Why Millions of Christian Evangelicals Oppose Obamacare and Civil Rights

Source: Religion Dispatches

Author: Daniel Silliman

Emphasis Mine

 American evangelicals have been waiting for the world to end for a long time. But that’s not to say they’ve just been sitting around. Apocalypticism has inspired evangelistic crusades, moral reform movements, and generations of political activism.

In his latest book, Matthew Avery Sutton, a professor of history at Washington State University, traces this history of American evangelical apocalypticism from the end of the 19th century to the present day. In the process, he proposes a revised understanding of American evangelicalism, focused on the urgent expectations of the end of human history. If you want to understand modern evangelicalism, Sutton says, you have to understand their End Times theology.

Daniel Silliman spoke with Sutton at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies, in Heidelberg, Germany.

Why write about evangelical Christian apocalypticism?

The question that initially sparked this research was why were fundamentalists and their evangelical heirs skeptical of the state? Why were and are they critical of the federal government? I started thinking about this in the context of the health care debates over the last decade. Why were so many Christians so reluctant to support national health care? I could see why they were critical of the Democratic party on gay rights. I could see why they were critical on abortion. What I didn’t understand is why, as a conservative Bible believing Christian, you would be opposed expanding health care.

This book is a very long, 480-page answer to that question.

My argument in a nutshell is that the apocalyptic theology that developed in the 1880s and 1890s led radical evangelicals to the conclusion that all nations are going to concede their power in the End Times to a totalitarian political leader who is going to be the Antichrist. If you believe you’re living in the last days and you believe you’re moving towards that event, you’re going to be very suspicious and skeptical of anything that seems to undermine individual rights and individual liberties, and anything that is going to give more power to the state.

How significant is apocalypticism in the history of American evangelicalism?

The idea that Jesus is coming back soon was a fairly radical and unconventional idea in the 19th century, but by the 21st century it’s the air American Christians breathe. The most recent polls said something like 58 percent of white evangelicals believe Jesus is going to return by 2050. They simply take for granted that there is going to be a Rapture and Jesus is going to come back.  I took those statistics and others like them and moved backwards in time. What I found in my research was that apocalypticism was central to fundamentalists and evangelicals. What made them most distinct, what set them apart from liberal Protestants is not what we’ve traditionally thought. It’s not questions of the virgin birth or how you read the Bible or questions of the nature of the incarnation or the literal resurrection of Jesus or Jesus’s miracles. All those matter, all of those things do set them apart, but they don’t affect how they live their daily lives. The one thing that affects how they live their daily lives is that they believe we are moving towards the End Times, the rise of the Antichrist, towards a great tribulation and a horrific human holocaust.

In their minds, the imminent Second Coming would not be as important as getting people saved. Salvation, converting sinners, would be the most important thing driving them. But in terms of how they’re shaping and organizing their own lives, I think apocalypticism has been the driving force for much of the last century. It has fueled the movement and shaped it in fundamental ways.

If you haven’t been in the archives it’s really unbelievable to read these articles, these sermons and these letters, to realize how much apocalypticism saturated the minds of fundamentalists and evangelicals in the 20th century. The looming rise of the Antichrist was just the forefront of their thinking.

And they say that. Over and over again. They’re very clear.

This is significant because to believe the world is rapidly moving to its end effects how you vote, how you’re going to structure your education, how you understand the economy, how you’re going to treat global events, how you’re going to look at organizations like the United Nations.

Apocalypticism is central to understanding how fundamentalists and then evangelicals acted.

Can you give a broad outline of this theology?

It’s a relatively complicated theology that fundamentalists and then evangelicals drew from a lot of different influences, a lot of different impulses. The key to unlocking their theology is to see some fairly obscure passages from the books of Daniel, Ezekiel, Revelation, and Jesus’s sermon in Matthew 24 through their eyes.

But their conlusions, broken down to their simplest form are these: We’re living in the church age and we’re moving towards the Rapture. Jesus will Rapture all true believers out of this world, they’ll just disappear, they’ll go up to heaven with Jesus, and then with the loss of Christian influence in the world, Satan will have free rein to take power through a political leader, called the Antichrist, who is then going to rule over the world for seven years. This period is called the Tribulation. Antichrist rule will lead to a series of wars, which will then culminate with Jesus coming with an army of saints and fighting the battle of Armageddon, in the literal land of Palestine. Jesus will defeat the Antichrist, vanquish evil and then establish a new kingdom.

There’s been a long debate in Christian history about the timing of Jesus’s Second Coming. Would he come to initiate the start of a new millennium, a 1,000 years of peace and prosperity, or would he come at its conclusion? Fundamentalists and most evangelicals believed that Jesus is going to come back before the millennium. From there they determined that there will be signs or indications that tell us we’re approaching the Second Coming. They believe the Bible had laid out these signs, the sequence of events that would happen, as they understood it, as we get closer and closer and closer to the Second Coming of Christ.

The rough picture is that we’re moving towards the End Times. Instead of the idea that Christians are building the kingdom of God on earth, the earth is on a quick, slippery slope descending to hell.

What is the practical effect of this expectation?

Traditionally, people have believed that this expectation that Jesus is coming back would lead to indifference, that people would focus on the next world, they would invest very little in this world. In fact, they’ve done just the opposite. This is a central argument in the book.

D.L. Moody is often used to illustrate the idea of indifference. He famously said that the world is a sinking ship and God has given him a lifeboat and told him to save as many as he could. That’s the idea, that there’s not anything you can do but save those who are sinking. At the same time, Moody turned around and established what were later known at the Moody Church and the Moody Bible Institute, which were extremely active in reform movements during the progressive era. They were focused on issues of crime in Chicago, sanitation, temperance, and in all kinds of moral reform efforts.

It’s clear from Moody to Billy Sunday to Aimee Semple McPherson to Billy Graham to Jerry Falwell, that to believe that Jesus is coming at any moment does not make you less active or less involved in your culture. They say over and over and over again that this is not the case. We just haven’t heard them. Every generation of evangelicals and fundamentalists says it. Their apocalyptic theology makes them more active not less.

There is a biblical argument for this that they use. It’s the parable of the talents. In this story a ruler invests in his servants, giving each of them a number of talents, or money. He then goes away to another kingdom. When he comes back he wants to know what they’ve done with their talents. Some had buried their talents, afraid of losing it. Some had lost the money, wasting their talents. But some had invested wisely and made more money. So the returning ruler rewarded those who had invested wisely and maximized their talents and used them for greater good. For fundamentalists and evangelicals, the point here is that God has given them talents. He’s gone away, he’s coming back, he’s coming back soon, and he’s going to ask what you’ve done with your talents. Jesus ended the parable by instructing the disciples to “occupy” until I come. And that’s what fundamentalists and evangelicals have done.

That means that, far more than many other Christians, they believe they have a responsibility to act as vehemently, as radically, as urgently as possible.

What I’m arguing is that in fact the conviction that Jesus is coming back very very soon creates a sense of urgency, or anxiety or excitement that means there is no time to spare, because the clock is ticking and they’re almost out of time.

The standard narrative of white evangelical history is a great withdrawal from culture in the 1920s and then a reengagement in the 1950s, leading to the religious right in 1980s. Do you want to revise that?

Yes. That’s one of the historiographical arguments I’m making in the book. The traditional argument is that fundamentalists were active and engaged in American society until the Scopes trial, the anti-evolution trial, in 1925. They were humiliated and defeated in the Scopes trial, they withdrew and focused on building their churches, their institutions, but they weren’t engaged in mainstream culture until the rise of Billy Graham who helped turn them around. Then it’s a few quick steps to the rise of the religious right.

That’s incorrect. They never gave up. They never withdrew or disengaged from culture. In the 1930s, for example, most of these fundamentalists were very critical of the New Deal. For Americans who were actively looking for signs of the coming Antichrist in the context of the 1930s, in the context of Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini, Roosevelt had all the markings of someone setting the stage for the end times. He was concolidating power. Government was growing.

I found a letter from one of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s operatives. He had gone out to survey the country and look for areas of strength and weakness before the 1936 election and what he told FDR is that the greatest threat was not from the economic reactionaries, that was his term, but from the religious reactionaries. He said the “so-called evangelical churches are strongly against you.” It was shortly after that that FDR issued a letter to all the churches of the nation, asking for their support, and asking what he could do to better meet their needs.

Fundamentalists were involved in politics, they were involved in social reform. A few of them were talking about abortion and same-sex relations in the 1930s. They were very much active and involved with what was going on around them. There’s just no evidence to show that they retreated.

I’m trying to decenter the Scopes trial as not that substantial of a moment in the history of evangelicalism.

What about African-American evangelicals? How were they apocalyptic?

This was one of my favorite parts of doing this book. I wanted to take seriously how African-American evangelicals compared and contrasted with white evangelicals. They started from the same theological premises, but came to very different political and social conclusions.

They had that sense of fever and anxiety and hope for Jesus’s Second Coming, but for them, the signs of the times and the method of occupying until he comes were very, very different.

There were a number of important and substantial issues that were not on white evangelicals’ radar screens, but for black evangelicals, they were absolutely central to what it meant to be living in an apocalyptic age. For them a sign of the End Times was not the supposed lawlessness of Martin Luther King, Jr., a claim made by some white evangelicals. No, for African Americans a sign of the coming tribulation was lynching. They didn’t see the Antichrist coming out of the New Deal, they saw the Antichrist as an extension of state governments that were racist and had Jim Crowed them for generations. They too had a very strong sense that Jesus was coming back, but he was coming back for different reasons, he was going to right different wrongs, and he was going to bring a different kind of peace and a different kind of justice. A different kind of millennium.

While African Americans were having their own theological discussions among themselves, they were also aware of developments in the white evangelical community, but they were not engaging directly with white theologians. For them it was a different kind of discussion. For them, thinking through apocalyptic theology was happening in the context of a long black liberation tradition, so they put a lot of emphasis, for instance, on a verse in Psalms that talks about a great leader coming out of Abyssinia or Ethiopia. There was a sense in which Jesus’s return was the coming of a black liberator.

White fundamentalists and evangelicals were very clear that they didn’t want anything to do with African Americans for most of the twentieth century. They didn’t see African Americans as able to contribute to their movement. The racial assumptions were built into who evangelicals and fundamentalists were as people, just like the vast majority of white Americans right alongside them. They were no different.

But what apocalypticism did was give white evangelicals a framework and a rationale for fighting the Civil Rights movement, for example. In the last days, they insisted, there will be lawlessness. So they saw the Civil Rights movement as an example of people who break the law. Whiteness influenced these evangelical theologians, and when we compare them with African American theologians we can see how their sensitivities influenced the way they read, understood, and applied the Bible.

How does apocalypticism shape someone like Billy Graham and, by extension, modern evangelicalism?

Billy Graham gets a pass from a lot of scholars who pay very little attenion to his apocalypticism. I think that’s wrong. I think it’s been a core of his ministry. In 1949, when Graham had his first major revival in Los Angeles, the famous one that put him on the map, the revival began just days after Harry Truman announced that the Soviets had tested an atomic bomb. So Graham used this to say, the end is near, the time is close. You have to get saved today because Jesus is coming back.

He would say getting people saved is the engine driving him, but the reason there’s an urgency to getting people saved is that Jesus may be coming back before we wake up in the morning. And he would say that at every revival campaign. That was his message.

He wrote about it more than just about any other topic. He published books on apocalypticism in the 1960s and the 80s and the 90s and 2010. In 2010, writing as a 91-year-old, he believed this message was one of the most important things he could leave behind on this earth. In this book he says the signs are now clearer than ever. He’s written a lot of books, but five on apocalypticism? I don’t know that he’s covered any other topic in five books.

At the same time, I want to be very clear: postwar evangelicalism grew far more diverse than interwar fundamentalism. After the war, the movement got bigger, broader, more inclusive and less tied to apocalypticism. What happens is essentially evangelicalism divides, and you have these more respectable people like Graham and Carl F. H. Henry and Harold John Ockenga, and others on one track preaching a respectable, moderate apocalypticism. Then you have populist apocalyptics who become incredibly popular, like Hal Lindsey in the 1970s, Tim LaHaye in the 1990s and into the 2000s. Then, you have growing numbers of self-proclaimed evangelicals completely rejecting the apocalypticism that had for so long given their movement its distinctive identity. The story of postwar evangelicals is this tension between the more respectable, more careful, more savvy, leaders and those who preached a radical populist apocalypticism that harkened back to the 1910s, 1920s, and 1930s.

And yet the apocalyptic never leaves. It’s still there, that’s where the polls come back. It’s now assumed by hundreds of millions of Americans that the rapture is a real thing and that Jesus is coming back.

It’s a genius theology, because it allows people to look at very diverse, very troubling, very dark contemporary events and put them in a context; to say, “I know why this is happening, and it’s going to turn out OK. We are going to be OK.” It gives them peace, comfort and hope in a world that often offers none of those things.

Daniel Silliman is an instructor of American religion and culture at the University of Heidelberg. He is currently writing his dissertation at Heidelberg on secularity and faith in contemporary evangelical fiction. He worked as a crime reporter in metro Atlanta for several years before moving to Germany with his wife in 2008.

See: http://www.alternet.org/belief/why-millions-christian-evangelicals-oppose-obamacare-and-civil-rights?akid=12555.123424.O-lAlR&rd=1&src=newsletter1028372&t=13

Reflections on Dec 7, 1941: What we need today is another ‘Sputnik moment’…

There have been two ‘great awakenings’ in US history: Pearl Harbor Day, of which today is the 73rd anniversary, and October 4, 1957, when the USSR launched the first artificial earth satellite.  The former jarred the USA out of its isolationist mindset, and launched the mammoth government effort to spend the money and organize the resources to defeat the fascists; the latter jarred the USA out of its superior mindset, made science and engineering credible and primary, and the government committed the money and resources to win the ‘space race’.  Science was recognized as truth, engineering became the career to have, and new curricula were  created in physics, chemistry and biology.  Many of us who were in high school in October of 1957 were part of the team on July 19, 1969 that landed men on the moon.  (Evolution was restored  to biology courses until teaching it became a religious/political issue in the late 70’s, and the PSSC physics course which I had in 1959-60 was still taught – with updates – to my son in 1994-95.)  Necessity was not the mother of invention but rather the mechanism which turned on the lights in the Department of Truth and Reason.

If science still held a place of respect in our country, climate change denial would have zero credibility.  What we need is another ‘Sputnik’ moment to turn us away from superstition and look for Answers in Science and Technology.  Perhaps the melting of the polar ice caps is such a moment, but it remains out of the headlines, and ‘below the fold’ on a back page.

 

 

 

 

Everything I need to know in life I learned in …

Everything I need to know in life I learned in a singles bar.

 

First impressions matter, whether you are choosing the title for a paper on quantum cosmology, or introducing yourself to someone with whom you wish to engage.

 

In interacting with others, confidence, genuine concern, a warm smile, and charm are effective in winning friends and influencing people.

 
Not every venture results in success: know when to exit, and do so gracefully. Avoid denial and wasting resources on lost causes, and keep in mind that what goes around comes around,  so don’t burn any bridges (unless they are connected to a toxic waste dump!)

Dear Evangelicals: You’re Being Had

Source: Daily Beast, via RSN

Author: Jay Michaelson

Emphasis Mine

Dear Conservative Evangelicals,

I drive a Prius, enjoy Vanilla lattes, and am married to a man. I know it’s unlikely for me to be writing you this letter, and even more unlikely for you to read it.

But unlike most of my Obama-loving, liberal friends, I am no longer afraid of you. It’s clear to me that “your side” is losing the battle for public opinion, and I know that many of you agree with that assessment.

So why am I writing you this letter? Because, also unlike my liberal friends, I’m actually on your side, in some ways. I’m an ordained rabbi, and someone deeply concerned with the vulgarization and sexualization of our society. You and I disagree about the solution to this problem, of course, but we agree that there is a problem.

The trouble is, you’re trying to solve cultural problems with political solutions—because politicians have convinced you to do so. I am referring here to establishment Republicans, which for 150 years have consistently been the party of the rich and ungenerous.

In the first half of the twentieth century, most Christians distrusted this party, controlled as it was by “urban bankers” and others opposed to the Jeffersonian values of rural America. But in the wake of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the switch began—and by Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, it was complete. Republicans catered to conservative social attitudes on racial integration, and eventually moved rightward on issues like abortion and feminism, too, although you know as well as I do that they never really believed in them. They just realized that they could gain power by uniting two very different groups: the same moneyed elites as always, and you.

Now, let’s see who has won, and who has lost, in the ensuing 34 years.

It’s clear that the rich—call them the 1 percent if you like, but I prefer to think of them as the moneylenders whom Jesus threw out of the Temple—have prospered enormously. In 1983, the wealthiest 1 percent were 131 times richer than the average American. In 2009, they were 225 times richer. In 2012, the top 20 percent made $13.5 trillion in income; the entire bottom 80% made $1 trillion.

These are disparities not seen since before the Great Depression. Whether for better or for worse, the ultra-rich have done extremely well in the 30 years you’ve allied with them.

How have you done, in the same period? Not well at all. Not only is gay marriage now the law for over two-thirds of Americans while the value of marriage in general has been declining for decades; not only are television, film, music, and video games more vulgar than we could have imagined in 1980; but more Americans are declaring themselves “Nones,” that is, people of no religious affiliation, than ever before in our history. Sure, some churches are expanding, but overall, your way of life is in steep decline. In short, you are losing horribly.

So, who is using whom here? Have the rich Republicans been good for you, or have you been good to them?

I look at the alliance you’ve forged with these people, and I don’t understand why you’re in it. Their agenda keeps winning, and yours keeps losing.

Moreover—and I don’t want to speak out of turn here—their agenda is even eating away at yours. What happened to the Christian concern to “love the least of these,” the most vulnerable, the most destitute? In my opinion, supply-side Republicans have convinced many Christians not merely that the welfare state is a bad idea, but that generosity itself is a vice, that public assistance equals dependence, and that giving the wealthy even more breaks is the way for benefits to “trickle down” to the rest of us.

That theory, by the way, has never been proven. When it’s been put into practice, it’s only made the ultra-rich richer. It’s done nothing for the middle class, the working class, and the poor. And its mean-hearted message, in my opinion, has corrupted the social gospel. Of course, prosperity is a good thing. But our current moment isn’t one of prosperity—it’s of inequality on the scale of ancient Rome.

Now, I’m not saying that you should jump on board with the Democrats’ agenda either. I’m saying that this Republican claim that you can build a Christian nation through politics is bogus, and only serves their goals.

You’re fighting the wrong fight. You should be making your case in culture, not in Congress. Look around. Atheism is highest in Europe, where there are established churches involved in the political process. But according to most historians, America is the most religious country in the Western world precisely because of the separation of church and state.

That “wall of separation” that liberals like to talk about? The original metaphor was: erect a wall to keep the garden of the church free from the wilderness of politics. The more you try to force your beliefs on others, the more people dislike you.

Of course, there are now multi-billion-dollar organizations dedicated to Christian politics. But how effective have they been? What has all that money bought?

I’ve worked in the LGBT movement for 15 years. At first, we, too, tried a political approach, talking about equal rights, civil rights, and so on. But the movement’s PR people found these messages weren’t working. So, in the 2000s, we shifted. We worked in the cultural arena instead, with pioneers like Ellen and Will & Grace. We went into churches and synagogues, testifying about our lives and our families. We changed people’s hearts, not their laws.

We also found messengers who could communicate the truth of our lives. Sure, there are radicals in the LGBT community who really are opposed to mainstream values—and some of them are my friends! But there are also moderates, even conservatives. The LGBT movement looked for places where we could find common ground, and focused there.

But because the public face of Christianity is now made up of the political operatives who can shout the loudest, your “wingnuts” are in center stage. I know that most Christians are not bigots or homophobes. I read the data, and I have Christian friends. But you have to admit: you’re putting your worst feet forward. Many of your spokespeople are loud and mean, because they can turn out the votes.

This all feeds into that devil’s bargain with the Republican Party. They stir you up about social issues in order to get you to the polls, and then they don’t really do anything about them. Because, in fact, they can’t. These are cultural questions, not political ones, and they have to be solved in the cultural arena.

To be clear, I’m not alleging any vast, right wing conspiracy to hoodwink Christians into voting Republican. I know that many of your values do, indeed, align with Republican policies.

But from the outside, from my side of the aisle, the situation seems very clear. The Republican rich are doing very well, and you’re losing badly. There’s only one conclusion I can draw from that: you’re being had.

See: http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/27256-focus-jay-michaelson-dear-evangelicals-youre-being-had

Our Economy Is Built Around a Bunch of Scams and Pure Greed — and the Alternatives Are Staring Us in the Face

Source: Kunstler.com, via AlterNet

Author: James Howard Kunstler

Emphasis Mine

The reason it has to try so hard is that the various players in the global economy game have constructed an armature of falsehood to hold it in place — for instance the pipeline of central bank “liquidity” creation that pretends to be capital propping up markets. It would be most accurate to call it fake wealth. It is not liquid at all but rather gaseous, and that is why it tends to blow “bubbles” in the places to which it flows. When the bubbles pop, the gas will tend to escape quickly and dramatically, and the ground will be littered with the pathetic broken balloons of so many hopes and dreams.

All of this mighty, tragic effort to prop up a matrix of lies might have gone into a set of activities aimed at preserving the project of remaining civilized. But that would have required the dismantling of rackets such as agri-business, big-box commerce, the medical-hostage game, the Happy Motoring scam, the suburban sprawl “industry,” and the higher ed loan swindle. All of these evil systems have to go and must be replaced by more straightforward and honest endeavors aimed at growing food, doing trade, healing people, traveling, building places worth living in, and learning useful things.

All of those endeavors have to become smaller, less complex, more local, and reality-based — rather than based, as now, on overgrown and sinister intermediaries creaming off layers of value, leaving nothing behind but a thin entropic gruel of waste. All of this inescapable reform is being held up by the intransigence of a banking system that can’t admit that it has entered the stage of criticality. It sustains itself on its sheer faith in perpetual levitation. It is reasonable to believe that upsetting that faith might lead to war. After all, a number of places organized as nation-states will be full of angry, distressed citizens clamoring for sustenance and easy answers — and quite a bit of their remaining real capital is stored in the form of things that blow up.

There is an awful lot that President Barack Obama has to answer for after all this time. But there is almost no public chatter (let alone true debate) about his failure to discipline the banking system. He should have commenced to restructure the biggest banks in January of 2009. He should have proposed through his congressional proxies the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall act. Almost nobody besides Bill Black has remarked on the remarkable record of the SEC under Obama in making no criminal referrals to the Department of Justice, not to mention the stupendous dereliction of Attorney General Eric Holder.

Of course, Barack Obama is not the only eminent office holder in the land. The behavior of all the others the past decade represents such a titanic failure of nerve and action that the younger generation must think that only revolution can avail. I believe they’ll get their chance. Everything on the horizon — most particularly the idiotic chorus of financial “bulls” — points to an ever more harrowing outcome of the orchestrated pretense that governs money matters in this moment of history.

More of the moment is the anxious decision of the Ferguson, Missouri, grand jury in the matter of Michael Brown’s death. The race hustlers so prominently showcased on CNN want to put over the story that there is only one possible just decision. If it doesn’t work out the way they like, this will be a bloody holiday and perhaps the beginning of something much bigger.

James Howard Kunstler says he wrote “The Geography of Nowhere,” “Because I believe a lot of people share my feelings about the tragic landscape of highway strips, parking lots, housing tracts, mega-malls, junked cities, and ravaged countryside that makes up the everyday environment where most Americans live and work.” His 2008 novel, “World Made By Hand,” was a fictional depiction of the post-oil American future. The sequel to that book, “The Witch of Hebron,” was published in 2010. Kunstler is a regular contributor to the New York Times Sunday Magazine and Op-Ed page, where he has written on environmental and economic issues. He blogs at Kunstler.com

See: http://www.alternet.org/economy/our-economy-built-around-bunch-scams-and-pure-greed-and-alternatives-are-staring-us-face?akid=12501.123424.KPTW8f&rd=1&src=newsletter1027620&t=21

Paul Krugman Destroys All Arguments Against Obama’s Immigration Action

Source: AlterNet

Author: Janet Allon

Emphasis Mine

 Now, that Obama has taken his much-needed and way overdue executive action to shield millions of undocumented families from heart-rending deportation, the fact that it was simply the right thing to do is abundantly clear. It also gives columnist Paul Krugman an opportunity to wax lyrical about his own family’s immigrant roots, and one of his favorite tourist attractions in New York City, the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. “When you tour the museum, you come away with a powerful sense of immigration as a human experience, which — despite plenty of bad times, despite a cultural climate in which Jews, Italians, and others were often portrayed as racially inferior — was overwhelmingly positive,” he writes in his Friday column. “I get especially choked up about the Baldizzi apartment from 1934. When I described its layout to my parents, both declared, “I grew up in that apartment!” And today’s immigrants are the same, in aspiration and behavior, as my grandparents were — people seeking a better life, and by and large finding it.”

President Obama’s new immigration initiative, Krugman says, is “a simple matter of human decency.”

Krugman goes on to parse the issue, and to point out that supporting the humane treatment of children born in this country to undocumented immigrant parents is not the same as supporting completely open borders. Under F.D.R., he points out, “Once immigration restrictions were in place, and immigrants already here gained citizenship, this disenfranchised class at the bottom shrank rapidly, helping to create the political conditions for a stronger social safety net. And, yes, low-skill immigration probably has some depressing effect on wages, although the available evidence suggests that the effect is quite small.”

Yes, it is normal to be conflicted about immigration issues, Krugman allows. What is not normal is the desire to punish innocent children, who are already here, for their parents’ decision to bend the rules to give them a better life. Predictably, as we all know, there are far too many right-wing zealots and haters in politics and the media who are quite happy to exact this punishment. Krugman:

Who are we talking about? First, there are more than a million young people in this country who came — yes, illegally — as children and have lived here ever since. Second, there are large numbers of children who were born here — which makes them U.S. citizens, with all the same rights you and I have — but whose parents came illegally, and are legally subject to being deported.

What should we do about these people and their families? There are some forces in our political life who want us to bring out the iron fist — to seek out and deport young residents who weren’t born here but have never known another home, to seek out and deport the undocumented parents of American children and force those children either to go into exile or to fend for themselves.

Krugman gets downright sentimental about the issue, stating his belief that Americans are simply not “that cruel.” And anyway a crackdown on these families would cost money, which Republicans don’t want to spend.  (One hopes.) The real question is how they should be treated, he asks. his answer is not only humane but economical.

Today’s immigrant children are tomorrow’s workers, taxpayers and neighbors. Condemning them to life in the shadows means that they will have less stable home lives than they should, be denied the opportunity to acquire skills and education, contribute less to the economy, and play a less positive role in society. Failure to act is just self-destructive.

But more importantly, it’s the humane thing to do.

See: http://www.alternet.org/economy/paul-krugman-destroys-all-arguments-against-obamas-immigration-action?akid=12495.123424.dfemsb&rd=1&src=newsletter1027471&t=9&paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

Top 5 Ways Obama Punked the GOP on Immigration; and the 2016 Campaign

Source: Reader Supported News

Author: Juan Cole

Emphasis Mine

The 2016 presidential election will be very different from the 2014 congressional midterms just held. In the off years, turnout is low (this time it was less than 36 percent) and the people who come out to vote are disproportionately older, well off, and of northern European heritage. That is why the Republicans did so well; it was mainly Republicans voting. Only 21% of youth turned out to vote. It was in essence a series of local elections in which core Democratic constituencies couldn’t be bothered to come out (or in some instances faced trouble voting because of GOP voter suppression). In India, the poor vote; in the US, they don’t, in part because of GOP voter suppression and in part because they’ve been given the impression they have nothing at stake.

The 2016 election will be a national election, and the electorate will be very different. A majority of the eligible voters will vote.  the minorities are key. African-Americans are nearly a quarter of the Democratic Party. In a national election, The Latino vote for Republicans will likely fall from 36% to only 30% in 2016, while the percentage of Latinos who vote Democratic will likely rise from 62% to 68% overall (what it was in 2012). Obama got a whopping 71% of the Latino vote versus 27% for Romney.

Obama’s freeze on deportations for certain classes of undocumented immigrants (those who have been here all their lives, having been brought as children, and parents of US citizens born in the US who have lived here as law-abiding residents for at least 5 years) throws a pigeon among the cats in several important ways.

1. Obama’s steps certainly matter to Latinos, some 2/3s of whom say that new immigration legislation is important or very important to them. There isn’t any doubt that the Democratic Party just picked up a lot of support in this demographic.

2. As Jonathan Chait and others have argued, Obama is enticing Republicans representing angry white men to denounce angrily and loudly his deportation freeze. The more they cavil against the executive order, they more they signal that their party is unsympathetic to Latinos.

3. Indeed, some Republicans have already been so crazed by the president’s action, which echoes that of Ronald Reagan, that they have gone beyond mere caviling and spoken of the possibility of violence against immigrants. Retiring Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn did this, effectively turning the GOP into the party of skinheads in the eyes of minorities.

4. Florida has a lot of immigrants, and Obama has just shored up the 2016 Democratic position in that state, where people were glued to the television Thursday night and weeping with joy. Many undocumented immigrants have citizen relatives, who can vote and who now have reason to be grateful to the Democratic Party. (Hundreds of thousands of people move to Florida every year, and it is about to overtake New York in population, so it is a very, very different state from the one that existed in 2000).

5. Latino voters have relatively low rates of turnout. In part this is because so many have come relatively recently and they have not developed a sense of civic commitment to US politics. They are working several jobs and busy establishing themselves and their communities. In some instances, they may be chary of having anything to do with the Federal government even if they are citizens and eligible voters because they have undocumented friends and/or family and don’t want to draw attention to themselves. That skittishness may decrease now in some instances, and likely to the Democrats’ advantage.

See: http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/27082-focus-top-5-ways-obama-punked-the-gop-on-immigration-and-the-2016-campaign