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Latino Victory and the Imperatives of Political Pressure

Published on Friday, June 15, 2012 by Salon.com

Like LGBT activists, Latinos continuously pressured Obama, and now have an important victory to show for it.

by Glenn Greenwald 

Throughout the Obama presidency, one of the most vocal and demanding factions in the Democratic Party base has been activists for gay and lesbian equality. They repeatedly protested at Obama events and even at the White House, complained loudly about Obama’s broken promises, and even threatened to boycott Obama’s re-election campaign by withholding donations. In light of that ongoing confrontationalism, as well as the importance of gay voters (and especially gay donors) to the Democratic Party, it’s no surprise that their agenda has been repeatedly attended to by Obama, as he engineered the successful repeal of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell, ordered his DOJ to stop defending the constitutionality of DOMA, and then finally “evolved” to an Election-Year endorsement of same-sex marriage. 

Latino activists have been as confrontational and unwilling to fall into line as good, compliant partisan soldiers. They publicly protested Obama’s record number of deportation, complained about his immigration policies, loudly accused him of “betrayal,” and expressed substantial disapproval for him in polls. Thus, five months before the election, we have this today:

Hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children will be able to obtain work permits and be safe from deportation under a new policy announced on Friday by the Obama administration. . . . 

These qualifications resemble in some ways those of the so-called Dream Act, a measure blocked by Congress in 2010 that was geared to establish a path toward citizenship for certain young illegal immigrants. The administration’s action on Friday, which stops deportations but does not offer citizenship, is being undertaken by executive order and does not require legislation. It was announced by the Department of Homeland Security. . . .

“Uncritical adoration and unconditional loyalty… are the prime impediments to progress.” 

President Obama was expected to discuss the new policy in the White House Rose Garden Friday afternoon. The plan is expected to be popular among immigrant citizens, especially Hispanics, a key voting bloc in the upcoming elections.

Like gay voters (and donors), Latinos are vital to the President’s re-election bid. Had they simply stayed quiet and cheered blindly for Obama and the Democrats, they would have had no leverage: politicians, rationally, will reflexively ignore those who pledge unconditional fealty to them. Because their devotion to the Obama re-election campaign was not unconditional — it was very much conditioned on having their political priorities attended to rather than ignored — they have now received a valuable and important (and plainly just) policy change. 

This illustrates the proper relationship between citizens and public servants. Uncritical adoration and unconditional loyalty breed an arrogant, insular, unaccountable political class; as David Sirota argued when Obama “evolved” on marriage, those who reflexively defend Obama in the name of Election-Year political loyalty (or who demand that criticisms be stifled until the election) are the prime impediments to progress. 

Read the full article with updates at Salon.com

© 2012 Salon.com 

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York.

He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006.

His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy.

His just-released book is titled “With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful.”

He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.

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