I sometimes feel sad that there has been a loss of rich and colorful words from everyday language, a result of the success of the group-identity patrol, which has stamped out the use of unflattering nicknames from eras gone by. A lot of the cleansing of language has been laughable, such as the ban at the Los Angeles Times on the phrase “dutch treat,” the word “barrio,” and the like.
I was glad to see society rid itself of some of the offensive terms. But now I want to bring one of them back: retards. Or, to be more exact, reee-tards. This word and the word “retarded” were pretty effectively stamped out during the 1990s by the various national associations that represent the mentally handicapped.
But that was before various members of the California Republican Party decided to place Son of Proposition 187 on the ballot next year, an act that will almost surely send the last few undecided Latinos running into the waiting arms of the Democratic Party.
I asked Ron Unz about this issue recently, because he shocked and infuriated the right-wingers who make the most noise in the Republican Party when he fought hard against Proposition 187 the last time around. Prop. 187, you will recall, was approved by voters, banning illegal immigrants from receiving public assistance, public schooling, or public medical care in California. It never took effect, however, because the lower courts found it unconstitutional, and Governor Gray Davis refused to fight for it.
Most whiners in the Democratic Party have long ignored the fact that Unz marched with angry Latinos in the streets of Los Angeles (with the, ahem, Mexican flag flying prominently in the crowd) and was one of the featured speakers against Prop. 187 at that huge and infamous rally a few years back.
Unz opposed 187 for the same reason a lot of moderates and businesspeople did — he believes that immigration is the economic and creative lifeblood of California and that laws aimed at immigrants will create lasting race divisions while doing little good.
“What we are seeing now is a further devolving into the narrow camps, with the second attempt to push through a 187-like initiative by certain conservatives,” says Unz. “At the same time, you have the ethnic promotion of Latino group politics getting a big push from the Richard Polancos of the world. This is an equally negative countervailing force. It is all bad news for California, period.”
A June poll by the Times showed that voter support is still strong for Prop. 187. But when it comes to Son of 187, voters have not yet been subjected to the very logical argument that I and others are making against it. Voters must understand that if they support a two-party political system of democracy, they damn well better fight against Son of 187 because it will push too many more Latino voters into the Democratic Party.
Why is this so bad? Why not celebrate the fact that of the new behemoth of Latino voters about to dominate political life in California, 65 to 80 percent are expected to register as Democrats?
This is a disaster because, at least in California, the Democratic Party has offered nothing but dead-end thinking and victim philosophy to minorities for quite some time. The Democrats are the architects of such failed public policies as no-skills education, forced busing for “integration,” the welfare crutch system, and other mass fiascoes that have caused suffering and unnecessary failure among the state’s minority groups.
Although I am a lifelong Democrat (forced to remain so by the Republicans’ incredible idiocy on such major issues as protecting the environment), I cringe whenever I survey the political makeup of our state legislature, urban city councils, large city school boards, and other elected bodies. Most have long been tightly controlled by the Democrats. And, by and large, these elected entities just plain suck at leading society and making laws.
This is the reason rich, white Republican Mayor Richard Riordan is enduringly popular with Latinos.
As a much-discussed recent poll by GLS Research into voters’ views of the Los Angeles Unified School District power struggle showed, Riordan remains highly popular among local Latino voters, even though many media accounts attempted to paint Riordan as the man behind the ouster of Superintendent Ruben Zacarias. According to the poll, 63 percent of Latinos hope that Riordan can improve the schools — a far higher percentage than those who believed Zacarias, the school board, or state legislators might improve the schools.
This attitude among Democratic Latinos toward Republican Riordan relates directly to my revulsion toward Son of 187. Latinos respect Riordan because he thinks outside the box. He is a moderate Republican — a strange m?lange of pro-gun control, pro-business, pro-gay rights, and antiregulation. Like a lot of strong Republican mayors around the country, Riordan — unlike the vast majority of elected Democrats — understands economics as well as he understands people. He has shown that this mix works.
You get none of that sort of thinking from most elected leaders in the Democratic Party, in which absurd and narrow thinking (the rich are bad, the poor are good) still predominates. People like City Councilmembers Mike Hernandez, Rita Walters, and Jackie Goldberg, and their ousted allies from the school board, including Barbara Boudreaux, Jeff Horton, and George Kiriyama, still live in the 1960s. They believe that mass government programs, heavy taxes, and obnoxious labor-union bosses can make the world a better place, in the face of extensive proof to the contrary.
Thus, if Latinos begin to vote overwhelmingly Democratic over the next decade, as is surely the dream of old lefty organizations such as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, California is in for years of silly government, stupid laws, and bad quality of life.
One Republican Party strategist says that top Republicans in Sacramento “are just cringing and praying that Son of 187 will go away. But the party can’t control its anti-immigration faction, and California voters might just approve this Goddamn thing.”
I doubt that Republican leaders really understand how awful this prospect is, not only for their own party but for anybody who believes in reforms of the education and tax systems, among others, which out-of-touch Democratic leaders are fighting vociferously. If the Republicans did understand, they would be launching a huge fund-raising drive right now to stop Son of 187, explaining that it is a divisive measure that will further cut California into ethnic camps.
But one Republican pollster tells me: “The Republicans are stuck in a very bad place. Polls show voters are still angry at Gray Davis for failing to fight for 187 in the courts. A lot of those angry voters will vote for Son of 187. If Republicans openly oppose Son of 187, a lot of voters will vote against them.”
Sounds like quite a quandary. A group known as Save Our State is behind Son of 187, and it’s the same old angry crowd: anti-illegal immigration activists Ron Prince, Barbara Coe, and their allies. In their efforts to stamp out illegal immigration by banning illegal immigrants’ use of public services such as medical care and public schooling, Save Our State instead gave rise to more than 1 million new voters, mostly Latino and Asian. Those new voters have provided the Democrats with big wins in the past two election cycles.
As Sacramento political expert Tony Quinn wrote recently, had these newly loyal Latino and Asian Democrats been around to vote several years ago, liberal Democrat Tom Bradley would have defeated moderate Republican George Deukmejian for California governor in 1982. Now that is power.
The huge influx of these angry voters into the Democratic Party is even reverberating in the presidential race, which is, rather surprisingly, narrowing on the Republican side between George Bush and John McCain.
At a recent breakfast with local political writers, the direct and likable McCain told me: “Latinos could decide this thing in California. We are not taking the Latino vote lightly, and we are going to be very aggressive in explaining who I am and how different I am from Republicans they have been exposed to during the fractious debates here.”
Sadly, because of the crush of new voters who have been convinced by Prop. 187 that Republicans are their mortal enemy, California could lose some of its sharpest and most talented elected officials. For example, Representative David Dreier, a brainy, charismatic guy who could easily wow enough voters to become president one day, may not even be able to hang on to his congressional seat in the San Gabriel Valley.
The thing about voters is that once they’re pissed off at politicians, they tend to follow a scorched-earth policy. How many Latino voters will look up Dreier’s work in Washington before they arrive at the polls and see his name with that awful “R” next to it? Latino voters are perilously close to following the scorched-earth approach. They are pissed off because their neighbors, aunts, and parents are illegal immigrants who need to avail themselves of medical care and enroll their children in school. Latinos agree in virtually every poll that there are far too many immigrants here already, but now that they are here they must be treated like humans.
I don’t know what horrendous personal angst has so darkened the minds of Barbara Coe, Ron Prince, and company. Obviously the leaders of Save Our State cannot see that they are driving a stake through the heart of their very own political party. They will only marginalize themselves by doing so.
Some Democrats, I am sure, will cheer over this prospect. They are the sort of thickheaded morons who enjoy football games in which their own team scores 52 points while their opponents score zero. They don’t like competition, and they don’t want to engage in a rousing fight. They are wusses and whiners and wimps.
But others among us understand that if the Democrats are allowed to dominate California politics even more than they do today, we will be wishing that we had not so quickly ushered out the Republicans.