Tuesday, November 8, 2011 will go down as an historic day for the forces of decency and tolerance in America. Arizona Republican State Senate leader Russell Pearce is an ally of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is notorious for locking Mexican immigrants up in desert tents, abusing and humiliating them. Pearce is the author of that state's infamous Wo sind Ihre Papiere? ("Papers, please") law, which has served as a model for similar hate laws directed against Latino, Asian and other non-white immigrants in Alabama and other states. Pearce lost his seat on Tuesday in a recall election.
On the same day, Ohio Republican governor and former Fox News "analyst" John Kasich was handed a humiliating defeat by that state's voters when the law that he had sponsored to restrict union bagaining rights was overwhwelmingly rejected in a referendum. Also on that day, Mississippi's voters rejected that state's proposed "personhood" bill, which would have made any kind of abortion and possibly even birth control a crime, severely restricting the rights of women.
No only Pearce's recall, but the victories for the rights of working people and women as well, should be good news for everyone who cares about immigrant rights. Tueday's results show that using hate in any form as a political strategy, whether against Latino and other minority immigrants, union members, women, gays or Muslims, is a losing game in America.
Those of us who call ourselves pro-immigration advocates cannot just look at immigration as a separate issue, unrelated to what else is going on in this country. If we do so, we are going along with the strategy of divide and conquer which the forces of privilege and power are using to maintain their control of our political and economic system.
The question is now whether the politicians who are trying to use hate, not only against immigrants but also against other minorities and ordinary people, as a means to gain or keep power, will heed the message from yesterday's election. This includes not only the Republican presidential candidates (as well as an about-to-be former candidate, Herman Cain, whose name may be forgotten a month or two from now) who are outdoing each other in shamelessly trying to demagogue the immigration issue, but also President Obama and his ruthless, unthinking ICE steamroller machine, which is deporting more people not convicted of serious crimes, breaking up more families and, as Danielle Beach-Oswald points out in her November 8 ID comment, leaving more American children without parents, than any other administration in recent history.
No doubt, some of the reactionary bigots who suffered such resounding defeats on Tuesday will try to read the Teabag leaves to see a message that more hate, fuelled by right wing propaganda and Koch Brothers' money, will restore their fortunes. But the real message from this election cannot be read in the Teabag leaves. It can be seen, plainly and clearly, by looking in a different direction. This message contains exactly four words: Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.