Gotta love identity politics. NPR recently dispatched Kirk Siegler, not normally one to be such a n00b, to Pueblo, CO, to examine the state of Republican politics in a heavily Democratic former steel town with a Latino plurality. Among his profound observations: Pueblo’s Latinos actually refer to themselves as Hispanics. Oh. I had never found Siegler to be such a n00b, but no man can become a twit without uttering his first pronouncement of stupid.
As his tale unfolded, Siegler referred to “….this state’s Democratic establishment of Hispanics–or Latinos….” Or, as it was put by the Mexican father of the buddy of this one guy I overheard on the Sacramento light rail a few months ago, “If you’re blasting that shit out your car window, you need to go back to Mexico because you’re too fucking wetback for this country.” “But dude, you swam here yourself! How can you say that? You swam across the fucking Rio Grande! You’re a fuckin’ wetback, too!” “I don’t care. If you’re blasting that shit, you are too fucking wetback for this country.”
Kirk Siegler, at least, is not too fucking wetback for this country. His very White worry about the semantics of ethnic identifiers reminds me of a comment by David Kuo, George W. Bush’s former faith-based initiatives guru, about the GOP’s arsenal of culture war wedge issues: “Nobody in the heartland gives a shit about that stuff.” Another Tacky Sac vulgarian I came across at the Sixteenth Street light rail station was a ripped white dude walking with two ripped black dudes, all three of them over six feet tall, telling his brothers by another mother, “There are niggas who don’t even have anything to do with their kids!” If the black guys were upset by anything, it was the absent fathers under discussion, not the racially inflammatory parlance used by their main cracka.
As it happens, the stereotype of the absent lower-class father, and especially the absent black father, is a myth whose prevalence is grossly exaggerated by public “leaders” in search of a handy moral panic. Poor women don’t talk about their “baby daddies” for nothing. But at least our pigmentally challenged Sacramentan expressed a coherent conservative policy goal, that of exhorting niggas to remain involved in the lives of their own children. Let’s compare this to what State Rep. George Rivera (R-Pueblo) said on the record during a nationally broadcast radio interview:
“When we look at values, when we look at who we are, especially as Hispanics, our values tend to be conservative,” Rivera says.
Who we are? Especially as Hispanics? Our values? Sweet mother of Pancho Fuckin’ Villa, mate. Did this fucker get promoted to Deputy Chief because he was able to gush forth such vacuity, or did he learn to talk like that because he’d been promoted to Deputy Chief and expansive, substanceless prattle was adaptive to his public office?
Note that Rivera refers to Hispanics as a collective entity, while our Sacramentan referred to the failure of individual niggas to stay engaged with their children. Never forget.
“My belief is that the population is about 80 percent conservative, at heart,” Rivera says. “This goes back to our Hispanic culture, and we just believe in real basic values of family and hard work and responsibility. And religion is big.”
Is there a snowball’s chance in hell that this guy could refute the counterpoint that an equally prevalent set of “real basic values” includes dereliction of familial duty, sloth, irresponsibility, and irreverence? Values worse than these are enumerated in the Bible. Obviously the point was to discourage these vices, but a look through one of the dirtier books, such as Leviticus, offers some useful ideas: don’t screw your wife while she’s on the rag, don’t screw your sister-in-law, don’t screw your goat.
Speaking of goats that got screwed:
Pueblo is one of Colorado’s poorest cities. It has long struggled to reinvent itself after the major steel mills closed in the 1980s.
Well shucks, how did that happen? Could this have roughly coincided with a certain turncoat retired member of the Screen Actors’ Guild being elected to the presidency, firing hundreds of striking air traffic controllers, and plunging civil aviation into chaos for months while a new cohort of controllers was trained? But at least our first divorced president brought us real basic values of family and responsibility. We got Edwin Meese, Ollie North, and, religion being big, Nancy Reagan’s official astrology habit, all in the same administration. God bless America.
Rivera says the GOP’s pitch of small government, low taxes and traditional values is starting to resonate here. And immigration, long a lightning rod issue in Colorado politics? Rivera says it doesn’t come up that much here.
In fact, that’s one of the main reasons why Republicans see opportunity in turning Pueblo, population 108,000, into a city that could swing an election within a swing state, according to Collette Carter, professor of political science at Colorado State University, Pueblo.
“Since the demise of the union, which was always, always, Democrat-leaning, it has basically opened a door for a working-class population to think about: What is best for me?” Carter says.
Pro tip: what’s best is not figuring that since the local industrial economy and labor unions have already been trashed, elected officials might as well trash basic government services, too. Cutting back bus service and housing assistance in a struggling postindustrial city would be an example of small government. Or maybe the politicians say that they’ll only cut the wasteful bureaucratic parts of the bureaucracies, which sounds brilliant until it becomes apparent that the institutional memory is all gone and management laid off the office ladies who were responsible for paying vendors.
Just keep in mind that if Pueblo is turned into another Detroit, it won’t have half-hourly bus service to Canada, because Windsor Transit won’t be there to provide it.
[Carter] says you can’t always group Latinos together politically, either. Just take the issue of immigration: It polls as a much more important issue when you ask working-class Latinos in cities like Denver or Aurora, which have much larger populations of recent immigrants.
“Much of that very large population you have to understand, in Pueblo, is third and fourth generation; they’ve been here forever,” she says.
All these steelworkers who got laid off were locals. The closure of the mills was just a less crackery version of the neoliberal economic platform of Screw Yanqui. This campaign of destruction has been repeated countless times across the country: Lowell, Hudson Falls, Kanapolis, Pittsburgh (which was lucky to come through in quite good shape), Gary, Detroit, Oelwein. Pueblo. If Boeing’s management gets its way, Everett may be next.
At least trashing productive industrial economies and ruining the lives of the honest men and women who keep them running makes room for Republicans as the weeds colonizing these disturbed ecosystems:
Republicans may have good reason to think they can make inroads in these more conservative-leaning areas….
If you read through the transcript up to this point, you’ll notice that the only piece of evidence presented for this thesis, other than George Rivera’s unsubstantiated blanket assertions, was that he “unseated local Democrat Angela Giron in the state Legislature, in a high-profile recall election that focused on guns.” As a rule of thumb, Republican politicians are more supportive of permissive gun regulations that their Democratic opponents. This is not, however, nearly as true in the rest of the country as it is on the Eastern Seaboard north of the Potomac, on the West Coast, and in a handful of strongly leftist parts of the Midwest. Republicans have taken to offering a whole bunch of other shit that has nothing to do with gun rights and that offends, annoys, or scares many gun owners. “I don’t want limousine liberals taking away my firearms” does not mean “I want starve-the-beast Republicans to defund Section Eight and food stamps.” It’s a stretch to say that gun control is inherently an Achilles Heel for the Democratic Party.
State GOP Chairman Ryan Call, who’s fluent in Spanish, began courting Latino voters in earnest here during the 2012 presidential election. The effort fell flat. More Latinos voted — and voted Democratic — than they did in 2008.
LOLZLOLOZLZZLZOOZLZO. Being able to speak the ancestral language of people whose families have been living in the same Colorado city since the Harding Administration isn’t exactly a whopping huge political asset. This is kind of like my being able to pass off a deliberately mangled version of Russian as Polish while gladhanding Chicagoans who look like they might be named Kozlowski. It’s the kind of thing that falls somewhere between “you’re batshit crazy and speaking gibberish” and “you’re reminding me a bit too much of my grandfather.” It can only get worse when the target audience lives in a battered old steel town and the message being conveyed with perfect bilingual fluency is, “Hey, vote for this leveraged buyout dude who has a mansion in San Diego with an elevator for his cars and whose dad was in charge of management at AMC.” It may go over a bit better for immigrants in the Denver Metroplex, who probably have less reason to think that Mitt Romney directly fucked over their own kind, but he’s still an otherworldly specimen of the managerial class who looks like he wants to obliterate basic government services. A lot of sub-H-1B immigrants listening to that kind of pandering must have thought, “My God, this guy just told me the same crazy shit in both of my languages.”
“Our party here in Colorado has adopted party platform positions that embrace the idea of immigration reform and a path to citizenship, while also recognizing we believe in the rule of law,” Call says.
Yeah, we totally believe in the rule of law, except for people who are in violation of US immigration laws, because their American relatives can be induced to vote for us, and then when we naturalize all these people who are here without authorization they too will vote for us out of gratitude, so, yeah, here’s a whole big section of the law that we’re going to abrogate for reasons of political expediency, because we believe in playing by the rules.
The problem here isn’t with the merits or demerits of amnesty for illegal immigrants or with the merits or demerits of increased visa or permanent residency quotas. The problem is that Ryan Call is a dissembling sack of shit. “Immigration reform and a path to citizenship” are euphemistic talking points used by sleazy political operators who only pretend to believe in the rule of law. These are demagogues who want to keep aggressive law enforcement on the table as an option for preying on politically marginalized and inexpedient minorities while selectively waiving it for politically powerful and expedient ones. They’re loath to entirely relinquish the whip hand.
Let’s have some more stupid before we adjourn:
Brian Aguilar is the owner of a local barber shop and salon with his brother and father. The three attended a recent mixer of business leaders and politicians at the state fairgrounds. For Aguilar, the economy, gridlock in Congress and a fix on immigration are among the most critical issues in the race.
“I can totally see the importance of Republicans and Democrats putting their flag in the ground here,” Aguilar told NPR.
He says the key to winning Pueblo is to appeal to the working man and the family man.
“Because we’re the same person, and everything here is real traditional, and it’s about relationships and how you treat people and who you know,” Aguilar says. “Everybody’s family knows each other, so there are deep roots here.” (Emphasis mine)
Are these wankers all using the same set of talking points? If the last paragraph is ultimately true, no one in Pueblo would give the time of day to the Republican Hispanic family values demagogues. Then again, Aguilar’s word salad could mean that Pueblo is a city of plain dealers who know that talk is cheap, or it could mean that it’s a hotbed of clan-based Tammany Hall patronage and crookedness. For all I know, it could mean both, or it could mean nothing at all.
I do know that it’s n00bish to take such a flood of platitudes at face value without personally knowing the community in question. I have (eh, had) family ties to people in the Adirondacks who were all about who knew whose family and me and him sharing a mutual cousin and probably a little incest here and there and definitely some welfare fraud and burning down the trailer for the insurance money. They drank, they lost their driver’s licenses after three rolls into the lake, the unlucky ones got sauced and drowned in boating accidents, the men hit the women, the women scratched back, occasionally someone’s head went through the drywall in the bathroom and a State Police investigator visiting on unrelated business expressed a professional opinion that it didn’t just happen.
Maybe it was because they were low North English with an occasional officer-class cracker in the mix. Some of them were definitely rich white trash. Some of them had children who reverted to poor white trash and turned to extortion, usually of relatives. They’d lie about their income in order to get government cheese, use senile boyfriends’ checkbooks to pay their own credit card bills, stop by to pick up a friend from an in-law’s house and not leave until they’d polished off an entire quiche because the host wasn’t there to stop them at one slice apiece, spend insurance payouts on sports cars and Caribbean cruises, and call tenuous acquaintances with sob stories about stranded in Florida with a bank balance of six dollars because they’d gone south to shack up with strangers they’d met on the internet.
To hazard a guess, I doubt that Pueblo is as much of a hot mess as Colorado Springs, which is known for prominent pastors who are sexually censorious in public but open to a meth-fueled taste of that homosexual strange behind the closed doors of a Rodeway Inn. But I have trouble believing the Hispanic family values story. It’s too pat. It sounds like something out of Reader’s Digest.
As far as relationships with the Rivera family are concerned, my parents once had dinner with Geraldo during a layover at O’Hare, and they said he was really cool. True story. And I have to say, I like him better than George. Because it’s about relationships and how you treat people, even if they’re from Long Island. Sometimes a Rivera is a Hispanic community tradcon cypher, but other times one is the thinking man’s John Stossel. And if few enough people listen to NPR, Americans–Hispanic, Latino, wetback, nigga, and cracker alike–will still be able to tell the difference.
Murica, amigo. Values.