Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

El Nuevo GOP: ¡Hola Latinos!

November 24th, 2012 No comments

Republican Elephant With SombreroFollowing their stinging losses nationwide a few weeks ago, it was clear that there would be “soul searching” in the Republican Party, as many news sources put it. Well, apparently, it didn’t take very long for a consensus on one point: it’s time for the GOP to earnestly reach out to Latino voters.

This comes in the wake of a slew of sources trying to make sense of the election results, mostly by slicing up the American electorate to generalize a narrative about it. Do we as Americans enjoying being categorized and then generalized about? No. But I think, at this point, demographic groups are still just one of the best ways we know to digest large amounts of social data.

One of the most popular ways to examine ourselves is through the racial/ethnic lens: Obama had a lockdown on the black vote, with latinos breaking for him 71% to Romney’s 27%, and almost 60% of white voters preferring Romney. Jews were reliably Democratic, but perhaps becoming less so, and it seems no one bothered to count the Native American vote, even though they may have tipped some western Senate races to the Democrats.

Others have sliced the country up by age, gender, education, religion, or class. The gap between the parties on all of these (except maybe education) was quite wide. Mathis at The Atlantic thinks that almost all of these are really just facets of Republicans losing the urban vote.

With all these points of view, it makes a lot of sense that Republicans see their future with the Latino vote. Getting the youth vote would be very hard at this point, and would probably involve embracing gay marriage and some form of environmentalism, alienating the religious right and the business wing of the party. Winning over women would require flexibility on contraception, abortion, and the idea of “traditional family values,” all of which are rather central to the GOP’s current social platform. It seems they have all but written off blacks as Democrat cronies beholden to liberals for handouts, and with that attitude, they are unlikely to attract too many African American voters anytime soon. Same for the very poor.

Latinos, on the other hand, could be welcomed into the party with less painful policy changes. Although I hate the implication that they are one-issue voters, immigration reform is still very important to Latinos, as evidenced by exit poll responses. Shifting to a softer stance on immigration is not as hard because the business community and the libertarian wing of the party are already for it. The national security hawks will want strong border security, but could be convinced not to oppose citizenship reforms. The religious right will be heartened by the perception of Latinos as very religiously Christian. This just leaves the xenophobes and the “They took errr jobs!” folks who will be unhappy. But if the conservative thought leaders and talking heads start softening their rhetoric, I hope it might dull some of this sentiment. Either way, it’s not like those types of people are going to suddenly flee the GOP and vote Green Party.

Marco Rubio

Look Hispanics! We’ve got Marco Rubio! Now please vote for us.

There is already strong evidence of this shift. FOX News’ Sean Hannity immediately softened his hardline stance on immigration after the election, saying, “I think you control the border first, you create a pathway for those people that are here, you don’t say you gotta home. And that is a position that I’ve evolved on.” Rupert Murdoch, the CEO of FOX, signaled a new tack for the conservative network, tweeting: “Must have sweeping, generous immigration reform,make existing law- abiding Hispanics welcome. Most are hard working family people.” Charles Krauthammer, another anti-amnesty FOX hardliner, also softened his position while speaking on the air. John Boehner has signaled more willingness to work on the issue, and Republicans like Marco Rubio, Lindsay Graham, and John McCain, who have always favored a more open position towards Latino immigrants, are starting to find the wind at their backs.

I believe many Latinos, for their part, will be willing to reciprocate this change of heart. Some Latino communities lean conservative on social values, and are open to more libertarian economic principles, especially those that run small businesses or have been economically successful in the U.S. Others believe more strongly in economic justice and a robust safety net, even while they might sympathize with the GOP’s religiosity and focus on a strong family unit. In this way, working class Latinos are not that different from the rest of the U.S. working class, and purging racist/xenophobic sentiments from the Republican Party would make some Latinos feel like they have a legitimate choice between ideals. Latinos come from such a diversity of backgrounds that there really is no reason for them to behave like a bloc… unless one party systematically treats them that way to their detriment. At the same time, Republicans may have an overstated view of Latinos’ “traditional values,” since a majority now support gay marriage, and in general Latinos are less likely to vote based on social issues. This is especially true of younger folks.

Despite some flaws in their theory, however, this pragmatic shift in the GOP is a good thing. It means immigration reform might be the first major issue in recent memory where we see bipartisan cooperation. There will still be many disagreements on the details, but for the first time, both parties seem to have major incentives to get something done, and appear to building the will to do so.

Still, it feels like something is missing from my little analysis here… did I forget to mention something or someone? Oh that’s right…


Asian Americans

Photo: Getty Images

How come everyone leaves out Asians when talking about voting blocs? Maybe because they are so diverse, coming from so many different countries… wait, same for Latinos. Ok, maybe it’s because they don’t vote as a bloc? Well guess what: Asian Americans voted for Obama by an even larger margin than Latinos. 73% of Asian Americans chose the Obaminator, decisively handing him a victory.

The GOP’s relationship with Latinos is extremely important, but I think they are missing a huge wakeup call from the Asian community. Bill Clinton only won 31% of the Asian vote twenty years ago, so this is a constituency that Republicans have been steadily losing, despite it representing on average the most affluent racial group.

And the cherry on top: Asians are now the fastest growing immigrant group in the United States. This has not been widely circulated, so I’ll give it a moment to sink in. Read that again: Asians are now the fastest growing immigrant group in the United States. Despite the way everyone talks about Latinos, they are not the fastest growing immigrant group anymore. When our immigration policies are changed, the changes will be mostly affecting Asians, for as long as this trend continues.

Darth Romney Hates ChinaSo that means that while the GOP is scrambling to whip out their “Learn in Your Car” Spanish tapes, they should also consider talking a little less crazy about China. Because 3.4 million Chinese Americans probably don’t like it when you sound like you want to kick their home country in the balls while shouting, “America, f*** yeah!” Supporting more Asian Americans to run for office and not taking the Asian community for granted probably wouldn’t hurt either (for both parties).

And that is the extent of the analysis I feel like doing on the election and it’s aftermath. Good day!

The Game of Congress

July 15th, 2011 1 comment

Recently, as I was pondering the current predicament of raising the debt ceiling and the infantile behavior of our Congress, I started asking myself why conservatives always seem to get what they want out of these battles while liberals always seem to cave to their demands. Part of it, I realize, is just my perspective, since many conservatives and Tea Party Republicans felt sold out by the Republican leadership in the last budget debate threatening to shut down the government (the same one that liberals thought Obama caved on).

But there’s more to it than just that. Democrats could not manage to end Bush’s budget-sucking tax cuts for the rich, even with a large majority. A Democratic supermajority couldn’t deliver a public option for health care. Instead of stimulus spending, Congress keeps settling for tax cuts for businesses that need customers, not pocket change. Even Bill Clinton’s major domestic successes are mainly conservative ones: a balanced budget, welfare reform, and the NAFTA free trade deal.

Then I looked at the tactics used by the parties in Congress and had a flashback to high school economics and that movie, A Beautiful Mind, with Russel Crowe: game theory.

Basically Democrats and Republicans are stuck in a situation in which their success in making choices depends on the choices of others, which is the essence of game theory. Unfortunately, the game they have settled on is one known as the hawk-dove game, or more colloquially, a game of chicken. The possible outcomes look like this:

tie, tie lose, win
win, lose USA = F’d in the A
(lose, lose)

In order to win at a game of chicken, all you have to do is convince your opponent that you are crazier than they are. Republicans, with help from the Tea Party, have done an excellent job of this. We really aren’t sure just how crazy they are when it comes to the debt ceiling. Some liberals want Obama and the Democratic leadership to “call the conservatives’ bluff” and force them to back down. The problem is that Democrats aren’t really sure that they are rational enough to back down. As long as Democrats continue being more concerned with the overall well-being of the country than with liberal dogma, they will keep giving in to conservative demands.

At the same time, the parties are trying to construct safety nets for themselves in case they do end up in the bottom-right square. They do this by framing the debate as “the other party’s fault” in the hopes that the blame will fall on the other for being least compromise-y. Anecdotally, I would say that conservatives have been better at framing this blame game, giving them cover to play chicken as Machiavelli would have liked it.

Settlers of Catan Board Game

Settlers of Catan: the game Congress should be playing?

However, this time with the debt ceiling voters seem to have noted conservatives’ stubbornness, and say they would blame Republicans over the Obama administration if the ceiling isn’t raised. So will Obama and the Democrats take a more hard-line approach as the deadline approaches? And is that actually a good idea? We shall see. But I know one thing: nothing’s likely to change unless liberals take a different approach or unless we can give Congress a new game to play. Personally, I vote for Settlers of Catan. Then they’d at least build us some new roads.

Death and Politics Part II: Foreign Policy

May 17th, 2011 No comments
Portrait of Pakistani ambassador to U.S., Hussein Haqqani

Hussein Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S., has been talking tough since the bin Laden operation violated Pakistan's sovereignty, but he still doesn't want the U.S. to cut aid to his country.

For my second post on the political impact of Osama bin Laden’s death, I’d like to address foreign policy and the War on Terror, or whatever we’re calling it these days.

In terms of foreign policy, there are two obvious countries in my periscope: Pakistan and Afghanistan. Back during the 2008 presidential debates, Barack Obama stated that if he knew Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan, he would go in and get him, even if it meant violating the sovereignty of an ally. McCain called him naïve. Fast forward two and half years, and Obama did exactly that. And Pakistan did not like it.

When I watched Obama’s speech announcing the event, one thing I noticed was that the intended audience seemed to be the Pakistani government just as much as the American people. The President made explicit overtures to the continuing friendship of the two countries, and seemed to be implying, “I understand this isn’t going to go over well in Pakistan, but please understand my position and stick with me.” I don’t know if they will. Obama had the option of pursuing a joint operation with Pakistani forces, but nixed it, signaling mistrust either of  their abilities or their intentions. Some Pakistani politicos seem mostly willing to stand with Obama, while also criticizing the operation out of political necessity, but others are angrier. Pakistan’s spy agency, for example, leaked the name of a local CIA chief, seemingly in retaliation, and there have also been increasingly harsh words and saber-rattling. I don’t know whether this is just a necessary “cathartic” process in response to a violation of sovereignty, or whether it really will deteriorate relations further. A recent firefight between U.S.-led NATO helicopters and Pakistani troops near the border suggests more problems on the horizon. Some voices here in America are calling for us to cut off aid to Pakistan, suspecting that the government was at least complicit in hiding Osama. That would be naïve because it is still better to have a duplicitous Pakistan as a half-hearted ally than to not have them on our side at all.

Tanks and soldiers in rugged Afghanistan

Since the death of Osama bin Laden, the pressure has been mounting to bring the troops home from Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, a chorus is also growing for the U.S. to start leaving Afghanistan ASAP. The thought process goes that we got bin Laden, so our work is done. This is simplistic because it overlooks the strategic importance of our presence there: first, to prevent an al-Qaeda-supported Taliban from taking over and turning the country into a terrorist launching ground; and second, to be prepared and in the neighborhood for an emergency situation should nuclear-armed Pakistan take a bad turn. Now, at the same time, the argument could be made that police-style intelligence and sting operations like the one that got Osama are a more effective way to combat terrorist networks. They would certainly cost less. However, contrary to popular belief, the nation-building in Afghanistan has actually seen progress since Obama took over from Bush. I still believe it’s possible, with more time and money, and the new emphasis on building the Afghan police force, to leave Afghanistan as a stable, if deeply flawed, nation. Unfortunately, I have no idea if it’s worth it.

Lastly, the killing of Osama has reignited the debate over the use of torture for intelligence gathering. Conservatives have been on a media frenzy to argue that torture helped lead us to bin Laden, so liberals should get over their wussiness already. This idea is so stupid and debunked that I really thought it could be relegated to the domain of frat guys fresh off of the latest episode of 24. Silly me. Despite interrogation experts from right and left agreeing that torture doesn’t provide accurate information, and evidence that torture may have even delayed our progress catching bin Laden, conservatives continue to play up this myth. In many cases, torture only hardens the detainee’s resolve against his captor, and repeated torture yields only, “either limited information, false information, or no information,” to quote the former senior US military interrogator, Matthew Alexander. Case in point, eight years of waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed brought him no closer to revealing the name of Osama’s courier. He was waterboarded 183 times without giving up any leads to the one man that led us to bin Laden. Interrogation techniques based on building rapport have proven to be much more successful. Even John McCain is making it clear that torture did not lead to Osama bin Laden:

Moving beyond its demonstrated ineffectiveness, do we really want to be a nation that tortures? When terrorists “attacked our American values” did we really think the best way to respond was by abandoning those values? If Osama bin Laden says the United States is a cruel, moraless nation, and we respond by torturing all of his friends and shooting him in the face, who wins?

I hope the answers to these questions are obvious, because if not, we have a lot of soul-searching to do on what it really means to be American.