Discussing Sen. Barack Obama's use of the phrase "yes, we can," in recent speeches, Pat Buchanan said: " 'Yes, we can. Sí, se puede.' That's Hispanic. That's the cause of the illegal immigration movement and the amnesty movement."
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On the January 15 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, during a discussion of what Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) would need to do to win that evening's Las Vegas Democratic presidential debate, MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan asserted that Obama would use "that refrain he used in New Hampshire: 'Yes, we can.' " Buchanan continued: " 'Yes, we can. Sí, se puede.' That's Hispanic. That's the cause of the illegal immigration movement and the amnesty movement." Obama has recently used the refrain "yes, we can" in speeches.
"Sí, se puede" (Spanish for "yes, we can") is the motto of the United Farm Workers. According to a January 12 Las Vegas Sun article, "Culinary workers in Las Vegas recognized [Yes, we can'] as the labor slogan popularized by United Farm Workers leader Cesar Chavez. Indeed, the phrase, in Spanish, is plastered all over the walls of the union's headquarters." Similarly, during the discussion on Hardball, Jon Ralston of the Sun stated: "Let me tell you about 'Yes, we can' ... that's the chant of the culinary union workers here. That's why [Obama is] saying it so much. He's led these rallies here with the culinary, chanting both in Spanish." Later in the segment, Buchanan stated: "But again, this "sí, se puede" thing. It means one thing to the culinary workers, but I'll tell you, to Middle America, which saw those, you know, all those Mexican flags and all those guys chanting it, it means something else entirely."
An April 11, 2006, Washington Post article with the headline "The Enduring Motto of a Movement" noted:
[The slogan's] origins lie with the Hispanic farmworker labor movement. In 1972, César Chávez, a United Farm Workers of America co-founder and Mexican American labor leader, embarked on a 25-day fast to protest Arizona's anti-farmworker labor laws. When supporters began to doubt that the laws could be changed, UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta, also Mexican American, responded, "Sí se puede."
Chávez adopted the slogan, as did the UFW, which still uses it. According to the UFW's Web site, www.ufw.org, the "sí se puede attitude" is one of the group's core values. The organization defines it as the "embodiment of a personal and organizational spirit that promotes confidence, courage and risk taking."
As Media Matters for America documented, Buchanan has previously claimed that immigration will result in the "complete balkanization of America" and an "invasion of the United States of America." Further, Buchanan claimed that illegal immigration threatens to reduce America to "a polyglot boarding house for the world, a tangle of squabbling minorities."
From the January 15 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to Hardball. Now for the politics fix tonight. Let's go to the roundtable. Roger Simon is from politico.com; Jon Ralston is with the LA -- the Las Vegas, I should say, Sun; and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan's back home. Pat, you start this off. I want to end up with a scrum back here. Let's talk fight talk tonight, the big tonight. It is a fight. Who's going to look good, who's not. Barack Obama, doesn't he have to carry the fight to the champ of last week, Hillary Clinton?
BUCHANAN: I think he does, Chris. And I wouldn't be surprised, you know that refrain he used in New Hampshire, "Yes, we can. Yes, we can. Sí, se puede." That's Hispanic. That's the cause of the illegal immigration movement and the amnesty movement. I wouldn't be surprised to see him going at that issue and to see the moderators, however, refocusing this issue on the hottest subject of the week, which is who raised the race issue and who benefits from it.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me go to Roger. Roger, "yes, we can" sounds fine with me. It sounds generally available to all of us. We all can. Pat says it's a tribalist kind of a chant that should be avoided, I think.
SIMON: I think it's just more of Obama's message of hope and unity. I don't think it's anything more than that. And about tonight's debate, you have to keep in mind, I think, that Obama's strength has never been his debate performances. And he's always let John Edwards lead the attack on Hillary Clinton and then he's --
MATTHEWS: Revisionism is endemic here to this business. Let me ask you, Jon, it seems to me out here -- I got a rise out of Pat. Let me get -- this issue tonight, it is a fight game. We are in Vegas. This is a heavyweight championship or a light heavyweight, if you will. What is going to happen tonight?
RALSTON: Well, the "yes, we can" -- let me tell you about "yes, we can," first of all. If he starts saying that tonight, that's the chant of the culinary union workers here. That's why he's saying it so much. He's led these rallies here with the culinary, chanting both in Spanish.
MATTHEWS: OK, how many people have this chant? It's Latino. It's what? It's culinary. What else is it?
SIMON: It was Jesse Jackson.
RALSTON: That's right, but now --
MATTHEWS: I am somebody was Jesse, I think.
RALSTON: He has used that here several times to energize the culinary workers, which are the big union here that endorsed him.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you, Pat. You know how these things are scored out here in these debates. They come down to bicentennial moments, we call them. One event, one back-and-forth becomes replayed and played for days and months, or at least weeks. What's it going to be tonight? Will there be an uppercut, some sort of a shot at Hillary by one of the two other guys? Will it be some defense of Hillary? Will it be a Hillary brilliant counterpunch? What's it going to be?
BUCHANAN: I think Edwards has got to go on the offensive. He really does. And my guess is he probably goes at both of them. I think that that's going to be a major moment for him. But I honestly think, Chris, because we've all been talking about it and it is explosive, they're going to re-raise this issue of who raised the race issue, if you will, who did what. They'll rerun that because that's the kind of stuff that gets in headlines and we all talk about. But on the economy they're all going to come down, I think, with good, strong packages and stimulus packages. I don't see any sharp area of disagreement. But again, this "sí, se puede" thing. It means one thing to the culinary workers, but I'll tell you, to Middle America, which saw those, you know, all those Mexican flags and all those guys chanting it, it means something else entirely. I think Obama's going to work that vein because Hispanics are a surging part of the population of Las Vegas and Nevada and a growing part of the electorate, and that's what he's got to have.