The Hill (Op-ed)
By Kica Matos
June 15, 2016
The largest, most extensive Latino and immigrant voter turnout operation in U.S. history is underway.
We will be knocking on doors, calling phones and mailing voter packets to more than 700,000 Latino, Asian and other immigrant voters. We will be sending texts and posting Tweets and hosting podcasts and online chats. In short, we will be doing everything in our power to turn out new immigrant voters who want to raise their voices to make life better for their families and speak out against the finger-pointing and xenophobia.
Here's what we won't be doing: Focusing on presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump.
Make no mistake, we will do everything in our power to stop him.
Trump is a loose cannon, whose maniacal compulsive rhetoric will hinder the progress made by immigrants. He is a narcissist, whose obsession with his own glory will damage our democracy and standing in the world. And he's a bigot, whose attitudes show that, at worst, he has contempt for Latinos, Muslims and anyone who looks like the "other," and at best, that he's cynically scapegoating immigrants and people of color to ratchet up his support amongst white working-class voters. It's worth noting that whichever the reason, blatant dehumanization is now more strongly correlated with support for Trump than for any other candidate. Trump reminds us of the villain in the "Harry Potter" series, Voldemort, who hated anyone different than him. Under Trump, that hatred threatens to unravel what is truly great about America.
So yes, we will work hard to stop one terrible racist from becoming the president of the U.S., but he is an ancillary offshoot; a symptom of a malignant disease. Our real mission lies in rooting out the disease by building a positive vision and agenda for change and organizing voter support around that mission.
Because Trump is not the one who sued in federal court to stop the president's efforts to give undocumented immigrants a reprieve from deportation. He's not the one who blocked fair and comprehensive immigration reform in Capitol Hill. He's not the one pushing for anti-immigration bills that keep undocumented immigrants from driving or receiving healthcare or equal justice in the courts.
Members of the Republican Party did that and they must be held accountable. In that vein, America doesn't need a referendum on Trump; it needs one on racism and hatred and a political party that's willing to line up as apologists for such virulence in order to win an election.
In short, we don't want this election to be about him; we want it to be about "us." We want a referendum on our positive agenda for change that ensures that the priorities of all of our families are the primary driver in shaping the rules and policies that affect them.
Much of the punditry tells us that Trump is a gift in our effort to turn out voters. Never minding that bigotry should never be thought of as a gift; we see the opportunity as a unique one to focus for the first time exclusively on our positive message. We really don't have to undergo the normally laborious effort to define the candidate for voters. The drumbeat of negative press, the conversation around #NeverTrump — the popular hashtag on social media — and Trump himself have strongly defined his brand as hate and fear of others. He's done the work for us. That allows us to spend more time defining our agenda and allows us to pivot, not just to stop Trump, but to transform the country in the process.
Still, we face a singular challenge in defining that transformation: Creating a unified vision in which every American can see herself, not just the dog-whistle rhetoric used by politicians to pit people against each other.
After all, divide and conquer is their strategy, not ours. For years, Republicans have torn at the potential common fabric of America, offering a racial bribe to working-class whites to win elections. Fundamentally, they attacked and scapegoated black Americans in exchange for white working-class support. This race-baiting and tribalism was perhaps nowhere more iconic than in President Reagan's enduring stereotype of black mothers as "welfare queens," which solidified the harmful attitudes of many white Americans toward black Americans living in poverty as moochers looking to get public dollars for free.
Since then, the party has taken to vilifying immigrants, gays, women's reproductive rights and now, transgendered people using public bathrooms, to new heights as party members use these cultural markers as shiny objects to distract Americans from the one and only fact that matters: The party does not have a real solution for creating jobs that allow Americans to take care of their families, build wealth and plan for their futures.
Sure, their strategy to divide us was brilliant in the short-term because it fired up a base of cultural warriors during election cycles.
But it is clear now that the strategy was not the one for the long game. They made a deal with working-class whites and never delivered. Now they have Trump.
Right now, progressives and Democrats are united in their efforts to stop one person, but we are missing a pivotal opportunity to outline a blueprint for change that unites us all in this election and beyond. When voters feel a shared social responsibility, they will turn out to support it. That's how we win this election.
Anger and fear are not the foundation for transformation and can quickly turn to cynicism and hopelessness. It would be a shame if this moment unifies us only to stop one individual, rather than unifying us to build a common progressive agenda. At the doors and on the airways, we will endeavor to present an agenda that highlights the common stories that engage all Americans in movement toward raising wages, comprehensive immigration reform, universal child care and good jobs in the communities that need them the most.
Our nation is on a perilous course. By talking to and turning out hundreds of thousands of immigrant voters supporting a new direction for change, we are offering an alternative to the nationalism that threatens the essence of our democracy. Like Voldemort, who met his end when those on the side of good banded together, the Republican Party is about to run into a force more powerful than their hatred — the power of the love of families and communities standing together.
Matos is the director for immigrant rights and racial justice at the Center for Community Change Action.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com