There can be no doubt that the defeat of Russell Pearce in the Tuesday’s recall election was a huge blow to the patriotic immigration reform movement. We can point a lot of fingers about who is to blame for his defeat—James Kirkpatrick did a good job of it on VDARE.com yesterday. But it’s important not to get too wound up on the negatives. To pay tribute to this great man, and to keep things in perspective, I think it is also worth reflecting on what Russell Pearce has accomplished.
Apart from Tom Tancredo, no politician has been more effective in promoting the cause of patriotic immigration reform. In fact, Tancredo would likely acknowledge that in some ways Pearce achieved more. In Washington D.C., all patriot victories over the last decade have been defensive—preventing things from getting even worse. Bush’s amnesties were stopped in 2006 and 2007 and Obama’s DREAM Act in 2010. But immigration patriots have completely failed to get more enforcement against illegal immigration and, above all, cuts in legal immigration—let alone a moratorium.
This is why the progress made in Arizona in the last decade has been so inspiring. In 2004, patriotic immigration reform was near its low point. While 9-11 had temporarily halted George W. Bush’s amnesty proposals, most Republicans and conservatives were so loyal to Bush that few would challenge him on immigration. During that year’s presidential election, the Democrats didn’t even need to use euphemisms like “comprehensive immigration reform”. John Kerry frankly described his immigration proposals as amnesty.
But in 2004, State Rep. Russell Pearce spearheaded Protect Arizona Now or Prop 200 in Arizona. The law restricted benefits and voting fraud from illegal aliens.
There would have been absolutely no chance getting it through the legislature. Nor did Pearce find much help from national politicians. With the exception of Rep. Trent Franks, every single national politician in the state, even J.D. Hayworth, opposed the measure. So did the state’s Democratic Governor, and both the state Republican and Democratic parties. But, despite being outspent 3-1, the measure passed with 56% of the vote.
While Republicans talking heads were pushing George Bush’s phony 44% of the Hispanic vote after his reelection, Prop 200 put the political Establishment on notice that, when given the chance, Americans were serious about illegal immigration.
After Prop 200’s success, Pearce, Franks, and Tancredo toured the country to promote border security. This helped create the basis for the national grassroots effort that was ready when Bush promoted amnesty in 2006 and 2007.
In DC, the best immigration patriots could hope for was to stop Bush’s scheme. But in Arizona, Russell Pearce introduced the Legal Arizona Workers Act to mandate E-Verify for all employers. By then, state politicians knew that they would be looking for a new job if they voted against it; and it passed the legislature and Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano reluctantly signed it. Part of the reason: she knew Pearce would lead a push to get an even tougher bill via ballot initiative if she vetoed it.
In 2006 and 2008, Republicans—including newer converts to border security like J.D. Hayworth—lost in Congress. But under Pearce’s leadership, Arizona voters still passed tough ballot initiatives making English the official language, cracking down on human smuggling and denying bail to illegal aliens.
Then, with Obama in the White House, a strong Democratic majority in Congress, and Republican opposition faced solely on economic matters, immigration seemed to fall from the national spotlight again.
But Pearce’s SB 1070 brought immigration back to the forefront of national debate. Obama and Eric Holder’s contempt for the rule of law and democratic process in Arizona provoked a huge backlash across the country, as America rallied around Arizona.
Whereas a few years ago, pretty much every politician shied away from Prop 200, by 2010 Republicans were all fighting to outdo themselves over who supported the legislation the most. John McCain’s defeat of JD Hayworth in the 2010 U.S. Senate primary was disappointing, but the fact that this former La Raza Legislator of the Year winner was now at least pretending to support SB 1070 showed just how far the debate had gone.
This past year, three states passed legislation modeled on SB 1070. And the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Legal Arizona Workers Act—which led to the Chamber of Commerce and other Cheap Labor lobbies’ supporting Lamar Smith’s Legal Workforce Act mandating national E-Verify as the only way they could palliate Arizona and other states’ tough laws.
I have been critical of the Legal Workforce Act for that very reason—but the idea that the Chamber of Commerce would be compelled to support any national E-Verify bill was absolutely unthinkable just a few years ago.
SB 1070 made Pearce a nationally-known politician, and he ascended to the presidency of the Arizona Senate this past year. Unfortunately, this made him the Number One target of the unholy alliance of Cheap Labor Lobbyists and left-wing ethnic activists. They killed his omnibus immigration bill that would have gone even further than SB 1070 and dealt with issues like Birthright Citizenship and Plyler v. Doe. And, of course, they began the smear campaign against that culminated in his recall.
While this defeat is tragic, it is not the end of Russell Pearce’s battle to fight out-of-control mass immigration. He has not ruled out running for his old seat. It took unusual circumstances to defeat him—low turnout, intense campaigning and a complaisant RINO, Jerry Lewis, to split the Republican vote. Pearce could probably defeat Lewis in a primary where only Republicans could vote, and would certainly win the general election. Or he may seek higher office—possibly Congressional seat being vacated by Jeff Flake in 2012 or even the Arizona governorship in 2014.
Even more importantly, there are now dozens of other Russell Pearces across America fighting to stop illegal immigration on the state level—energized by the fact that the federal government has not merely failed but, after Obama’s Administrative Amnesty, has actually changed sides.
"Washington Watcher" [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.