why a third or fourth party is needed (in California it would be a sixth party). While an independent party effort is important it also faces some real problems. Among them are single-member congressional districts which tend to ensure a two-party system. I can guarantee that you will have to build your party through organizing and activism—not by blaming others for your failures to organize. You failed to organize in 2004. You failed to recruit others to your cause. Until you recognize your own failures you will remain a marginal footnote in real politics. Blaming others for not following your lead is not leadership, and it is not organizing. It’s only crying in your beer. Get over it.

So, what can the left do—what is to be done? Analyze the current array of forces, pick our battles, and fight these battles. After one battle is completed (such as the 2004 elections) we go on to the next. In each effort we try to bring new people to a leftist perspective—a socialist, anti-imperialist perspective. The various movements, including electoral activity, are educational processes and training opportunities for building a future left.

Duane Campbell lives in Sacramento, CA and is the chair of the Anti-Racism Commission of the Democratic Socialists of America.

Next Steps

Next Steps: a working paper.

I am the first to admit that we live in difficult times. A reactionary Republican cabal controls the Presidency and has resumed a policy of imperialism in the name of fighting terrorism, Republicans control the House and the Senate, conservatives in the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) dominate many issues in the Democratic Party, the U.S. economy is weak, and corporate capital dominates the debates on global integration. Programs and policies which were once a part of victories by the Civil Rights and Women’s rights movements are now under assault.

While organized labor has regained some of its momentum, the organized, conscious left in the U.S. is at its weakest in decades. The African American, Latino and Women’s movements are widely dispersed and only a few have access to the mainstream media. The several communities have developed their own media.

At the same time, there has developed a broad, substantial popular left in the U.S. albeit largely divorced from the youth movements. Most cities have a number of ideological left organizations, an alternative press, and a number of grassroots organizations like ACORN devoted to building political participation. The Gay/ Lesbian/Transgender politics has emerged (some of it liberal and some of it quite conservative), the invasion of Iraq produced the broadest outpouring of opposition in the streets since the 1970s.

Most progressive work is done on a local level with loose networks of organizations such as Peace Action, and United for Peace and Justice trying to bring organizations together for large regional events.

While a broad and inclusive left has grown in the U.S. in the last two decades, as demonstrated by community groups such as ACORN and church based groups affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation, the ideological left in the U.S. has experienced a decline.
In the 1980s one part of the active left participated in the struggles for solidarity with the several revolutions in Central America, Nicaragua, El Salvador and to a lesser extent Guatemala. The solidarity efforts were very broad including several organizations and numerous religious groups.
The development of sustainable social movements on a large scale- such as an anti war/anti imperialism movement, do not just come into existence. They are created by hard work. Movements develop when a number of people decide to “make history”, to shape their own destiny. And, the critical mass of activists influence each other, progress in labor leads to progress in elections, which may lead to progress in schools and in social services. Successful organizing in one sector demonstrates to the disenchanted that the people can create their own future.

While many of us on the left have made progress in our understanding of imperialism, of hegemony, and of the Democratic Leadership Council and the current National Security Strategy, our strategies and practices must keep in mind that most 18 -22 year olds have not had this history. They entered political consciousness at best during the Clinton era. They have no memory of the Central American struggles, NAFTA, and the changes in the AFL-CIO. We need to be able to talk with and participate with this generation.

The current situation
As mentioned above, we now have a broad, popular left and broad opposition to the war. This broad left is made of diverse organizations and diverse organizations forms. Most are local. Each group has its own face to face communications. There is relatively little national presence.
One consequence is that each coalition requires extensive negotiations and compromise and endless meetings. The processes for education and decision making are not yet developed on the left. While we painstakingly build coalitions, our opponents march the country and the media off to war. The popular left has improved its use of the internet through groups such as
Much of the communications among groups is through e mail and the internet. This builds some strengths, however, it also leads increasingly to persons talking primarily within their own networks and not engaging people with differing viewpoints. Both talk radio on the right, and the internet on the left, means that we engage more and more with people who already agree with us, and hear less and talk less with folks from an opposing point of view. The national newspaper War times has provided a valuable vehicle for that struggle.
There is at least a possibility that the internet based activism actually disengages people. It is far easier to sign an e mail petition and think that you have done something, than to table an event or to create an educational forum.

Political parties
Much has been written about the nature of U.S. parties. Here I will only refer to some of the issues which should guide our decision making.
In the U.S. class ties are particularly weak as are our political parties. Voters and potential voters must be persuaded to support human dignity, solidarity, peace and social justice, as well as democracy as positive values to support, not as ideological possessions of the failed political parties.
The two major parties disguise deep divisions based upon race, ethnicity and to a lesser extent social class.
Large majorities of voters reject a left analysis and reject left activism. They also oppose taxes but support public programs which benefit themselves such as social security. They prefer to continue within the present political electoral structure. Class lines are blurred and unclear, and white people, and increasingly some African Americans, Latinos and Asians do have a significant degree of mobility.
Since the early 1990's, our two political parties have become more ideological, with the class divisions in the society running down the middle of the Democratic Party, with the Democratic Leadership Council on one side and a potential labor-left on the other side.
The consolidation of a White Republican Party in the South has delivered both the Congress and the White House to the Republicans for some time to come. Republicans have become a consistent conservative party and the Democrats are denounced as a liberal party, even though the left social-democratic portion of that party is small; as can be measured by either membership in the Progressive Caucus or by votes for Dennis Kucinich.
The divisions between the two parties are significant, with complex regional and racial dimensions. But both parties are primarily engaged in rancorous inter party battles for control of the state or national legislatures. They have little of an educational development. And, both parties seek to suppress the vote of their opponents in elections. The difficulty in changing the system, including the development of non competitive seats, along with the partisan rancor has increased voter cynicism and non participation in both the parties and in elections.
Part of our task is to build a political opposition to imperialism, war, racism, and anti union politics. We do this by working for justice and fairness. It is not enough for a candidate to oppose this war now, he must oppose the war makers- they must oppose imperialism. In the last election, neither of the major party candidates opposes global capitalism and imperialism. This has major consequences. WE know that the last 30- 60 years of inept colonialism has produced a radicalized Islam and associated terrorism in the West. This development, along with the West's dependence upon oil, will create economic and military crises for at least the next 20-30 years. We are living in a time parallel in some ways to the Roman Empire. We just don't know if we are at the start , the middle, or the end of the empire. Any President, operating out of the imperialist paradigm, will involve us in a series of wars of occupation draining resources domestic resources needed for schools, health care, housing and other human needs. Our task then is to work to defeat Bush and to build a left opposition for the future.

In keeping with our understanding of the potential left in the U.S., and our own organizational goals, our politics must always be guided by demands for social and economic justice for all. African Americans, Latinos, Women, can not be asked to place their agenda aside while we work on an election. Real politics does not work that way . Active groups in the African American, Latino, and Asian Communities, as well as the Women's movement will be deeply engaged in electoral campaigns. Those groups who do not engage in practice in the electoral effort will demonstrate that they are irrelevant to day to day political life in the U.S.
For DSA, multi-racial coalition building and anti racist politics must be an integral part of all of our activism. We must choose to work in campaigns and efforts where we work side-by-side with activists from communities of color.
While we seek to defeat Bush and the Bush regime we have little reason for Democratic Party loyalty except for those working to build democratic clubs such as the Wellstone Democratic Clubs. We have reason to support the work of 3rd. parties and the development of independent politics
The present condition of numerous new organizational efforts to engage in electoral politics independent of the Democratic Party and the developing broad diversity of the popular left makes our ideological work more important. Participants are engaged in popular campaigns, from Sweatshop watch, democratic media to co-ops. They come and go. Our task is to connect these many popular left organizations and efforts with an organized left and to develop a modern ideology of a left appropriate to the current U.S. political terrain.

What is to be done?

There is no clear evidence that the current political parties serve us well as an organizational form. We do not have a party. And, labor and the left have tried to build a left party dozens of times.
We recognize that at present political parties in the U.S. and electoral campaigns can serve as vehicles for advancing specific social goals, i.e. single payer health, labor law reform, stopping the imperialist adventures in the Middle East.

Draft. April 2005.

About this blog

About this blog.
Our Struggle/Nuestra Lucha is the newsletter of the Anti Racism and Latino Commissions of DSA (Democratic Socialists of America). Since 1983 we have existed in order to educate and influence DSA in the direction of anti racism and self determination. This blog is a continuation of that effort.
The decline of left in the U. S. requires a re-examination of our goals and our strategies. The goal of the commissions has been to educate and organize within DSA, but the nature of DSA itself has changed from a political organization to that of a network. It follows that the nature of the commissions need re-examination. A network is different than a political organization. The nature, process and goals of the Commissions themselves should be reconsidered and re-designed to be useful in this new terrain of DSA as a network rather than a political organization
For communications we will use this blog and our e mail lists. You can see our past work at
What is happening (or not happening)on the left to produce this decision?
The nation, and particularly the young, have a general distrust of political parties- and the parties deserve this distrust. As Michael Moore has commented, we have two parties both of which well represent the top 10% of our society. The working people do not have- in most cases- representatives in our government nor a party which fundamentally represents our interests. Both mainstream parties are dominated by corporate interests, as illustrated by their unity on ‘free trade”, privatization, tax cuts, and the promotion of a corporate agenda.
In a sense both parties have failed the people. Elected officials have at least a minimal responsibility to protect our democracy. They have not done so. Instead, members of both parties redistrict, gerrymander, and conspire to gain a few more seats at the table by adopting the corporate agenda to buy TV time, and, our democracy is weaker for this. In response millions, about half of the eligible voters, do not even vote. They do not believe that participation matters- and to some frightening degree they are correct.
Political organizations usually exist to develop projects and carry out political work . In an era like ours when there are dozens and hundreds of local progressive projects, there are a large number of practical projects to which activists could contribute.
You can find out more about Democratic Socialists of America at
Sacramento has been one of the activist locals in DSA since the 1980’s. and it has been the organizational seat of the Anti Racism and Latino Commissions. We have conducted several electoral campaigns around California propositions attacking communities of color : No on 187 (illegal immigration) No on 209 (eliminate affirmative action), No on 227 (eliminate bilingual education). More recently we worked on No on Prop.54 (extension of Prop. 209). And we won!

Our struggle is to bring social, political, and economic justice to our nation. This page is published by the Anti Racism Commission and the Latino Commission of Democratic Socialists of America to share our work with others.

Our effort is to contribute to building a grassroots, democratic left organization, united around anti corporate, egalitarian, social justice politics. We seek to unite trade unionists, feminists, people of color, gays and lesbians, and other radicals around a common agenda.We believe that only a multi-racial organization, and only multi racial coalitions can create a new, progressive majority in our nation.

Duane Campbell
Sacramento, California