As It Becomes Less Cool to Be Racist, Will Immigration Cease to Be an Electoral Issue?

Erich Rauchway, a history professor in California and one of our buddies over at the very dope blog egdeofthewest, drops some knowledge in a New York Times article that asks that very question.

In retrospect, those final weeks of 2007 — just before actual voting began — look like the recent high point for criticisms of illegal immigration. Consider that Mr. Huckabee was the one Republican candidate who seemed even friendlier to immigrants, including illegal ones, than Mr. McCain. In the November debate when other candidates tried to out-Tancredo each other, Mr. Huckabee instead upbraided Mr. Romney for his views on in-state tuition. “In all due respect, we’re a better country than to punish children for what their parents did,” Mr. Huckabee told him. “We’re a better country than that.”

In early January, he won the Iowa caucus in an upset of Mr. Romney. Shortly before the caucus, Mr. Tancredo became the first candidate to quit the campaign, evidently fearful that he would not even attract a respectable protest vote…

Mr. Rauchway, the historian, argues that the ultimate failure of anti-immigrant politics is part of a larger failure of class-based politics in the United States. Running against the rich — or the poor — has rarely worked in this country. Instead, immigrant-bashing has been most successful when it tapped into broader racial fears, as it did in both the 1850s and the 1920s. Notably, the economy was booming in the ’20s.

“As it becomes less and less acceptable to be racist,” Mr. Rauchway said, “immigration is not going to be as politically effective.”

Polling data supports this argument. In a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted last May — in the midst of the debate over the immigration bill — 57 percent of respondents said that most recent immigrants contributed to this country, up from 34 percent when the question was asked in 1986. Only 28 percent in last year’s poll said that most immigrants caused problems, down from 44 percent in 1986. The Gallup Poll also shows increasing sympathy for immigrants.

We didn’t have to include the upbraiding of our mortal enemy Mitt Romney. Okay, yes we did. Go to hell, Mitt Romney!

Also, that sign is deeply disturbing.



Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs and reports on race and ethnicity for NPR's Code Switch team.
  • ladyboss09

    1. i’ve seen that sign on the drive to san diego. it’s even more disturbing when you realize for the first time that it actually exists.
    2. i don’t think racism is getting unpopular. i think it’s shifting a bit. it might be unpopular to be racist against blacks. apparently mexicans are fair game.
    3. i’ve fallen into #2 while living in LA. however, after spending some time filming in Mexico, i realized that i was more classist than racist… an equally disturbing revelation that is still being corrected.

    i could go on here but that’s an entire post.