Lincoln Denounces Racist Attack Ad

Incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln says that her accusation that opponent Bill Halter supports outsourcing isn't racist, but that another group's making the same accusation is.

I wrote last week about a political attack ad airing in Arkansas (link contains video), criticizing senatorial hopeful Bill Halter who is running against incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln in this year’s Democratic primary. The ad, created and paid for by Americans for Job Security, picks up on one of the Lincoln campaign’s talking points and uses stereotypical caricatures of Asian Indians to accuse Bill Halter of supporting outsourcing to India.

Turns out that Lincoln’s campaign couldn’t handle the heat drawn by the ad. Over the weekend, Lincoln’s campaign joined Halter in denouncing the ad as “offensive”. Here’s the full story:

Halter, Lincoln condemn outside group’s TV ad
Associated Press – May 1, 2010 4:04 PM ET

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, her chief rival for the Democratic nomination, are condemning an advertisement that uses Indian actors and images to raise claims that Halter outsourced jobs.

Lincoln and Halter both criticized the ad, reportedly made by a Virginia-based group called Americans for Job Security. A telephone message left at the group’s office was not immediately returned Saturday.

The ad began appearing online on Friday, and has been condemned as featuring stereotypes of Indians. Halter’s campaign said the group has purchased more than $780,000 worth of airtime in the state starting Monday.

Lincoln called the ad offensive, and Halter’s campaign said it should never air.

Lincoln has raised the outsourcing claims against Halter over a company where he once served on the board of directors. Although the company said it saved costs by opening a Bangalore office, there is no evidence that it cut American jobs to do so.

Act Now! If you think this was pretty racist, I’m sure the Halter campaign would love to hear about your disdain in the form of a $5 donation.

Racist Political Ad from Arkansas Targets South Asians

Check out this racist political ad airing right now in Arkansas:

 

The ad was created, and is being aired, by Americans for Job Security, a group that claims as its focus issue the problem of American unemployment and outsourcing. This ad criticizes Democrat Bill Halter, the current Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas, who is running against incumbent Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln in the Democratic primary to represent the state’s 1st District.

Now, I don’t blog about this ad because I’m supporting any particular candidate in this race. To be honest, neither Halter nor Lincoln were on my radar before today. As I wrote this post, I turned to the more savvy politcos that I’m currently hanging out with (one being electroman, and another being one of the bloggers of Blog for Arizona) and asked them the following question: “Do you have any particular opinion of Blanche Lincoln?” The unanimous, if relatively non-committal, answer was: “Well, she’s pretty conservative.”

Clearly, all of us in this room have virtually nothing invested in this particular race in Arkansas.

But, what I do have an issue with is this ad, which parrots one of the talking points coming out of the Lincoln campaign. Five years ago or so, Halter sat on the Board of Directors of a company called WebMethods Inc. This attack website charges that during Halter’s time on the board of directors, the company opened an office in Bangalore, India. Lincoln’s campaign is also using this issue to attack Halter; here’s an ad that she is paying to put up on Arkansas air waves:

So, what does all this have to do with race?

Well, first of all, the very idea that outsourcing is negative is steeped in race. While it is arguable that companies opening offices overseas limits American economic growth, the outsourcing hysteria is not based on this point. Instead, fearmongerers who talk about outsourcing in a negative tone draw upon an “Us vs. Them” mentality that falls directly along racial lines. They evoke images of White Americans who are jobless while people of colour find jobs: it’s the same kind of mentality I see here in Arizona when it comes to claims that illegal immigrants are taking jobs from legal citizens. The anger stems from the racist notion that White people are entitled to jobs over people of colour, wherever they may live.

While that idea is veiled in the official Lincoln ad, it is made blatant and obvious in the Americans for Job Security ad. Here, images of South Asians are coupled with stereotypical Asian mandolin music and stereotypical backdrops of India, all to emphasize the foreign-ness of South Asians. This Us vs. Them structure is further established by the juxtaposition of the South Asians thanking Bill Halter in haevily-accented English, while the narrator retorts an accent-free “thanks for nothing”.

The whole ad screams of racist caricature of South Asians, that blames not only Bill Halter, but Asian Indians for Americans’ joblessness. It amounts to a political hate crime against the Asian Indian community.

And beyond the racism, this Daily Kos blog discusses why the charge of outsourcing against Bill Halter may be disingenous and misleading. The long and short of it is that Hater’s company, WebMethods, expanded an international office. And in the same year, they made some money. As Daily Kos points out, WebMethods did not cut any American jobs when they expanded their Bangalore branch, so the charge of outsourcing is based on the notion that potential, not actual, American jobs were lost.

This is the dirty side of the outsourcing debate: the argument that any form of globalization and international business is somehow treasonous towards America. This isn’t based on worry for the American economy, it’s based on sheer xenophobia; further, it myopically ignores the fact that many American-based companies are turning towards foreign markets to expand their businesses. For a country that touts capitalism above all else, this fear of international markets is remarkably non-capitalistic; abject rejection of potential consumers by deliberately avoiding international business only hurts the bottom line.

That being said, my pal who runs Blog for Arizona remarks: “That ad is remarkably racist. But it’s going to work, because it targets fears that Americans (particularly those in Arkansas) have because of the rampang unemployment rate. If you’re going to be a racist Democrat, that ad is the way to do it.”

It’s sad but true that this ad will probably work to attack Bill Halter. If you don’t want it to, you can donate to Halter’s campaign here.

“This is Alabama. We Speak English.”

Check out this thiry-second TV ad, called “Language”, from Tim James, a Republican running for Albama governor. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Can you believe this mess?

Tim James is honestly campaigning on a platform of language discrimination. One of his campaign promises is actually to disenfranchise American citizen who don’t speak English by eliminating non-English government documents. 

It’s probably unnecessary for me to point out, but a full 20% of Americans speak primarily a language other than English at home. Of those, roughly 20% speak an Asian language. So, we’re talking about a good chunk of Americans, including a sizeable portion of the Asian American community, who may rely on non-English government documents to function. Further, most of the other 80% of Americans who speak a non-English language at home are Spanish-speaking. Thus, eliminating non-English government documents will overwhelmingly affect members of the Asian and Latino communities — who collectively make up about 4% of Alabama’s population.

Clearly, James isn’t counting on those votes to elect him governor. Although, perhaps he should — a recent poll shows James polling at only 8 points in the Republican Gubernatorial primary in Alabama, behind fellow Republicans Bradley Byrne and Roy Moore. Although, then again, James may also be the joke of the race: not only did his campaign release a whiny press release disputing the numbers of the aforementioned poll (because it shows their candidate doing really badly amongst all segments of Republican voters), but Tim James’ campaign website has to have the single worst example of header image Photoshopping I have ever seen. I mean really — go check out his campaign website. What is up with that header image? Not only are James’ ear and sleeve fading into ghostly non-existence, but that left-over beige background around his neck makes it look like he’s engulfed in a form-fitting plume of desert sand. I guess none of those all-American, English-speaking campaign staff James hired know how to work a background filter, huh?

Oh, and Gawker points out the irony that Tim James, who just hates them foreign languages, is the son of former Alabama Governor Fob James. That’s right — “Fob“.

Univ. of Arizona Law School: Students Engage in Grassroots Efforts to Protest SB 1070

Ted Vogt
This is AZ-LD30 House Representative Ted Vogt. He supports torture, racial profiling, and the "birther" movement. Also, his friends think he's "hilarious" and "witty".

Following Governor Jan Brewer’s signing of SB 1070 last week, electroman quipped on his Facebook “it’s time for civil disobedience”. True, he was (jokingly) talking about engaging in high-speed car chases if a cop pulls me over and asks for my passport.

One blogger agrees (although not about the car chases part), listing civil disobedience as one of five actions you can take to protest Arizona’s passage of patently racist state law criminalizing the act of being an undocumented immigrant. Examples include:

Take a hint from the Capitol Nine who chained themselves to Capitol building doors. Leave your licenses at home. Walk out of schools and walk into local Congressional offices of politicians who have not cosponsored the DREAM Act and refuse to stand up for immigration reform. Conducts sit-ins, hunger strikes and flash mobs. Offer to get yourself detained wearing t-shirts and carrying signs that say “Do I look like an ‘illegal immigrant’ to you?” or “Being Brown is Not a Crime.”

While I like food a little too much to conduct a hunger strike, acts of civil disobedience can certainly help send the message that the people are unhappy with SB 1070.

A friend of mine is graduating from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law next month. He emailed me this morning to tell me about a major controversy going down in the halls of the law school here in sunny Tucson.

Apparently, last month, the law class of 2010 elected to have a member of the graduating class, Ted Vogt, speak at their graduation ceremony. Vogt, a 37-year-old third-year law student who has clerked for both Senator John Kyl and former Vice President Dick Cheney, was appointed to the Arizona State House of Representatives (as a representative for Arizona’s Legislative District 30) in March when  the seat’s previous holder, Frank Antenori, left it vacant for a position in the State Senate. Here’s Vogt talking about his own “awesomeness” (note the air-quotes) at the Pima County Supervisors’ meeting moments before he obtained enough votes to be appointed to the seat:

As a State House Representative,Vogt voted “yes” on both SB 1070 and Arizona’s recent “birther” bill, both of which have made national headlines for being… well, ignorant and racist pieces of legislative frivolousness.

At this point, we should note the irony of a soon-to-be matriculating student of law voting in favour of two pieces of legislation that are virtually guaranteed to be struck down for being unconstitutional.

Now, members of the law school’s 2010 graduating class are seeking methods to protest Vogt’s “yes” votes at the graduation ceremony. Some students are planning to hold signs, wear ribbons, or turn their backs on Vogt while he speaks. My friend has written a letter to the law school’s dean, asking to be peaceably excused from the graduation ceremony during Vogt’s speech, and to be allowed to return when Vogt finishes. Explaining their motivations, one of Vogt’s classmates wrote this on the law students’ listserv:

I just got married two weeks ago, to a great guy I’ve been with for almost 7 years. My husband is Mexican, he has a work visa and has worked legally in this country for the last 6.5 years. We are working on getting him a green card now that we are hitched. He has very brown skin, and while he speaks English exceptionally fluently, he has a pretty thick Mexican accent. When 1070 becomes law (I believe the governor is signing it at 10am today) my husband risks ARREST every time he leaves our house, if he forgets to carry his visa/green card with him at ALL times. If he forgets his papers, HE GOES TO JAIL, is charged with a misdemeanor and may be fined up to $500. This is my reality in the wake of Ted’s votes.

So, I am sorry, but I don’t care that Ted’s a funny guy, and frankly, after he expressed his support for torture as an interrogation tool in our criminal procedure class, I never found him all that funny. I definitely didn’t vote for him, but I would have never said a word about his commencement speech if he hadn’t just voted to force my husband and me to live in fear every time we leave the house without Sergio’s visa. This is not just “politics.” This is my life, my husband’s life, and the lives of millions of legal immigrants in this country who may be impacted by Arizona’s decision to lead the country in racist, anti-immigrant and anti-constitutional laws designed specifically to harass Latinos out of the country.

So let me ask you, NLGers, defenders of liberal ideals and justice, when would be an appropriate time to say something? How long should I hold my tongue? How long should I voluntarily suspend my first amendment rights on this issue? Until YOU are comfortable? Sorry folks, I am graduating too, and I worked my ass off for this degree, just like everyone else. To have my school and my class represented by someone who voted to implement a blatantly racist, likely unconsitutional requirement that cops start racially profiling my husband and millions of others absolutely ruins MY graduation, and I for one, will not in good conscience sit idlely by.

I think this student’s email emphasizes the key point: this is a graduation ceremony for the entire class of law students. Regardless of Vogt’s personality, his humour, or even his personal politics — having him speak at graduation without a measured response from dissenting students explicitly condones his recent votes in the State House. Students of law, in particular, have a moral obligation to speak up if they think Vogt’s actions have damaged the rule of law in the state of Arizona.

But that’s not to stop Vogt’s supporters from defending him as “hilarious” and an “exemplary law student”. My friend writes to me that he, and other protesters of Vogt’s speech, are being characterized as “disgusting”, “childish”, and “attention-seeking” for organizing acts of civil and peaceable disobedience.

It all just goes to show you: Republicans are all about First Amendment rights and free speech… as long as you happen to agree with their conservative view. But, heaven forbid you choose to exercise your free speech rights to protest right-wing ideology — than, all of a sudden, you’re being “inappropriate” and immature. 

Personally, I am in full support of law students who want to peaceablyspeak out against Vogt during graduation this year. Heck, some law students are getting a mariachi band to play at their post-grad party; maybe they could get the band to play at graduation — during Vogt’s speech. If I am invited to my friend’s graduation this year, you can bet that I will be among members of the audience wearing ribbons and turning my back on Vogt.

Meanwhile, I should point out that Ted Vogt faces significant competition in the Republican primary when it comes to defending his LD30 seat in the House. Blog for Arizona gives us a wrap-up of others who have filed in opposition of Vogt for the two seats opening up this year:

Several Republican candidates have already filed to run for these house seats in LD 30, and will all compete in the August 24 primary:

–incumbent House Rep. David Gowan
–Kurt Knurr, a systems engineer for a Defense Contractor
–Parralee Schneider, one of the nominees listed above
–Doug Sposito, one of the nominees listed above, former candidate for this house seat in 2004 and 2008.
–Ted Vogt, appointed today to this house seat

Candidate Brian Abbott also recently filed to run for this seat, and is a partner in a telecommunications consulting & contracting firm. According to him he is a Republican, though no party affiliation is listed on the state campaign finance website.

Democrat Andrea Dalessandro, (a retired tax accountant and instructor), who also was a candidate for LD 30 state house in 2008, is the lone Democrat in this field so far. See: www.andreaforaz.net.

I should probably point out that I actually live in LD 30 here in Arizona, so Vogt’s currently my representative. What an awesome reason to support Andrea Dalessandro’s campaign.

Asian American Candidates Win in Local Elections

john-liu-victory

Although predictable to all but the most politically obtuse, John Liu made history yesterday when he overwhelmingly won the position of NYC comptroller. In doing so, Liu became the first Asian American to win a city-wide position in NYC. While this is a remarkable victory for Liu, it remains a sobering landmark moment, considering that the Asian American population in NYC has been around since the early nineteenth century.

Yet, I congratulate Liu in his victory: John Liu has been amongst the most vocal advocates, nationally, for the Asian American community, and he has worked tirelessly for his constituents in NYC as city councilman. However, his victory, and the election results in other races, also teaches us that Asian American candidates, like many other minority politicians, cannot win solely by relying on their ethnicity to carry them to victory.

Liu, as Calvin Prashad of APA for Progress points out, reached out to African-American and Latino community leaders as a city councilman and as a candidate for NYC comptroller. He became a popular political representative because he campaigned and worked across racial bounds, while simultaneously ensuring that each community felt they had an advocate in him. Liu was able to garner support from Asian American voters, locally and nationally, by using his clout as an elected representative to raise awareness regarding APIA community issues and concerns, but he did not marginalize himself as merely an Asian American candidate.

Similarly, Repubican Peter Koo overcame incumbent Democrat Yen Chou to win Liu’s old seat as city councilman in NYC’s 20th district. Prashad notes that incumbent Chou relied upon Chinese-American support in a district that includes Flushing, NY which has a large Asian population. Koo, however, counted Jewish and Korean business owners amongst his supporters, and was able to build a multi-racial and multi-ethnic voting base. Both Koo, and Margaret Chin who won a city council seat in NYC’s 1st district which encompasses Manhattan’s immense Chinatown, are prominent community leaders well-known, and well-respected, by their voting constituents.

In Virginia, Korean-American Democrat Mark Keam emerged victorious against Republican Jim Hyland to represent VA’s 35th District in the State House of Delegates. Although Keam’s district contains only approximately 10% Asian Americans, Keam won by 2 percentage points over his opponent, Keam was able to build a campaign that transcended racial lines in order to become the first Asian American elected to the Virginia State House.

Other Asian American candidates didn’t fare as well. Kevin Kim lost NYC’s 19th District to Republican Dan Halloran in part by attacking Halloran’s religious beliefs. And Sam Yoon’s campaign to be the first Asian American mayor in Boston fell flat yesterday, I believe in part because Yoon relied on schticky racial stunts to distinguish himself from the pack. At one campaign event, Yoon (who is Korean American) passed out fortune cookies to event attendees in a clear attempt to paint himself as the “ethnic” candidate.

Prashad of APA for Progress does a great job of enumerating the lessons learned from yesterday’s election results. In an act of blatant plagiarism, here’s my list for future Asian American candidates hoping to be elected to local office, some of which I draw from my own experiences (and mistakes) helping to run a local state representative race:

  • Be a community leader. Nothing beats widespread recognition as a community leader. If a diverse group of local names respect you, half your work is done — but that means that the time to get involved is now.
  • Tap the team. There are some really talented political activists within the Asian American community, and a widespread network of politicos who blog across the nation on APA political issues. These are also folks who are training the next generation of young campaign managers and lobbyists. Get these folks on your side — they can help with advice, fundraising, and just raising your profile.
  • Transcend the “ethnic” divide. It doesn’t matter what the demographics of  your district are, do not rely on an minority face and an ethnic name to carry you to victory. Voters (particularly minority voters) prefer candidates who prove themselves to be well-rounded, and who can advocate on behalf of a number of communities. Reach out to other community leaders and build a multi-racial coalition. If you don’t, you’ll look like you’re trying too hard to pander, and you run the risk of rendering yourself “out-of-touch” or even irrelevant. 
  • Don’t patronize the Asian American voter. Asian American voters are evenly spread between Democrats and Republicans, and we won’t be swayed merely by an Asian face. Shoot, Bob McDonnell, the new governor-elect of Virginia, courted the Asian American vote in the last several months, helping launch his campaign to victory over Democrat Creigh Deeds. Asian Americans are conscentious and educated voters — treat us like we are.
  • Pick a few resonating issues, and change the conversation. Don’t try to campaign on every issue under the sun (although you’d better be capable of doing so). Change the conversation to focus on a few key issues you are good at, and hammer those home with voters. Successful candidates are ones that are able to communicate their priorities to voters, and those priorities resonate.
  • Be money conscious. Don’t waste your campaign funds. If you know a guy who knows a guy who can do it just as well as a consultant for cheaper, pick your friend of a friend. Keep your materials professional looking, but the more money you save by doing things in-house, the more you have to spend reaching out to voters. 
  • Go high tech. Get a good, professional website, and make sure you use direct mailers and phone-banking to maximize your contact. Don’t shy away from radio, television, or even social networking like Facebook to spread the word about your race.
  • Don’t go negative. Nobody likes a negative campaigner, and nobody likes a negative race. It’s easy to get bogged down in bad feelings against your opponent, but you must make sure your campaign retains the moral high ground. Bottom line, just don’t do it.