Russell Pearce Recall About More Than Immigration

Yes it was historic – the first state senate president to be recalled since the birth of the nation.

Yes there was an overflow of reactive energy – starting with Latinos and spreading to citizens and voters of all races, cultures and ethnicities.

But it was also about politics, about pocketbook issues, standard of living concerns and political shenanigans. Pearce may have gotten a little too comfortable for his own skin. A year before  the recall he had won a landslide election. He was the architect of a law that seemed popular at the time; the law gave Pearce national notoriety. He managed to put together a law that served as a spark that began a blaze of anti-immigration laws that spread across dozens of states.

But while he was busy politicking the immigration law he was also busy politicking his funders. His opponents accuse him of accepting expensive college football tickets, paid trips, luxury hotel stays and a chauffeured car. Meanwhile, according to his opponents, he slashed the state budget in the name of austerity:

  • $450 million in cuts to education
  • voted to eliminate children’s health insurance
  • 36 thousand children left without health care

The worst kind of power is perceived power, especially when it goes to your head.

The other lesson is that the best kind of political power is collaborative. It wasn’t only Latinos who recalled Pearce; it was Arizona voters who collectively took it upon themselves to act, spurred by different concerns, yet with the same end in mind.

Does Pearce’s recall foretell and end to anti-immigration laws? No, it doesn’t. That battle is being fought in the judicial system; the courts will decide.

Does the recall signal an end to anti-immigration sentiment? No, it doesn’t do that either. That sentiment is not confronted at the polls – that has to do more with tolerance in general and a cultural shift that moves from defensive, fear-based thinking to a more tolerant, open, forward thinking mind-set.

But here’s what the Pearce recall does do: it sends a clear message to politicians across the country who have built their base on the fear of the other – their power, like their issue, is feeble. My hope is that the recall signals the beginning of the end of immigration as a viable political plank. I hope anti-immigrant proponents in all of the states in the union are paying attention: your fear-based shtick doesn’t work.

It would be a good sign, as we head into next year’s political season, to kick the rancid issue out with the rancid politicians.

[Photo By Arizona State Legislature]

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