The first thought on hearing the man likely to become the new Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, deliver another lifeless victory speech last night was, “And the winner is… The Walking Dead!” No, it has nothing to do with any resemblance between the gentleman senator from Kentucky and the flesh-eating zombies thrilling millions each week (McConnell is lighter-skinned, better coiffed and has not an ounce of thrilling in him). What came to mind was the predictable triumph of what is known as “zombie politics.”
Zombie politics are the life-sucking, heartless and unimaginative feats practiced by McConnell, the Republicans—and the Democrats. Like the award-winning The Walking Dead, such a politics is more about thrills and violent turns of events than about the major themes (crushing climate change, ruthless economic inequality, catastrophic health disparities and an educational system that’s blowing our kids brains out) of a political moment that more and more makes our cities and rural areas look like the barren landscapes of our own real-life zombie show.
The result creates huge profits for the directors, executive producers and financial backers of this new political miniseries: the corporate power that zombifies our political imagination. Critical Democrat defeats in close races like Florida, Colorado and other Latino-heavy states should be seen less as examples of some non-existent lack of Latino political engagement, than as large symbols of the lack of political imagination among Democrats.
As much as any group, Latinos know the deadening effect corporate power and corporate citizenship has on our political animus, and no other issue wrote the script of Latino desánimo like the one that is still the ratings king of any Latino issue: immigration.
The more ignorant in the media and the more corrupt and politically brain dead in our community have blamed and will continue to blame the Latino electorate (and real immigrant rights advocates) for the Democrats’ defeat in key states. Better to blame the victim than admit your two million deported failures, your 400,000 jailed yearly and your silent chorus of the terrorized children who were the alpha and the omega of your electoral Latinopocalypse last night. So goes the zombie logic of electorally-driven immigration policy.
At the heart of the heartless politics that pushed millions of Latinos to vote with their disillusion is “comprehensive immigration reform,” (CIR) a legislative proposal crafted in 2004 by the Democrats and their DC-based immigrant rights allies. On the surface, CIR was about “legalizing the 11 million.” For those of us who actually read the proposals —the legalization of of four to six million in exchange for increased border militarization, more immigrant prisons and more radical enforcement— and know the CIR Insiders, CIR was not designed to pass, and was ever and always primarily about the zombie politics that used CIR as a Latino vote-getting machine that it was.
How else did all the newly-minted “experts” on the Latino vote, the journalists and editors who focused our attention only on “legalization” and the Democrat-dominated “immigrant rights” advocates say nothing about President Obama’s immigration record-breaking policies until his sixth year in office? How? Because for almost a decade, hundreds of millions of dollars in Big Foundation and Big Union money was spent to get Latinos to march to and mouth the slogan translated by the Democrats, zombified by their allies and commodified by military-industrial, surveillance and prison industries that would profit billions form the most liberal version of CIR: “¡Sí se puede!” Linguists, sociologists and medical examiners would do well to investigate whether that once-hallowed phrase has any emancipatory blood left in it or needs to be put out of its misery as a Democrat-controlled threat to our political imagination.
Since a few years before audiences first gobbled up The Walking Dead series, Democrats and their immigrant rights allies would trot out CIR, despite it’s being declared dead year after year after year after year. By regularly applying some makeup to and trotting out the CIR zombie at election time, political operatives reduced Latinos to “hoping” at least some of the humanity in immigration would survive the immigrant-hating zombies, which we are still even told now, is a role played by McConnell and his band of Red Meat Republican Radicals.
Never mind that at the level of the immigrant body, at the level of the traumatized mind of the children of immigrants, at the level of almost demolishing that most scared spirit of hope, nothing has crushed the the Latino dream like the policies of Barack Obama and the Democrats. Nothing.
But no, the real reason, according to the Democratic script, that Latinos stayed home are those poorer, less-connected and more intrepid immigrant advocates that spoke out about these catastrophic policies. OK. Sure. Whatever.
For my part, I will keep watching the Big Loser of last nights elections: the Scandal of No Political Imagination. Democrat-friendly “immigrant advocates” had big money consultants develop polls, talking points and buzzwords like “broken immigration system” that the less imaginative in media and politics still use. What’s actually broken is the political system itself, which has all the marks of a sci-fi corporate oligarchy controlling both parties.
Failure to see the sci-fiing of our political system leaves us blind to who wins regardless of the party running, deaf to who has the votes irrespective of the candidate and ignorant about the only citizens who, with some important local-regional exceptions, have the only votes that matter in an electoral system drowning in Big Dollars: Corporate Citizens.
Those of you demoralized by this situation as if you were someone saddened at the death of their favorite character on The Walking Dead might consider this: maybe it’s time to expand our ideas about what politics is, beyond the two-party electoral system dominated by corporations. The most important post-mortem is called “expanding the political imagination” and represents not just a feel-good phrase, but an urgent moral and political necessity for this country and for this world.
That we must expand our imaginations is the stuff of real heroes among the politically still-living among us.
Roberto Lovato is a writer and a Visiting Scholar at UC Berkeley’s Center for Latino Policy Research. You can follow Roberto on Twitter @robvato.
[…] Black Agenda Report: “Zombie Politics Takes Center Stage After Midterms Debacle” by Robert Lovato, originally published November 5 at Latino Rebels: […]
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