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March 05, 2008

Microtargeting and Ethnic Pandering
Posted by Adam Blickstein

A sometimes overlooked but integral intermingling of foreign policy and domestic politics is how political campaigns and politicians deal with narrow, sometimes single-issue ethnic groups and members of specific diasporas now living in America. Florida's Cuban population and Los Angeles' Armenian community immediately come to mind, and both have directly affected U.S. policy and individual political posturing. Every campaign micro-targets to different populations and ethnic groups (Moira's post on Kosovo/a's Independence again brings this aspect up). The topic deserves more scrutiny and analysis, and this week, it once again reared its head on the campaign trail.

Hillary Clinton put out a statement Monday marking the anniversary of the Katyn Massacre,  the 1940 Soviet execution of nearly 20,000 Polish prisoners of war. It has been parsed here and here as purely a product of political pandering ahead of Ohio's primary yesterday. For instance, Sam Stein over at Huffington Post said:

Perhaps it was a genuine sense of sorrow. Or perhaps it was because Ohio, which votes on Tuesday, happens to have two of the most Polish-populated cities in the country. Indeed, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, there are more than 31,000 Polish-Americans in Toledo and nearly 23,000 in Cleveland.

Stein acknowledges that "every politician panders" and goes on to quote the part of the release that mentions the Polish and Eastern European diaspora in America, calling it a "fairly transparent wink-and-nod." A wink and nod perhaps, but to whom? Remember, Clinton's home state of New York has a large Polish presence. In fact, the Buffalo region's strong Polish heritage and population of over 70,000 far exceeds that of Toledo and Cleveland combined. But the release was put out from the Clinton campaign and not through her Senate office, from the best of my knowledge, perhaps quieting the New York excuse. I'm sure it didn't hurt in Ohio, and can't be anything but beneficial in Pittsburgh, another city with strong Polish roots, a Polish population of nearly 30,000, and a crucial area the upcoming Pennsylvania primary. Stay tuned.


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Trying to court Polish voters in the Midwest was one of the reasons why Bill Clinton made the flawed decision to expand NATO which then in turn made the Russians paranoid of Western intentions.

What in the heck is wrong with recognizing a massacre, given that it actually happened and that survivors or their descendants do live in the US? Same for the Amermenians. The real issue isn't "are people pandering to Armenian Americans?" it's "Why don't we recognize a genocide that every serious scholar agrees actually happened?"

It is okay to recognize the Katyn Massacre but political leaders and ethnic groups use the rememberance of these tragic events to promote moronic foreign decisions such as the expansion of NATO which broke a treaty that the first Bush signed with Gorbachev in 1989.

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