Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lost in the Fringes

Last Friday, over lunch with my brother, I was discussing the then-pending immigration reform bill in Arizona, passed by a Republican majority in the legislature and sitting on the desk of Republican governor Jan Brewer awaiting her signature.

Under the aegis of rooting out illegal immigrants, the bill would, in essence, enshrine racism into the law books by allowing police to stop anyone who arouses suspicion and ask them to provide proof of their legal status. Yep, no way that can go wrong.

"She's not going to sign it," I said. "No one is that dumb." After all, while illegal immigration remains a serious problem, we can all agree that this is hardly a viable solution, right? Three hours later, it was the law of the land in AZ. Guess I called that one.

Now, It remains to be seen how far Arizona is able to go with this new law, and whether or not it even passes the constitutional smell test, but it sure does bring into sharp focus a trend on the right with the levers of power increasingly enthralled to what used to be their farthest fringe, but are now the base. In a state where John "Sarah Palin was my veep" McCain is being primary challenged from his right, I guess it's not all that surprising.

I mean, between the stuff coughed up at your average Tea Party rally and by the rightie talk radio crowd, it's not hard to see how this bill, propped up on a foundation of xenophobia and racism, got up the traction to get through the state senate, much less winding up under the governor's pen. Says Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic:
It is absolutely a condition of the age of the triumph of conservative personality politics, where entertainers shouting slogans are taken seriously as political actors, and where the incentive structures exist to stomp on dissent and nuance, causing experimental voices to retrench and allowing a lot of people to pretend that the world around them is not changing.
I'm very curious to see what ends up happening with this Arizona law going forward, but regardless, I don't see the the trend of reactionary racism that it signals going away anytime soon. This, in turn, makes me wonder when or if the conservative movement will allow its more reasoned, sensible voices to once again be heard.

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