Arizona immigration law lesson: political demagoguery works

There are a lot of scary aspects to Arizona’s Draconian new immigration law, but the scariest might be this: it has worked like a charm for the politicians who supported it.

The Washington Post has an interesting item today on Gov. Jan Brewer, who was considered a goner in this year’s gubernatorial elections – actually, she wasn’t even expected to survive a Republican primary challenge.

But since signing the bill in April and becoming one of its most outspoken defenders her prospective GOP opponents have dropped out, the Democrats have lost their early optimism about regaining the governorship – and Brewer has achieved “hero status” within the GOP.

This, I suspect, is what really worries groups like the ADL, which have been outspoken in their criticism of the law.

The lesson being broadcast to politicians: demonizing illegal immigrants works. Telling preposterous stories about headless corpses littering the Arizona deserts, about most illegals being drug “mules,” scaring voters about outsiders in their midst, are once again proving effective political tools.

It’s a kind of populist demagoguery that in the past was directed at other “outsiders” – including Catholics and Jews. And it’s scary because it works so well, suggesting that illegal immigrants won’t be the only targets as the new nativism spreads.

Yes, I know, these people are here illegally.

Big deal. So were many of our own ancestors – who were also accused of fomenting crime and disease and seeking to undermine the American way of life.

The answer isn’t to whip up hysteria about illegals but to fix a badly broken immigration system, deal fairly with those already here and beef up border security.

That’s what major Jewish groups like the ADL, the American Jewish Committee, the Reform movement, the Jewish Funds for Justice,  the National Council of Jewish Women, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society say. Who is closer to the truth – these Jewish groups, or Gov. Jan Brewer, who continues to exploit the fear gripping Arizona voters for her own political gain?

Things would be different if half the things Arizona politicians were telling constituents were true. But they’re not; the beheadings, the drug mules, the massive crime wave, the secret “reconquista” plan – all fabrications and urban legends being used to stir up voter rage.

Scary stuff.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.