Fortunately, it's true.
Progressives don't just choose not to own this positive story, they spit on it.
Republicans embrace it.
When Jamaican-born Winsome Sears Became the first female LT Gov in Virginia, Republicans cheered wildly. Fox News played her victory speech on a loop as she talked about her father coming here with nothing but a desire to work.
As a Republican, grandchild of poor immigrants, it put a lump in my throat and a tear in my eyes. We all fell in love with Winsome despite not knowing her the day before.
How did progressives respond?
"Black White Supremacist win race because Republicans don't want to teach history of slavery in schools. "
Someone made a montage of progressives calling Winsome Sear a white supremacist - it went on and on and on.
Democrats spat on the immigrant made good. It was disgusting.
so i guess i can tell this story. a good friend of mine who is a successfully accomplished scientist with a tenured professorship left his position at a top R1 university on the west coast a few years ago. there were various reasons, but one thing he found personally grating was the tokenism and assumption by his fellow faculty members that he was was the son of hardscrabble economic refugees. at one point a colleague praised the fact that his kids were in a fancy private school and said something that implied the school's openness to diversity must have been a factor.
the issue with that assumption is that my friend has a much better pub record than the colleague, was making 500K a year through salary+consulting, and comes from a very affluent and upper-middle-class family of physicians. he eventually left the elite world of academic science for the private sector because the story academics tell about latinos like him is so monotone and he felt ridiculous wondering always to correct their obvious misimpressions that his doctor father must have come to this country as a farm laborer or dishwasher...
Growing up I knew very few white people, and there seemed little functional difference between 'white' and 'hispanic' in any case. While the distinction grew more salient the older I became, and the farther I strayed from the border, it never became anywhere near as stark as 'hispanic from this side of the border' and 'hispanic from that' (a difference ameliorated by wealth, as it happens). The important factor was broadly socioeconomic, not racial, and Ms Martinez had more in common, very generally speaking, with Ms O'Connor, than either did with Ms Hernandez, the maid who crossed the border daily to clean both their homes.
So when people like Trump talk about immigrants stealing "our" jobs, the Ms Martinez's of the world (or my small part of it, at least) tended to identify as one amongst the "our", and not of the immigrants. And, more, to be quite protective of the advancements they (or their parents, or their grandparents) had made, such that it's not exactly a surprise that protectionist policies might garner some serious support.
I think the Democrats need to learn to speak that language, and address those concerns. But I don't want them to think that this means wooing Hispanics must mean being anti-choice or anti-LGBT, for example. In my experience the cultural conservatism of Hispanics is more broad than deep.
As I say: it's socioeconomic. And when someone is proud of their family's achievements, probably it's best to not overcorrect: a chancla does not a wingnut make. It's also best not to ignore them, essentially saying "nevermind what you're telling me your concerns are for yourself, let me tell you about my concerns, for you".
Great points Noah! I loved that last bit about the difference in messaging from the Republicans and the Democrats towards the Hispanic community. But as to your prediction that the GOP right now will walk away from racist anti-Hispanic messaging..... ermmm I have second thoughts. If I recall rightly, the GOP was trying to do exactly that (via Marco Rubio) until Trump showed up and everything went awry.
On the other hand, keep up the good work! Maybe it's just my perception, but I feel you've been getting a lot better at this stuff recently.
I'd been feeling something was off in the contemporary Progressive story about immigration, but I didn't have words for it. Your post was really clarifying in that regards. It's also my family's story (and the one of so many of my family friends, neighbors, colleagues, and classmates), so it also feels right to me intuitively.
Shush! If Hispanics continue to shift towards the republican party, making DC and Puerto Rico into states might become feasible!
Tax cuts are on the Right are what immigration is on the Left: an evergreen policy no matter the season. For the past generation (if not two), immigration has been a major concern throughout most of the West. Smouldering resentment on this issue has been fuelling a swing towards the extreme Right, and I have to shake my head when people think that a reframing is all we need to change hearts and minds. The fact that even a slightly more accommodating GOP would tip the balance of power decisively in its favour should scare the hell out of Dems. But of course it won't. Nothing will. Ever. Because pumping the brakes on immigration is never on the cards, even when the country's fate hangs in the balance. Because immigration is a nostrum on the Left, its evergreen solution.
Great points, but I think everyone's framing this wrong. Nobody should be looking at the Hispanic vote as gettable. It's too diverse. A Mexican from LA and a Cuban from Miami lumped in the same category? You wouldn't draw up a strategy to capture the "White vote". A strategy for the "Hispanic vote" is even more useless.
Full Disclosure: First generation immigrant, made good as is only possible in the US, now "retired". Can't stand authoritarian tendencies that is endemic in most institutions. Socially liberal and dislike the label of socialism since in practice it's not Denmark but Venezuela and Cuba that one thinks of when someone says Socialism. Have voted Democratic all across as the lesser of two evils
Yup, the progressive wing of the democratic part (and I tend to be socially progressive) is spectacular in its tone deafness. Matthew Yglesias has a great article on the Latinx brou-hah-hah.
I'd go so far as to suggest that this very left of center set of narratives are the latest form of cultural imperialism
There is a positive side to all this stupidity on the part of "The public face" of the left is the the GOP is likely to win in 2022 "bigly" and as long as the GOP is not stupid enough to get behind the loser Trump they will likely win 2024 bigly too without resorting to Jan 6th 2020 style quasi-coups.
For the sake of the country, I hope the GOP picks a Glenn Youngkin type candidate in 2024.
Once the GOP realizes they can win "fair and square", I am hopeful that the authoritarian tendencies of the right, born from desperation, will subside
Semi-off-topic, but the data on rates of things by ethnicity has very very wide error bars, especially wrt Hispanics. I totally agree with the main idea of the post, but want to make readers aware that these stats need to be taken with more than the usual grain of salt.
There's numerator problems, denominator problems, and most importantly problems of matching the two.
First, the denominator of how many Hispanics live in an area comes from the Census or the ACS 5 year survey estimates. The census itself is partly a guesstimate, and you can see that heavily Hispanic areas tend to have low response rates, meaning the guesstimating is harder to do: https://www.census.gov/library/visualizations/interactive/2020-census-self-response-rates-map.html.
I imagine that both legal and illegal immigration make all of this counting and record keeping harder, as there's a constant change in the denominator. The change is a bigger problem for Hispanics (and Asians) than other groups.
For Hispanics you can also add the problem of a sometimes fluid ethnicity. Between the 2000 and 2010 census, around a million Americans switched their self-id from Hispanic to non-Hispanic or the other way around: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/05/05/millions-of-americans-changed-their-racial-or-ethnic-identity-from-one-census-to-the-next/
Then there's the numerators. The agencies responsible for collecting ethnicity for incarceration, or education or polling are under no obligation to match the census reported ethnicities. An example you can see for yourself is go to https://homicide.latimes.com/ and search for White victims over the last 20 years. A percentage (maybe 10%) will have obviously very Hispanic names but recorded as White. This year the list of non-Hispanic white victims includes Angelina Maria Lujan and Miguel Oritz. Self-Id is the ultimate authority on whether you are hispanic or not, so there's some dark humor here in 2nd guessing the authorities here, but I suspect those two people regarded themselves as Hispanic at least at some point in their lives.
Combine those and you have the issue of matching numerator and denominators which are collected in different ways by different agencies at different time. Or you have agencies trying to do their own matching, and often getting stumbled by Latino naming conventions which sometimes include the mother's maiden name and sometimes do not.
A great example of the matching problem is very evident in the CDCs official "underlying cause of mortality" database (search for CDC's Wonder DB). If you break cause of death down by Hispanic and Race you get 8 categories: Black,White/Asian/Native x Hispanic/Non-Hispanic. There are wildly improbably numbers in some of them. The Native American category, for example, has close to the worst infant mortality statistics in the country, but the Native American and Hispanic category has the lowest infant mortality, not just in the United States, but in the entire world! I don't exactly know what's going on there, but I think it's an issue with matching combined with all the other problems above.
Another interesting place this manifests is the "Hispanic Paradox" wherein the Hispanic population has a longer life expectancy (by about 3 years) than does the White population. This is called a paradox because Hispanics are on average a lower SES group than whites in this country. In my view, the much higher rate of Covid morbidity among hispanics relative to whites contributes to the paradox - how can life expectancy be longer, implying good health, but covid be rates be worse, implying co-morbidities and bad health?
Obviously there are explanations besides data problems that square the circle of the Hispanic Paradox. They're interesting and worth reading and thinking about. But I don't find any of them so believable that they outweigh obvious data problems. For life expectancy the CDC-reported numbers put American Latinos as not just higher than White Americans, but higher than all of Latin America and almost all of the world. Similarly Asians, another population with data matching and immigration data problems, has a reported life expectancy of 86 which is far higher than any country in the entire world.
Sorry for writing a rambling book here and I don't think it changes the basic political argument. But we should probably be cautious when comparing Hispanic outcomes to other ethnic groups.
Yet another PMC attempt to spin.
The reality is that unrestricted immigration hurts the working class and benefits the PMCs. Cheap nannies are fine for them, but lower wages for the 99% are not fine for American society.
Nor is this a recent understanding.
Labor activitists - black, brown, whatever - also noted this in the past 100 years.
If the Democrats want to not lose the working classes, they need stop pandering to PMCs and start paying attention to what benefits the working class.
"Progressives need to tell this story
Some progressives are certainly still telling this story — especially elected politicians like Biden. But in the age of social media and cable news, progressivism is defined as much by news hosts and NYT writers and university administrators as by senators and governors. We need the thought leaders of this broad progressive movement to turn away from the dark, negativistic story of immigration-as-tragedy, and back to the positive, optimistic traditional story of immigration-as-triumph."
Let us assume that what you have written is true, and that this is the best story to tell to achieve Democratic electoral success. How do you propose to have it happen?
The basic problem is that there are progressives (and indeed leftists) who disagree with you, and who have no particular love for the Democratic Party. And you will not be able to convince these people to change their positions, because they don't agree with you, nor with your goals.
Given "the age of social media and cable news", one of these people - whether they are a blogger or some college student with some loud complaint - will be turned into this week's voice of progressives. And this even though, as you correctly point out, the Democratic Party and its leaders have nothing to do with that person. Given that there will always be someone doing something that can stoke the right-wing outrage machine, what do you suggest to solve this problem?
... and the church said Amen.
I've been puzzled for years by Republican hostility towards Hispanic immigrants. As you noted, they work hard and consequently experience rising income. The other element, which you omit, is Hispanics tend to be sincerely religious. This would ordinarily incline the population towards the less overtly secular Republicans.
Good piece. Something you don’t explicitly mention is how the nativist and radical progressive narratives feed off each other at the expense of the liberal one. Nativists say immigrants are coming to steal our land and jobs and culture and while traditional liberals say “No they’re coming to make their own way and contribute to society” progressive activists are basically agreeing with the nativist premise: “Damn straight we are, gringo!” Only the liberal narrative actually contradicts the Great Replacement myth; the progressive narrative just confirms it in spades.
Other negative far-left memes about immigration that I've heard:
- Immigrants are colonizers
- Immigrants get ahead by stepping on Black Americans (see, for example, the ADOS movement's rhetoric about immigrants, including Black immigrants)