Politico has an interesting piece about Republican Danny Tarkanian’s race for Nevada’s new Fourth Congressional District. I started reading because Tark the Shark’s son is a paisan (half-a-paisan, anyway), but his shot at beating a prominent black Democrat in a Democrat district is why I kept reading. His opponent is Steven Horsford, majority leader in the state senate and CEO of the Culinary Training Academy, “a partnership with Vegas resorts and the Culinary Local 226 to train future Strip hotel employees.”
This comment from Patricia Cunningham, “who hosts a radio call-in show focused on minority issues,” got my attention:
Cunningham said there’s also some underlying irritation with Horsford among black residents because the Culinary Training Academy — formed in 1993 in the heart of the historic black neighborhood — is dominated by Hispanic students.
Immigration presents a real opportunity to peel off black votes from Democrats, or at least get some voters to stay home. Black skepticism over mass immigration is longstanding; Frederick Douglass wrote before the Civil War that “Every hour sees the black man elbowed out of employment by some newly arrived emigrant, whose hunger and whose color are thought to give him a better title to the place.” Similar skepticism was expressed by a wide variety of very different black voices: Booker T. Washington, WEB DuBois, Marcus Garvey (an immigrant himself), A. Philip Randolph, and Barbara Jordan.
During the Q&A at a panel I was on at a National Urban League event in Washington, an audience member from the group’s L.A. chapter said that everyone knew that whenever the topic of immigration came up on black talk radio, the switchboards lit up with angry callers. A Zogby poll from a couple of years ago found 68 percent of black likely voters thought there was too much immigration, and 70 percent said illegal immigration was caused by inadequate enforcement (vs. 16 percent who agreed with the expansionist explanation that illegal immigration is caused by an insufficient number of legal immigration visas).
Nor is this concern unfounded; Borjas et al. found that about one-third of the decline in the employment rate of black men from 1980 to 2000 was caused by immigration. This is no surprise, since blacks are more likely than whites to be in competition with immigrants, and employers prefer to hire immigrants over black Americans even at higher wages. (See, for instance, here, here, and here.)
Now, it’s true that Tarkanian is in a unique position to appeal to black voters in his district: “players coached by his father who went on to NBA prominence and are now campaigning for him” and “Cunningham said his [Tarkanian’s] family’s connections to the community — they’ve opened a basketball academy in the district — are real.” And any appeal to black voters, especially by a white candidate, would need to avoid any hint of ethnic demagoguery against Hispanics, because that kind of thing, though it actually resonates among lots of black voters, will also rightly raise their hackles, given their own long history at the receiving end of such demagoguery (and you obviously don’t want to unnecessarily drive away Hispanic voters either).
But a nuanced message that we need to reconsider future immigration policies in light of the impacts they have on all our fellow-countrymen, but black men in particular, can chip away at a core of voters that is central to the very survival of the Democratic party. This is especially true given the virtually universal support among Democrat lawmakers for effectively open borders — they simply have no response to such a critique except cries of racism, which they hurl regardless of a Republican’s stance on anything.
This ad isn’t from a partisan perspective, but asks the question Republicans should be asking: