Posted on January 4, 2008, Printed on January 11, 2008
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On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee also did his part
to promote invisible race politics. The GOP underdog did so
in no small part thanks to the issue of immigration, a very
racial electoral wedge that many voters believe has nothing
to do with race.
By focusing on "illegals," "illegal aliens" and other
racial codes, Huckabee and other Republican candidates get
to ride the juggernaut of anti-immigrant, anti-Latino
sentiment gripping the country -- without appearing racist.
Pundits have even taken to calling the immigration issue the
"New Willie Horton," in reference to how, during the 1988
presidential race, a political advertisement deployed by
George H.W. Bush against Democratic rival Michael Dukakis
featured a black man convicted of murder who, after being
furloughed. raped a woman. Many African Americans and others
deemed the Horton ads a thinly veiled appeal to anti-black
sentiment in the electorate.
Latino leaders and editorials in Spanish-language
newspapers have denounced Huckabee for openly touting the
endorsement of Jim Gilchrist, one of the co-founders of the
anti-immigrant Minutemen, an organization denounced as a
racist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and
others. In an election that will witness the largest Latino
voter participation in history, how well the veil of
legality hides the racial aspects embedded in the
immigration issue may determine the fate of Republican
candidates like Huckabee.
Regardless of the outcome of this year's election, the
success of Barack Obama and the immigration politics of Mike
Huckabee signal clearly that we are well on our way to a new
era in race and politics. Obama's story and his echoes of
King make us feel good about ourselves and God knows this
country desperately needs that. The question we need to ask
is: "Are we willing to push him to talk seriously about
those echoes of the racial past in the present that he so
skillfully avoids?" And as far as Republicans like Huckabee,
we have to ask, "How long are we willing to accept their
unskillful use of the racist appeals inherent in their rants
about immigrants and immigration issues?" Failure to ask
these and other questions will leave us vulnerable to the
silent poison of invisible race politics.
Roberto Lovato is a New York-based writer with New
America Media. Read more of his work at
© 2008 Independent Media
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