Op-ed by Roberto Lovato
As I watched the sad eyes of Lou Dobbs last night while he bade an abrupt farewell to his long career at CNN, I shed the tears that he apparently couldn’t. I cried in part because, regardless of the Basta Dobbs campaign’s — and my own — constitutional differences with his brand of anti-immigrant, anti-Latino propaganda disguised as news, one couldn’t help but be moved by the fast and fiery demise of a media titan. It really was sad to watch the aging Dobbs go out without the slow grace and good will that characterized Walter Cronkite’s departure in a previous media era.
Yet, while slightly moved by Dobbs’ personal drama, I cried primarily because, as a member, relative and friend of the groups most vilified by Dobbs for so many years — Latinos and immigrants — I was inspired by the power of the movement to oust him, a movement that these same groups and their allies led. In the words of many a jubilant Twitterer and Facebook friend celebrating Dobbs’transition as a victory,”Si Se Pudo” (Yes We Could).
At one level, Dobbs’ departure was influenced by internal dynamics at CNN, a network in need of rapid changes required by the economic, political and demographic shifts transforming media. But at another level, the victory over Dobbs shows that our community is mobilized like never before. It reflects how we have taken important strides since the immigrants rights marches of 2006, and are now using the latest technology and organizing tactics to make our voices heard. Lou Dobbs led us to march with our feet — and with our fingers.
In their search for the right frame for the story, many have commented that ours was a struggle against the kind of hatred promoted by Dobbs and his many guests. But for those working daily to defeat Dobbs, the guiding force of our movement was not hate but love — the love that we show ourselves when, in the face of daily attacks, we stand up and say “Basta,” “Enough.”
More than the media or technology or organizing capabilities of Presente.org, Drop Dobbs, DemocraciaUSA, NDN, America’s Voice, NALACC or any other organization, the will of the many to push the powerful few has again reminded us of the centrality of spirituality to social change. I cried mostly because I saw in Dobbs’ departure some of the same intense desire for change that made many of us cry at the election of Barack Obama.
Dobbs himself said it best when, during his farewell, he linked his rapid departure to how “strong winds of change have begun buffeting this country and affecting all of us.” I was touched by these same winds during my travels throughout the country, where I met some of the more than 100,000 people who signed our Basta Dobbs petition. I heard it from the septuagenarian Tejano who, from his hospital bed had a family member text message to tell me, “I’m getting ready to leave the hospital and will be ready to help you get Dobbs out soon.” I saw it in the youthful optimism of the troop of Latina Girl Scouts from south Georgia, who said they wanted to go to Atlanta to protest CNN’s headquarters. And I felt it among the tens of thousands of non-Latinos who responded quickly to our call to demand Dobbs’ removal. Taken together, these people and others are the embodiment of the “strong winds of change” that buffeted Dobbs and CNN.
While on the surface, the anti-Dobbs movement appears as a recent development, its roots go as far back as the beginning of Dobbs attacks on immigrants. Many of the grassroots groups and bloggers allied with our campaign as well as national groups like the National Hispanic Media Coalition, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Media Matters have a long and distinguished history of challenging and checking Dobbs. Without their efforts, there would be no movement.
But for me, the most moving, poetic aspect of the entire Dobbs drama is that it begins and ends with immigrants, including undocumented immigrants. In this sense, the victory reinvigorates the important work of immigration reform. Hopefully Republicans and Democrats are taking note of the power of immigrants and the immigrant rights movement that mobilized to defeat Dobbs. But that’s for tomorrow. For now, let us commemorate this historic event by saying along with immigrants, “Justicia Poetica.”