When the extreme becomes mainstream

Last week, Tom Tancredo kicked off the National Tea Party convention in Nashville with a bang – an anti-immigrant bang to be exact. Tancredo, long known as an enemy to the Latino population, ranted on about America being under attack from “multi-culturalism”, which in simpler terms means that America is under attack by brown people who don’t look like Tancredo.

“People who could not spell the word vote or say it in English put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House — name is Barack Hussein Obama,”

You would think that there should be no place for extremism like this in the public discourse of our country’s future, but this type of anti-immigrant fervor has taken hold in many factions of the Conservative movement and the extreme has quietly entered the mainstream. (By the way, the video above is from Jimmy Kimmel Live and nails the hypocrisy of Tancredo discussing literacy as a litmus test for voting.)

While I would love to appeal to the humanity of folks to make the argument against this extremism, it’s an argument that hasn’t seemed to work. It is my belief that the structural racism inherent in our systems is too much to unpack, explain and absorb for many of these people. Just this morning I had somebody calling themselves “Tea Parties” leave this lovely comment on the blog:

mexicans its over you are done this is the begining of the end for you.

Then, when I didn’t post the racist comment, I got this:

wetback post all comments

I’m not sure that engaging in a productive dialogue about racism is going to be effective in this instance. And, for the record, I moderate all comments on this blog and do not post any that use profanity, hate speech or incite violence of any kind.

A different approach is to discuss the electoral politics of this issue. Put simply: the GOP will become totally irrelevant if it doesn’t pay attention to the power of the Latino vote.

Yesterday, America’s Voice released a report that shows the Latino vote could swing as many as 40 elections in 2010. Titled, “The Power of the Latino Vote in America: They Tipped Elections in 2008; Where Will they be in 2010?”, the report shows clearly that immigration reform will play a central role in how this powerful electorate votes later this year.

The outcome of the upcoming debate on comprehensive immigration reform will determine how – and if – this group of Americans votes in 2010 and beyond.

Those people who “could not spell the word vote or say it in English” could make Tom Tancredo and his crowd obselete if they don’t grow a brain (and a heart) and realize that “multi-culturalism” isn’t what’s threatening this country, fear of the “other” is. Don’t let fear dictate politics or policy. It’s time for a sensible and humane debate on the topic of immigration reform and those willing to engage in such a debate will be rewarded.

One response to “When the extreme becomes mainstream

  1. I agree that it’s hard to appeal to folks’ hearts when they are so hardened against ‘the other.’ Hopefully a tactical approach will help but the issue remains how do we solve the continual problem of fighting lies and misinformation with truth?

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