Sunday, April 30, 2006

Boycotting as Tactics

I've been vaguely supportive of the May 1st "Day Without Immigrants" protest as a concept. The intelligentsia knows that our economy depends on these immigrants, so watching things go *splat* without them should act as a wakeup call for the rest of the country. But a recent post by Kevin Drum raises doubts. He quotes Marc Cooper, a veteran of the protest and activism movement:
With the Senate back in session and struggling to agree on liberalized bipartisan reform, with President Bush finally (but still not forcefully enough) bringing some of his clout to bear, with public opinion polls showing new majorities in favor of much of what immigrant advocates have been lobbying for, I can't think of a worse time to stage a confrontational boycott like that planned for May 1.

There is a definite time and place for this sort of tactic, and it isn't here or now. Boycotts are powerful and volatile weapons used as a last resort to bust open dams of dogged resistance. You don't use them when the political tide is even vaguely flowing in your direction.
That's why the larger institutional players in the pro-immigrant movement prefer an after-school (and after-work) rally over an intentionally punitive boycott and walkout. They argue that such an escalation could alienate lawmakers and the public just when political sentiment is shifting more toward immigrants. The positive message of demanding inclusion in the United States would be replaced by a more negative and divisive signal.

Hmm...maybe. I mean, I can definitely see where he's coming from. On the other hand, I have two questions:

1) How will this "backlash" ignore the economic price that this boycott will bring into sharp relief? Can that many Americans really act on emotion when the punishment to the pocketbook is so clear?

2) What does Cooper think of the Darfur rallies going on today? On the one hand, one could argue that on the legislative front, Darfur might be stuck in a logjam that needs to be broken. On the other, it seems like "the political tide" is at least vaguely (Cooper's words) flowing in our favor.

Still, it's a legitimate point. I hope Cooper's wrong though.

Update on my computer situation: I'm hoping it will be up and running by Tuesday. Basically, the techie folk here sent me a nice email telling me that I had a virus, had been temporarily removed from the network, and that they'd be happy to fix my computer anytime from 9-5, Monday through Friday. The problem was that they sent this email at 5:30 Friday afternoon. Grr. And since this weekend is mid-term break, the computing service probably won't be open on Monday. So assuming this clean up won't take crazy-long time, Tuesday is my target date.

1 comment:

Stentor said...

I don't see how the Darfur rallies are similar. Cooper's argument is against *boycotts,* which are punitive and confrontational. Rallies and demonstrations -- of the type that have been happening ever since the immigration legislation started being debated -- are not.