Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Today we march, tomorrow we vote: A suggestion for Democrats

Over the past few weeks over two million people have taken to the streets in cities large and small across this country. On Monday perhaps another two million will join that number. Yet, despite this obviously growing movement, the Democratic Party, both the mainstream component in Washington , and that more "progressive" segment represented in the liberal blogosphere, have been blind to the seismic shift taking place right before their very eyes. It's time to wake up and see the great opportunity that’s been presented to not only do the right thing morally and ethically – but also politically.

When millions of people take to the streets, organized only through a grassroots movement, to protest a Republican sponsored bill, passed by an overwhelming Republican majority in the House of Representatives, that was opposed by the majority of Democrats in both the House and Senate – and Democrats don't see that as an opportunity – either they are totally out of touch, or just plain stupid.

What are these protests really about? The answer is simple; H.R. 4437 and its draconian provisions to make all undocumented immigrants and those who would help them into criminals. That's it – nothing more, nothing less.

Over the past year or so I've had more than my fair share of debates about immigration reform, and quite frankly I'm done arguing. To those Democrats who support the enforcement only, wall building, "what part of illegal don't you understand?" school of thought – I say fine, that's your opinion and you're welcome to it. Nothing I can ever say will ever change your mind, and I seriously doubt you could ever change mine, so we'll have to agree to disagree and call it a day.

But ... to all the rest who support some form of a comprehensive, humane and practical immigration policy I say … What the hell are you waiting for?

Why are you standing by idly while a potential political revolution is passing you by?

If 2 million people took to the streets tomorrow to protest against the war, the PATRIOT act, political corruption or any number of other Republican sponsored travesties, we as a party would be cheering. Yet when millions march through the streets with signs that say "Stop HR4436" we hem and haw.

Despite what Lou Dobbs might say, the marches are not about "illegal aliens" trying to demand "rights they're not entitled to." These marches are made up all kinds of people. Some are undocumented, some are the citizen children, wives, husbands and friends of the undocumented. Many others are second, third or forth generation Americans who feel the tone of this debate has turned nasty, and in many ways the attacks upon the undocumented immigrants reveals an underlying racism that has always laid just beneath the surface. Still others are humanitarians and people of faith who feel that the criminalization of the most vulnerable in society and those who serve them is morally wrong.

The one thing all these people have in common is their vehement opposition to a piece of REPUBLICAN LEGISLATION and their support for the comprehensive immigration reform that is overwhelmingly supported by Democrats in Washington. To me that sounds like democracy at work.

On Sunday 500,000 people marched in Dallas. That's 500,000 out of a population of approximately 1.3 million. That's more than 40%. Certainly even Mr. Dobbs can't believe that over 40% of the population of Dallas is made up entirely of "illegal aliens". Obviously this issue has touched a nerve with a large number of American voters…. Let's say that together now: V…O…T…E…R…S.

There's a reason why one of the slogans for this movement has been "today we march…tomorrow we vote" – because that's exactly what's going to happen.

Why are we as a party not embracing this movement? Why aren't we actively out there trying to register new voters? Why can't we see that these are the people who are fighting OUR battle ... and we should be fighting it with them?

In a day when national elections are fought in "key battleground states" where both parties vie for favor from smaller and smaller groups, why are we ignoring millions upon millions of people?

For arguments sake, lets say that only one in four of those who've already marched is an eligible voter who is unregistered or apathetic (I would believe it's much higher, but I'll lowball just to be safe), that's more than half a million potential new voters. What would 500,000 votes have meant in 2000 or 2004? What will half a million or more mean this November?

This to me is a no-brainer.

The demonstrators want comprehensive immigration reform – most of the Democratic legislators and all its leadership want comprehensive immigration reform. The demonstrators oppose HR 4437, Republicans support HR4437. What more do we need to know.

The Republicans set up the immigration issue as a distraction and wedge to try to divide the American people and provide them with an imaginary enemy to demonize and blame for failing Republican policies. I say it's jujitsu time, it's time to turn this issue back in on them.
Veiw more from Manning the Barricades


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