Sunday, April 24, 2011

A refusal is not the act of a friend-John Boehner and Cinco de Mayo

If you work for other people, especially in an office setting, there's a good chance that from time to time you will have to pretend interest in boring stories concerning other people's children, grandchildren or spouses. Sometimes you may even have to accept invitations to luncheons, going away parties/dinners, welcome aboard lunches for new hires, office outings to baseball games or bowling alley trips and so on.
I could do without most of this, personally but this is how human beings generally behave. You come to my events and I'll come to yours. Unless you are the top boss and can tell everyone exactly where to stick that invitation or you are so low on the totem pole no one even cares to invite you in the first place, chances are you've had to attend some of these functions or occasionally even, God forbid, organize them. I HATE these things but I go to just enough so that when year end reviews are due, hopefully no one -or at least no one really important- is saying "Who the hell is Shady? I only know of him because he never socializes with anyone. To hell with a raise/promotion for him!!!

John Boehner evidently feels it's time to do away with such niceties.
In a reversal of congressional tradition, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has decided not to host a reception next month to mark Cinco de Mayo, according to his spokesman.
In the place of a Speaker's reception, Boehner has encouraged the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to host the event. 
Cinco de Mayo, or 5th of May, commemorates the victory of Mexican forces over French soldiers in 1862, and has evolved into a celebration of Mexican heritage in the United States. 
Previous House Speakers have hosted an annual event to mark the holiday.
Initial reports about the cancellation of the annual event surfaced last week, prompting Congressional Hispanic Caucus chairman Charlie Gonzalez (D-Texas) to pen a letter to the Speaker, asking him to reconsider. The request, however, was rejected, and a spokesman for Boehner confirmed Monday that the reception is off.
The reasons behind the reversal are likely political, reflecting the tougher stance on immigration reflected in the new Republican House majority.

Now one could argue that this event is something which didn't happen in the US so Americans have no real business celebrating or noting it. That's a fair argument and some honest people make it.

On the other hand in the same way that Columbus Day isn't so much about Columbus per se but rather about Italian-American ethnic pride, Cinco de Mayo isn't REALLY about an obscure little battle in a foreign nation that Mexican citizens don't make a big deal over but rather about Mexican-American ethnic pride.
We could debate that appealing to any sort of ethnic pride is silly and ridiculous but then again has there been a successful Presidential candidate or major political leader who hasn't put on a yarmulke and gone to the Western Wall or talked about the many contributions that the (insert ethnic/racial group here) have made to our country?

No there isn't.

To some people -especially considering the rapid demographic changes in US society-what would otherwise be seen as relatively harmless pandering to Mexicans has changed to ethnic triumphalism (You can't keep saying/gloating/celebrating that whites will soon be a minority and they had better recognize and then expect that whites will EMBRACE this). That makes no sense. That may explain Boehner's decision.

But if that is what's behind his decision then by refusing to draw a strong distinction between anti-illegal immigrant sentiment and anti-Mexican/anti-Hispanic sentiment, Boehner makes a bone headed move that may upset more Mexican-Americans than it pleases anti-immigrant partisans. I'm not arguing that millions of Mexicans will be suddenly upset just because Boehner declined to host the event. Not at all. But at the margins, will that Mexican-American swing voter vote Republican in 2012?

I think this is a moronic mistake. It's an unforced error. Boehner could/should have hosted the event. It's just one of those things you do. Perhaps he or his advisers saw it as a bending of the knee to pro-"immigration reform" folks rather than simple polite engagement with Mexican-Americans and this is why he's refusing to host it. But I think it can only be seen as a gratuitous insult. You can still be against illegal immigration and partake in the hosting of a Cinco de Mayo event. There are millions of Mexican-American citizens. Going out of your way to symbolically give them the brush-off isn't too smart politically from where I stand. But I could be wrong.

What do you think?
Is this an insult or could you care less?
Why do you think Boehner made this decision?
Will this damage the Republican Party with Mexican-American voters?
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