Friday, December 15, 2006

Texas and the future of Australian politics

This week a delayed Congressional election, saw Democrats win a further seat in Congress in Texas on the Mexican border (map from here) with candidate Ciro Rodriguez over Republican Henry Bonilla. He had been the only Mexican American Republican in Congress but some called him a 'coconut', brown on the outside and white on the inside. The election was a run-off from the earlier national elections as neither candidate had an absolute majority then. Nevertheless the Republican incumbent had polled 48% on November 7 and the rest of the vote was split between several Democrats and an Independent with the highest vote being for Bonilla at only 20%. But Rodriguez won with 54%, this is a pretty impressive performance and he is a former social work academic. In part it reflects the collapse of Republication morale since the elections, and a reaction against Republican advertising that accused Rodriguez on being linked to Islamic terrorists. But the seat is majority Hispanic and Republican support for immigration restriction and the border fence was a major issue. Texas will become steadily more Hispanic in future years leading the American trend. The association of the Republicans with nativism may become increasingly counter-productive, even if a majority of voters express nativist views, those to whom the issue is central are more to be migrants and they will vote against the Republicans. This is the 'mobilisation of the base' strategy that the Republicans have used, but now it works against them. Even the ultra-conservative Human Events admits that:
Bonilla was also slightly harmed, and certainly not helped, by his embrace of the conservative position on the border security and immigration issue. Once again, it proved woefully ineffective in bringing out white voters, and whatever-sized effect it had among Hispanic voters -- who make up more than 60 percent of the new district -- it was a negative effect. Bonilla lost counties in the second round that he had never lost in any previous election. This race has implications for Republican hopes to win the Hispanic vote in the future.
Texas go blue as some speculate? Not soon but perhaps in the future. A similar situation may arise in Australia, despite the conservatives' best efforts in the silly citizenship test; the ethnic composition of the Australian electorate will change at an increasing rate into the future. The ethno-cultural politics of the right may become a liability rather than an asset. It is already the major reason for the marginality of John Howard's seat.

Labels: ,

A passage to India (and Spain)

Recently returned from conference at the University of Hyderabad on Challenges of Globalisation: Indian and Australian perspectives. Very interesting although I fear I disappointed two students when I explained that I was only a Marxist some of the time. My very long paper on ‘We have no role model’: Indo-Communism, globalisation and governance in the postcommunist era' is available here along with the PowerPoint that I spoke to at great speed. One theme of the paper is to ask whether the western tendency for cultural 'post-materialist' cleavages to supplant those around the economy in the determination of left-right divisions (an issue alluded to in previous post) has occurred in India also. Surprisingly despite the extent of poverty and inequality in India there is evidence of this. Left parties have increasingly made defence of secularism and opposition to the communal BJP their dominant motive, although the largest Communist Party I was advised at the Conference still considers homosexuality a manifesto of bourgeois decadence!. In this context an interesting article on the Spanish Socialist government in the NY Times here:

Previous Socialist Party governments tended to adopt moderate agendas to preserve the social cohesion that was painstakingly cultivated during the transition to democracy after Franco’s death in 1975. Mr. Zapatero [Prime Minister] has gambled that Spanish society is now stable enough and its democracy advanced enough that such moderation is no longer necessary. It is a significant wager, according to many. Mr. Lamo de Espinosa, the researcher, said Mr. Zapatero, 46, acquired political maturity when democracy was already established in Spain. “He takes democracy for granted, and he takes social and political stability in Spain for granted,” Mr. Lamo de Espinosa said. Mr. Zapatero has therefore been willing to openly defy the Catholic Church with his policies legalizing gay marriage and making divorce easier. He has also presented a legislative package condemning Franco’s dictatorship and honoring its opponents, taking sides in a conflict long considered too divisive for the government to address. And he has dismissed concerns he is flirting with the disintegration of Spain with his openness to greater autonomy for the regions of Catalonia and the Basque Provinces, whose separatist leanings — and the debate over how to contain them — have roiled national politics since democracy began here. Mr. Zapatero’s philosophy, rooted in what he calls citizen socialism, is based on near-pacifism in foreign policy, expanding civil rights and a preference for following rather than guiding the will of the people. “He is not a leftist,” said one friend, who spoke about him on condition of anonymity. “He is a radical democrat.”

Labels: ,