Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Equality & Accountability

Pictured above: Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Ethnic Chauvinist

Much to their credit, progressives have traditionally championed equal opportunity and have challenged white racism. But far too few progressives promote equal accountability for all Americans. In other words, they do not always hold all individuals and groups equally accountable for their bad behavior. A recent example is seen in the California House Race between the Democratic candidate Loretta Sanchez and her Republican opponent, Van Tran. During an interview on Univision she stated that:

"The Vietnamese and Republicans were trying to seize power from US (Hispanics)...and trying to take away this seat, this seat that we have done so much for our community..."

Sanchez goes on to tar Tran with accusations of being "anti-immigrant," in spite of the fact that he came to the United States as a poor refugee from Vietnam.

Progressives would (rightfully) howl in protest if a white politician were to voice similar sentiments regarding a diverse opponent and if they implied that a political seat belonged to whites. Yet, few if any progressives have held Sanchez accountable for her ethnic chauvinism and reminded her that political districts belong to all citizens, regardless of race, color or creed. In spite of their rhetoric, these progressives clearly do not hold diverse Americans in high regard, because when you truly view someone as your equal, you will hold them equally accountable for their actions.

Loretta Sanchez and Van Tran: Ethnic Flare-up Roils California House Race

2 months ago

ORANGE, Calif. -- Rep. Loretta Sanchez was a powerful symbol of Latino pride and empowerment when she ousted conservative veteran Bob Dornan in 1996. Now this Southern California House district is back in play, fueled by an anti-Democratic national tide and an impolitic remark Sanchez made in a Spanish-language television interview last month.
Sanchez gave Republican rival Van Tran a political gift when she warned on Univision that Vietnamese and Republicans were trying to seize power from "us" -- the implication being Hispanics and her. Tran, a state assemblyman, is using the interview to try to energize conservatives and consolidate support from Vietnamese-American voters.

About 44 percent of registered voters in the district are Hispanic and 15 percent are Vietnamese, according to Allan Hoffenblum, publisher of The California Target Book, the state's bible of congressional and legislative races. Sanchez has been winning every two years by huge margins. Still, all signs point to a very bad Election Day for Democrats, and ergo, a shot for Tran.

The only public poll of the race, done by Republican Whit Ayres in August, showed a statistical dead heat -- Sanchez 45 percent, Tran 43 percent. A Republican strategist familiar with the district said it is still a single-digit race, though not as close. (Update: The Tran campaign on Sunday night e-mailed me a new poll, conducted Oct. 13-14 by the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies, that showed the candidates tied at 39 percent each).

National Republicans have named Tran to their "Young Guns" program for up-and-coming House candidates. They haven't given him cash, but are keeping the option open. Famous names, meanwhile, are descending on the area. Bill Clinton held a rally Friday in Santa Ana for Sanchez and Sarah Palin headlined an event for Tran and other California Republicans on Saturday in Anaheim.

The Univision stumble has launched Sanchez on what Tran calls a "let-me explain-it-this-way tour" of Vietnamese TV and radio. Her actual words, according to a captioned translation, were: "The Vietnamese and the Republicans are -- with an intensity -- trying to take away this seat, this seat that we have done so much for our community, take away this seat from us and give it to this Van Tran, who's very anti-immigrant and very anti-Hispanic." If she had a do-over, she said in an interview, "I guess what I would say is Van Tran supporters are going after this seat. That's what I would change."

Sanchez is co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Vietnam, has visited Vietnam three times and says she has worked "side by side" with Vietnamese in her district for 14 years. "He's really not going to win," she said of Tran. "He can't pull his own base vote, which is Vietnamese. We poll and we know...I think his own community won't be voting for him."

Tran laughed and told me that's not what his polling shows. He said Sanchez's comment on Univision was an extension of what she says about her seat to Latino audiences -- "that it belongs to her and that she's working so hard for them despite everybody else trying to get her. But this time she just got caught on national Spanish language television."

The LiberalOC blog, in a piece re-posted on the Sanchez campaign website, said a major Tran talking point to the Vietnamese community is that only Vietnamese "can have sympathy and...can understand our concerns. Only we will truly care, protect the true interests of the Vietnamese community." The blog called Tran "the real race-baiter" in the contest.

Not pretty, to be sure, and yet there are inspirational aspects to this ethnic clash. The ethnic friction here is due to positive developments -- Hispanic gains and the growing political engagement and influence of the Vietnamese community. And the candidates themselves embody the American Dream, the core ideal that makes us so proud of who we are.

Tran was born in South Vietnam and airlifted out of Saigon by the U.S. Army a week before the city fell. He arrived in the United States at age 10 knowing two English words. He went on to become a lawyer, a Garden Grove city council member and, in 2004, the first Vietnamese-American elected to any state legislature.

Sanchez is one of seven siblings raised by Mexican immigrant parents. Her father was a machinist and her mother was a secretary. Sanchez was in the Head Start program for low-income children and used a Pell Grant for college, according to her campaign biography. She earned a master's degree, became a financial analyst and started her own business before winning her seat in Congress.

The ethnic contrast, it must be said, pales beside the political and stylistic gulfs between these two. Sanchez, arriving the other day at a union hall to give a pep talk to canvassers, wore a sparkly pink blazer, black slacks and black cowboy boots. She jumped into people's arms for hugs, and the hall took on the air of an actual pep rally as she shouted out union names -- "We have pipefitters! We have electricians! We have plumbers! We have operating engineers! How about those ironworkers?" -- interrupted after each one by applause, whistles and cheers.

She sustained that energy level right through an account of her opponent's "bad record" -- he voted against increasing the minimum wage, against sick leave for employees, against banning toxic chemicals in the workplace (boos all around) -- and the specific jobs she and her party had brought to Orange County (cheers for each project). When you knock on people's doors, she exhorted the group of about 100, "You tell them the economy's getting better! There are more jobs to come!"

Tran is a buttoned-down pol given to dry understatement. At an open-air Tea Party rally in Garden Grove last weekend, dressed in a standard suit, he earned some cheers for calling Sanchez "a Nancy Pelosi lapdog" and even evoked a little call and response from the sparse crowd:

"Did you hear what she said on TV?"

"Yes!" they yelled.

"Who does this seat belong to?"

"The people!"

"The American people," he said approvingly.

Tran then trailed off into Washington-speak (denunciations of "cap-and-trade, the stimulus package, TARP, everything else") and boilerplate. This election is not about me, he said, it's about our children, and hope and opportunity. Please help me get elected to stop our march toward "European socialism," he said, and bring back the values of faith, family and freedom.

A Tran victory scenario hinges on Latino voters staying home, Republicans flooding the polls, Vietnamese voters uniting behind him, and independent candidate Cecilia Iglesias draining some Hispanic votes from Sanchez. Local analysts say Iglesias is a minor factor; the race would have to be razor close for her to make a difference. It's also unclear if Vietnamese voters, fragmented by personality, politics and background, will flock to Tran.

But a new Pew poll finds that Hispanics, hard hit by foreclosures and job losses, are not motivated this year. And virtually every poll shows that Republicans are far more enthusiastic than Democrats about going to the polls. As Hoffenblum, the publisher of the California Target Book, put it, "In this climate, any Republican has a chance."

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