Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

2G2K Circus: Latinos And Asian Americans, Part 2

Two guys, two keyboards and the circus continues. Ferentz picks up the thread and notes that although Latinos in NY and NJ reportedly voted overwhelmingly for Clinton (3-1 and 4-1 margins), that many are now wondering what they got for it.

Ferentz, this is actually what I was trying to lay out with the emergent/insurgent idea. I don’t think I developed it all that well.

Candidates treat emergent groups as easy votes. It’s the classic top-down party machine style of organizing–get as much as you can while giving up as little as you can. It’s the old Plunkitt of Tammany Hall bit. The relationship of the voters to the candidates are essentially retail: the potential of patronage seals the deal.

Insurgent groups, by contrast, can be frightening. The votes are coming, but the candidate sometimes knows not where or, more worrisome, why. Strenuous demands are made upon candidates and party leadership. These, of course, also offer the possibility of transformation.

To me, two of the most classic insurgent campaigns were Jesse Jackson ’88 and Harold Washington’s Chicago mayoral run. You could also go back to the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. All attempted to organize an in-party insurgency that would bring in new voters and thereby change the direction of politics, with candidacies and parties coming second.

The truth is, we haven’t seen this kind of politicking on the Dem side since Jesse Jackson went home to Chicago and the Rainbow Coalition promptly dissolved. Clinton and the DLC depended on everyone staying in their appointed place, and empowering the demandless middle.

Obama’s campaign is nominally insurgent, but it doesn’t compare to Jackson’s bid because there is no effort to build a long-term mechanism to bring insurgents into the party (the thing the Rainbow Coalition was supposed to be). Clinton’s campaign is all emergent. The DLC may be in its death throes because of the war and Bush and young people, but its method survives.

In this instance, I’ve used the terms “emergent” and “insurgent” referring to the Latino and Asian American electorate on purpose. Although both have been in the party for a long while, Latinos especially are at the point where they can play a crucial role in the party’s fortunes. So “emergent” is pretty descriptive.

I use the terms wishfully as well. I’m hopeful–actually pretty certain over the long run–that both will move from emergent to insurgent, from being used as a passive source of votes to being heard as a force within the party. Perhaps what you’re seeing and hearing in New York and New Jersey Latino communities is that very process in motion.

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