Drop Dobbs

On Dobbs, the Census and Fighting for a New Politics of Tolerance

This year NDN has been involved in two consequential campaigns critical to our ability to reform our broken immigration system next year, and to push back on the rising tide of intolerance in our national politics. In the past week each has been resolved in our favor, a hopeful sign for those who share our commitment to a more tolerant, diverse America. A quick report, and some broader thoughts on what this all means:

Defeating the Effort to Disrupt the Census and Reapportionment - Last week, by refusing to accept any amendments to the appropriations bill for the Commerce Department, the U.S. Senate defeated an effort by Senators Vitter (LA) and Bennett (UT) which would have disrupted the orderly conduct of both the census next year and the reapportionment process the years after. The Vitter-Bennett Amendment was a highly charged effort to use the presence of a large number of undocumented immigrants in the US - who constitutionally must both be counted and incorporated into reapportionment and redistricting - to politicize these processes to the point where the ability for them to even happen at all would have been called into doubt. It was just the latest in a long line of conservative scapegoating of immigrants for their own perceived political gain.

The strategy behind the Vitter-Bennett Amendment was something NDN had been warning our leaders about in public writings and private briefings since the spring. When the legislative effort by Senator Bennett began this summer, NDN was the first to report on it, helped explain to allies what was going on, organized a broad and diverse coalition to fight it, held press conferences and private briefings to expose the malevolent intent of a seemingly innocent amendment, posted several front page op-eds on the Huffington Post bringing attention to it all, and ultimately prevailed last week when the Senate invoked cloture, and defeated Vitter-Bennett.

In the many years at the helm of this organization, defeating Vitter-Bennett was one of the most satisfying and consequential efforts I've been involved in. But then, incredibly, came Wednesday's surprise announcement that our great foe, Lou Dobbs, was leaving the powerful national platform of CNN. A remarkable week indeed.

Dropping Dobbs - Getting Lou Dobbs off CNN is something many of us have talked about for years. His presence on the CNN election night sets, masquerading as he a journalist, had caused me to switch allegiance, after 20 years as a CNN watcher, to MSNBC. Many other people we know had taken similar steps.

But it was this summer and fall when we all witnessed the wild anger and intolerance exhibited at the town hall meetings, the primal racial scream of Rep. Joe Wilson, the spiraling rhetoric of Dobbs, Limbaugh and other right wingers that we at NDN said enough. We have to do something. We need to fight back against all this. I released this video at the time, but we kept asking what else can we do?

It was around that time that Andres Ramirez, our Senior Vice President here, began meeting with Media Matters staff to see if we could put together a different kind of campaign against Lou Dobbs. And on September 15, Drop Dobbs was born, and we had our way of pushing back against the rising intolerance we saw across the country. NDN acquired the web address, and conceived of the strategy and simple name - Drop Dobbs. Working with Media Matters' remarkable research and sharp team, our internet strategist Dan Boscov-Ellen built the website, created the logo and got the thing on the web. Andres and the Media Matters folks then went out and began building what became a powerful and unprecedented coalition to encourage people to sign a petition to ask advertisers to drop their advertising from the Dobbs show, a strategy inspired by Color of Change's recent success with Glenn Beck. Then other efforts sprouted, including the highly influential BastaDobbs efforts, and away we all went. Press stories followed. Hundreds of thousands signed petitions and watched videos of Dobbs. Dobbs began talking about the effort on the air. The thoughtful and well-produced CNN series, Latino In America, was overwhelmed by questions of Dobbs and his anti-immigrant rage. In something that has not been reported, advertisers we had approached were agreeing to pull their ads from Dobbs and were telling their ad buyers to shift their buys. Included in that group were among the most significant consumers brands in America.

And on Wednesday came the announcement that the most intolerant voice in mainstream American media was leaving CNN. It was a great victory for our coalition, and for those working to beat back the rise of intolerance this year in America.

While each of these victories were important in themselves, taken together they are truly significant. In each case private citizens and organizations organized, rose up and fought against angry voices of intolerance and divisiveness - and prevailed. In each case NDN was in the lead, building coalitions, encouraging and involving many others in the battle, helping set strategy and message. In each case our effort was led ably and deftly by Andres Ramirez (a big thanks to him).

Over the past few years many have questioned NDN's commitment to passing immigration reform and all that "Latino stuff" we do. Whatever the reasons I and our organization began working on these issues many years ago, the reason we are working on them now is that America is undergoing one of its most profound demographic transitions in all of our history and needs leaders to step up to ensure that this transition is as smooth as possible. We are in the midst of transitioning from a white-dominated America to one that will, within my lifetime, become majority "minority." This transition means many things – a need to modernize a broken and anachronistic immigration system, closer ties to our neighbors in the hemisphere, ways of redefining mixed race and mixed ethnic identities, etc - but above all what this transition can be is an extraordinary opportunity for this nation to redefine what "race" means. For most of American history, race has been a malevolent, exploitive experience—one where an overwhelming majority subjugated and mistreated a small minority. How race has manifested itself in American history has been the greatest moral failure of a nation whose very existence and vision of self-government and free and open society has been an inspiration to so many around the world for literally hundreds of years.

But with our people going through profound racial and demographic change - driven by historic waves of immigration from across the world - the American people now have the chance to redefine "race" in a way that is less exploitation and more tolerant acceptance of people not like me. It is in many ways the great American project of the next generation or two, fashioning a coherent society from much greater diversity than America has ever faced before. Given our history, helping America come to a better understanding of "race," of people not like me, is an exciting and thrilling project, and one NDN and its team has embraced with all that we can muster, and one that we will not ever back down in our commitment to. It is just too important to who we are, and who we are becoming. As Americans.

Which is why these two political victories this past week are so important. Together with allies from across the political and ideological spectrum, we fought back and defeated remnants of an old order, an old way, a old politics which does not share our excitement about what America is becoming, and the opportunity we have to create a "more perfect union." But that's okay, for old orders and ideas don't just fade away - they have to be battled, again and again, and defeated. And while we have won these two recent battles, and should celebrate appropriately, we should also, soberly, steel our selves for the even more and significant battles to come in the years ahead.

Progress on 3 Important Fronts - Drop Dobbs, Vitter-Bennett, 9500 Liberty

Just wanted to report in, quickly, on progress on three projects NDN is taking a leading role on right now. 

Drop Dobbs - Several weeks ago, along with more than a dozen other groups, NDN helped launched Drop Dobbs, a website and campaign designed to knock Lou Dobbs off CNN.   Tens of thousands have signed our petitions, watched our videos.  And the campaign itself has gotten a lot of notice.  Dobbs himself has addressed the campaign on the air, more groups are signing on, and some new steps will be announced soon.  The NY Times has a major piece by Brian Stelter today which is the most important press story yet generated on the campaign - be sure to check it out, and if you haven't yet please add your name to the petition today.

Defeating Bennett-Vitter - For NDN blog readers you know that we have been long talking about the day Republican leaders would mount a series effort to derail reapportionment and the census by challening the propriety of counting non citizens particularly in the reapportionment process in 2011-2012.  Well that day has come now, with Senators Bennett and Vitter attempting to put an Amendment on to the current Commerce appropriations bill which would add an 11th question to the census next year, in an attempt to get an accurate count of the non-citizens in the United States.  NDN has issued many statements, been up on the Hill, organized two press conferences this week with allied groups and in general helped organize a well orchestrated push back on this irresponsible effort that would undeniably cost the country a great deal of money, threaten the integrity of the census and reapportionment processes and almost certainly be found unconstitutional. 

For more on this important advocacy effort visit here, and also feel free to read some of the press stories this effort has also generated. Be sure to contact your Senator this week and ask them to vote no on Vitter-Bennett (the vote could be as early as Weds). 

9500 Liberty - Our favorite movie, 9500 Liberty received an extraordinary early review this week:

It’s a bitter human irony that we can be at our ugliest when we’re fighting for our most passionate verities, including democracy, freedom and the American dream. And it seems to happen most often in the politics of immigration.

Most of us are good people when we’re sitting around the dinner table. What happens to us as soon as we step up to the public podium?

If there’s one movie that shows the worst -- but also the best -- in that regard, it’s a documentary you’ve probably never heard of. As of now, it's unreleased.

Like many other independently made documentaries, “9500 Liberty” doesn’t have a distributor. That ought to change. So far, it has been on the festival circuit with forthcoming stops at the San Diego Asian Festival (Oct. 27), the San Francisco’s Sundance Kabuki Theater (Oct. 29), and festivals in Virginia, Austin and St. Louis in November.

And it lit up the virtual nation of Youtubia when filmmakers Annabel Park and Eric Byler posted their movie in progress.   In the summer of 2007, Park and Byler took their cameras to Prince William County, Virginia, where an explosive debate was taking place.

In response to the burgeoning influx of Hispanics, the local board of supervisors was considering legislation that would require police officers to stop and question anyone who gave them “probable cause” to suspect was an illegal alien.  The film follows the interaction within the board, out in the community and over the Internet, as the issue attracts increasingly inflamed and widespread debate.

And as we watch events unfold, we can’t help noticing this is all taking place in Manassas, the hallowed battleground site where another racially charged matter divided the political nation.

This postmodern version of civil war may not have the musketry and the spectacular loss of life of its predecessor. But it doesn't lack for absorbing drama. And a memorable cast of characters...

.....Even though the filmmakers’ political sentiments aren’t too hard to identify, there’s something to watch for viewers of any political stripe. “9500 Liberty” is local, yet powerfully American. And not unlike Marshall Curry’s excellent 2002 documentary “Street Fight,” which chronicled the stunning rise to power of Newark Mayor Cory Booker, it shows us politics where the rubber meets the road.

With an uplifting turn of events and some extraordinary acts of conscience, “9500 Liberty” is as dramatically charged as any fiction movie. And ultimately, it’s as powerful a booster of the democratic process as anything Frank Capra ever imprinted into our collective memory.

Those of you in SF this week are lucky - along with several other organizations we are cohosting a screening of 9500 Liberty this Thursday night, October 29th, at Sundance Kabuki.  I hope you will be able to attend, and see what I have called one of the best movies I have ever seen. 

Show Your Support for DropDobbs.com - Wear the Badge!

Earlier this week, Simon explained the simple things you can do to help us get Lou Dobbs and his xenophibia-fueling vitriol off of CNN. But even if you've already signed the petition and shared it with your friends, there's still more that you can do! If you have a website or a blog, embed the Drop Dobbs badge to show your support for the campaign. Just paste in the following code where you want it to show up:

<a href="http://www.dropdobbs.com"><img src="http://www.dropdobbs.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/dobbsbadge.jpg"></a>

The result should look like this:

Thanks to all of you for the amazing response we've gotten so far, and let's keep up the pressure!

Waking Up To the Coming Battle Over the Census

Tonight's reports of the murder of a US Census worker will bring national attention to the emerging politics of the Census count, something that we've long been worried about at NDN. 

In August I posted the following about a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed which signaled the beginning of a new campaign by the right to disrupt the vital Census count next year: 

For many months now NDN has been making the case that inevitably the right would make a spirited case to prevent the Census, to be conducted next year, from counting undocumented immigrants, or at least using their numbers to influence reapportionment or the allocation of resources by the government (the primary purpose of the every ten year count).

Today the Wall Street Journal is running a well-articulated early salvo in this coming battle by John S. Baker and Elliot Stonecipher.  It starts off......

"Next year’s census will determine the apportionment of House members and Electoral College votes for each state. To accomplish these vital constitutional purposes, the enumeration should count only citizens and persons who are legal, permanent residents. But it won’t.

Instead, the U.S. Census Bureau is set to count all persons physically present in the country—including large numbers who are here illegally. The result will unconstitutionally increase the number of representatives in some states and deprive some other states of their rightful political representation. Citizens of “loser” states should be outraged. Yet few are even aware of what’s going on.

In 1790, the first Census Act provided that the enumeration of that year would count “inhabitants” and “distinguish” various subgroups by age, sex, status as free persons, etc. Inhabitant was a term with a well-defined meaning that encompassed, as the Oxford English Dictionary expressed it, one who “is a bona fide member of a State, subject to all the requisitions of its laws, and entitled to all the privileges which they confer.”

Thus early census questionnaires generally asked a question that got at the issue of citizenship or permanent resident status, e.g., “what state or foreign country were you born in?” or whether an individual who said he was foreign-born was naturalized. Over the years, however, Congress and the Census Bureau have added inquiries that have little or nothing to do with census’s constitutional purpose.

By 1980 there were two census forms. The shorter form went to every person physically present in the country and was used to establish congressional apportionment. It had no question pertaining to an individual’s citizenship or legal status as a resident. The longer form gathered various kinds of socioeconomic information including citizenship status, but it went only to a sample of U.S. households. That pattern was repeated for the 1990 and 2000 censuses.

The 2010 census will use only the short form. The long form has been replaced by the Census Bureau’s ongoing American Community Survey. Dr. Elizabeth Grieco, chief of the Census Bureau’s Immigration Statistics Staff, told us in a recent interview that the 2010 census short form does not ask about citizenship because “Congress has not asked us to do that.”

Because the census (since at least 1980) has not distinguished citizens and permanent, legal residents from individuals here illegally, the basis for apportionment of House seats has been skewed. According to the Census Bureau’s latest American Community Survey data (2007), states with a significant net gain in population by inclusion of noncitizens include Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Texas. (There are tiny net gains for Hawaii and Massachusetts.)

This makes a real difference. Here’s why:

According to the latest American Community Survey, California has 5,622,422 noncitizens in its population of 36,264,467. Based on our round-number projection of a decade-end population in that state of 37,000,000 (including 5,750,000 noncitizens), California would have 57 members in the newly reapportioned U.S. House of Representatives.

However, with noncitizens not included for purposes of reapportionment, California would have 48 House seats (based on an estimated 308 million total population in 2010 with 283 million citizens, or 650,000 citizens per House seat). Using a similar projection, Texas would have 38 House members with noncitizens included. With only citizens counted, it would be entitled to 34 members."

....You get the idea. 

We've been arguing, aggressively, that it is important for the Obama Administration to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform by March of 2010 (the count begins in April, 2010) in order to avoid what could become a very nasty debate indeed - in the middle of a very important election - about who exactly is an American.   To me the need to conduct a clean and accurate census, so essential to effective governance of the nation, is one of the most powerful reasons why immigration reform cannot wait till 2011, as some have suggested.

In launching DropDobbs.com along with 14 other groups this past week, I cited my own personal weariness with the summer's angry talk and the still all too virulent politics of intolerance.  We have long believed the debate over the Census would unleash the reactionary hounds, so to speak, and rather than letting them gain the upper hand in a debate over who we are and who we are becoming, it is essential now for reasonable people of both parties to stand, together, to prevent an angry few to hijack what is, in this case, a process so integral to the very functioning of our democracy. 

Next year is shaping up to be an extraordinary one in US history.

Drop Dobbs: How You Can Help

So many folks have asked us - how can I help you and all those groups get Lou Dobbs off the air? 

It's easy:

1.  Visit the web site.  DropDobbs.com.  While there watch the video of Lou doing his thing.

2.  Sign the petition to CNN and Dobbs' advertisers asking them to Drop Dobbs.

3.  Share the site and petition with your networks.  Encourage others to do the same. 

Visit.  Sign.  Share.

In just a few days our compelling video of Dobbs' increasingly irresponsible behavior on the air has been seen more than 50,000 times, and thousands have already signed the petition.  When we really kick this campaign into high gear together—it’s going to be exciting to see.

So thanks for your interest and support for our efforts to fight back against the crazy talk on our mainstream news outlets.  And don't forget - visit, sign, share.  DropDobbs.com.  Lots of small little steps can add up to one big collective action. 

For more on why we've taken up this campaign, and to see our video, visit here.

And check back here and on DropDobbs for more each day.

Murguia: Join NCLR and the Drop Dobbs Campaign

NCLR President Janet Murguia posted this essay on the Huffington Post yesterday:

This Tuesday, my organization, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), joined with several national advocacy organizations to launch the Drop Dobbs campaign, an appeal to advertisers to withhold their advertising support for CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight program. We came to this decision in the wake of Dobbs' participation at an anti-immigrant rally in Washington, DC sponsored by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an organization designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a hate group.

According to SPLC:

- FAIR was founded by John Tanton, who also operates a racist publishing company and has compared immigrants to "bacteria."
- FAIR has employed members of white supremacist groups in key positions.
- FAIR has promoted racist conspiracy theories.
- FAIR has accepted more than $1 million from the Pioneer Fund, a foundation devoted to eugenics and to proving a connection between race and IQ.
- FAIR president Dan Stein once suggested that Asians and Hispanics were engaged in "competitive breeding."

For two years, I have tried working behind the scenes with CNN to bring some fairness to the relentless bias of CNN programming due to Dobbs' show. I have documented a litany of issues involving Lou Dobbs, including:

- His regular use of guests representing hate groups, vigilantes, and nativists as experts on immigration
- His relentless repetition of stories on immigrants and crime that project an impression far from reality
- His association of immigrants as carriers of disease that has been both inaccurate and pejorative

I have appeared on the Lou Dobbs show to ask him to curtail his bias and distance himself from the vigilantes and nativists who have appeared on his show. I have also partnered with CNN to address the levels of diversity before and behind the camera in hopes that this would help. CNN's disregard for Dobbs' alarming appearance at the hate group's rally this week has forced us to reconsider our behind-the-scenes approach.

Words have consequences. The Latino community knows all too well the effect that extreme and polarizing rhetoric can have. Over the past five years, the often vitriolic debate surrounding immigration has created a toxic climate for our communities. During that time, we have seen a double digit increase in the number of hate crimes against Latinos and substantial growth in the number of hate groups targeting Latinos. As was illustrated less than one year ago by the murders of Marcelo Lucero and Jose Sucuzhanay, lives are literally at stake.

Lou Dobbs, as a private citizen, has every right to speak at whatever event he pleases. As a representative of CNN's "best political news team in America," however, Dobbs' appearance at this rally provides FAIR the legitimacy of the CNN brand and signals an intensification of the lopsided coverage Dobbs has provided during the debate over immigration reform.

This should be of deep concern to CNN and every one of its advertisers. The credibility of all of their brands is at stake. The Drop Dobbs coalition is compiling a list of those advertisers supporting the Lou Dobbs show and will be reaching out to educate them about this issue. We recognize that many advertisers may be unaware that FAIR has been designated as a hate group, so we are contacting those companies before publicly releasing the list. However, unless and until Dobbs and CNN disassociate themselves from this hate group, we will be asking advertisers to withhold their support.

Join us online at the Drop Dobbs campaign and ask U.S. corporations to drop their advertising from the Lou Dobbs Tonight show. Together we can make a difference and bring accountability back to CNN.

NDN is a proud founding member of this important effort.  If you haven't yet, please visit the site, DropDobbs.com, sign our petition and then ask others in your networks to do the same.

Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/janet-murguia/join-nclr-and-the-drop-do_b_290584.html

Dobbs vs Colbert

There are two ways to get a shout out on the Colbert Report: Do something worthwhile or do something ridiculous. Well, we've been arguing for a while now that Lou Dobbs, with his false claims and absurd rhetoric, is kind of ridiculous-- and shouldn't be on CNN. Looks like Colbert agrees.

Check out this clip from the Colbert Report in which he puts Lou Dobbs clearly in the "ridiculous" category. And be sure to visit our new site DropDobbs.com!

The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Stephen Loses World Record to Lou Dobbs
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Health Care Protests

Miami Herald columnist takes a look at Drop Dobbs

The Miami Herald's Andres Oppenheimer has a column this morning which asks a good question - Will boycott against CNN's Dobbs Work? 

Oppenheimer writes:

`CNN gives Dobbs an unparalleled and powerful perch from which to spread right-wing misinformation and promote hate and fear. And his advertisers help make that possible -- and profitable -- for CNN,'' says the Dropdobbs.com website.

``These advertisers depend on the loyalty of a broad consumer base that includes millions of Latinos who are tired of being demonized by Dobbs. . . . Let's send a message to these advertisers that they will be held accountable for financially supporting the spread of hate.''

According to Simon Rosenberg, head of the New Democrat Network and a former television journalist himself, cable TV shows such as Dobbs' are fueling a dangerous social polarization in the United States.

``Dobbs spreads things that are clearly untrue and uses wild and extreme rhetoric, particularly about Hispanic Americans, that should have no space on a mainstream network like CNN,'' Rosenberg said. ``He is free to say whatever he wants on his own website, his books and on his radio show, but CNN and Time Warner, which are globally respected companies, should take a stand regarding this kind of speech.''

Should we support this petition?

Edward Schumacher-Matos, a lecturer at Harvard and Miami Herald ombudsman, says that ``the boycott is perfectly legitimate. As much as Dobbs may not mean to demonize immigrants and Latinos, he does. He hammers at this issue night after night, and he takes so many facts out of context, that even if I don't think he is a racist, he feeds into racism.''

In addition, Dobbs often misleads the public by presenting opinion disguised as news, Schumacher-Matos added.

Edward Wasserman, a journalism-ethics professor at Washington and Lee University and a Miami Herald columnist, added that just as Dobbs has a right to free speech, news consumers have a right to boycott companies that sponsor irresponsible journalism.

``If you find the general drift of Dobbs' commentary to be incendiary, reckless, deceitful, then you shouldn't be buying these advertisers' products,'' Wasserman said.

and then concludes:

My opinion: If Dobbs' show was presented as an opinion show -- ``The angry-white-male nightly diatribe'' would be a proper name for it -- I would be against a boycott drive because it would curtail his right to free speech. But if Dobbs, Beck, and other cable TV entertainers continue to deceive the public by using news formats to disguise opinion as news, and cross the line from dispassionate discourse to fire-brand crusading, they must live with the consequences, including boycotts.

(If you wonder why The Herald runs my column under the banner ``In my opinion,'' and why I always end my columns with the words ``my opinion,'' it's precisely to let you know exactly what you are reading.)

The key issue should not be where Dobbs or other Hispanic-phobic TV show hosts stand, but whether they present themselves as what they are -- opinionators. And Dobbs clearly doesn't pass the test.


Dropping Dobbs

As you may be aware yesterday we joined a broad coalition of groups in launching a campaign to get CNN to drop Lou Dobbs from their thoughtful and respected airwaves.   The site can be found at dropdobbs.com.  Check it out, watch the video if you have a few minutes and add your name to the petition in the take action section asking CNN and Dobb's advertisers to take a stand.

This kind of campaign is not the usual thing NDN does.  But the decline in civil discourse that we've seen this year (what I call the rising "politics of intolerance") and Dobbs' increasingly wild and irresponsible performance on the air of late convinced me - and the whole NDN team - that it was time to take a stand.  Lou Dobbs is free to say whatever he wants on his own website, in his books, on his own radio show.  I am all for free speech.  But he should not be given a daily platform on the globally respected CNN, or on a brand owned by the well-regarded and innovative Time Warner.  It is time for them to drop Lou Dobbs.

There is a precedent for something like this - what Disney/ABC did when Rush Limbaugh was bounced from Monday Night Football for racially offensive remarks.   Mainstream, respectable network bouncing a hate talker off their air because it simply didn't fit their brand, their values, their vision for America.  Every day CNN and Time Warner keep Dobbs on their air they are telling us a great deal about their values - that they care more about making money than they do about creating a civil and just America; that they are willing to tolerate divisive, ignorant talk to make a few extra bucks here and there.  I'm not sure about you but that is not how I see CNN or Time Warner.  Dobbs is antithetical to their brands, and it is time for them to make clear that they believe this is so.  Leave all that crazy talk to News Corp, am radio, blogs and the angry, intolerant right.  But please my friends take Lou Dobbs off CNN.  Your brands, and the country, will be better for it.

I offered up some thoughts, and some video, on all this Dobbs and Beck stuff a few weeks ago.  For me this new campaign is about taking a stand against the rising politics of intolerance we've seen spread across the country in recent months.  As a nation we are better than the screamers, and it is time that those of us who believe that to do more, to take a stand - and in this case lets start by getting Lou Dobbs off CNN.

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