Nativistic Racism Rears Its Ugly Head

The New York Times oped page finally had the guts to call it like it is, to accent how much of the anti-immigration debate and activity by Republicans—and, to be fair, many other whites–has a strong “streak of racialist extremism” and openly nativistic threats.

The Times are Changing
Creative Commons License photo credit: Edgar Zuniga Jr.

In this age of Obama, which many call “post racial,” the Times oped begins by describing a group, American Cause, that a few days at the National Press Club in Washington sought to “speak for the future of the Republican Party” by declaring the losses in November 2008 were because of the Party’s immigration stance. The group put out such a nice little report modestly entitled, “State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America.” Nice racist framing of the issue–one that, among other things, misses in its language the irony of how this nation was actually founded. It plays into white racial frame’s old fear of “invasion” by “you know who.” The Times notes:

The group, the American Cause, released a report arguing that anti-immigration absolutism was still the solution for the party’s deep electoral woes, actual voting results notwithstanding. Rather than “pander to pro-amnesty Hispanics and swing voters,” … Marcus Epstein, urged Republicans to double down on their efforts to run on schemes to seal the border and drive immigrants out.

Yet the Times points out that immigrant-bashing has mostly lost the Republicans elections and public support:

For years Americans have rejected the cruelty of enforcement-only regimes and Latino-bashing, in opinion surveys and at the polls. In House and Senate races in 2008 and 2006, “anti- amnesty” hard-liners consistently lost to candidates who proposed comprehensive reform solutions. . Nor did it help any of the Republican presidential candidates trying to defeat the party’s best-known voice of immigration moderation, John McCain, for the nomination.

This approach is indeed politically dangerous for Republicans, with the great growth in Latino voters, two thirds of whom voted in November 2008 for the Democratic Party candidate. The nativistic American Cause group includes James Pinkerton, a Fox News contributor who was responsible for the infamous Willie Horton ads of the George H. W. Bush racist campaign against Michael Dukakis. Peter Brimelow is one of its members. In his book, Alien Nation, he asserts that “the American nation has always had a specific ethnic core. And that core has been white.” Some decades back, most Americans, he asserts

looked like me. That is, they were of European stock. And in those days, they had another name for this thing dismissed so contemptuously as ‘the racial hegemony of white Americans.’ They called it ‘America.’

Brimelow, himself an immigrant from Great Britain, argues that new immigrants from Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean constitute a major threat, the threat of a future “alien nation.” His work seems to be a major inspiration for this nativistic group.

Somewhat surprisingly the Times then strongly calls out the white supremacist views:

It is easy to mock white-supremacist views as pathetic and to assume that nativism in the age of Obama is on the way out…. But racism has a nasty habit of never going away…. and thus the perpetual need for vigilance. It is all around us. Much was made of the Republican mailing of the parody song “Barack the Magic Negro,” but the same notorious CD included “The Star Spanglish Banner,” a puerile bit of Latino-baiting.

The Times concludes the editorial by noting the role of Fox News pundits in spreading the anti-immigrant nativism, and the ominous increase in violent hate crimes against Latino immigrants. Violent nativism seems to be on the increase.