The attempt to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has ended in failure. The union-busting Republican held on to his office by a 10-point margin in Tuesday's election, despite a huge voter turnout. and vigorous get out the vote efforts by the unions whom the governor is trying so hard to destroy. The decisive factor was money; the Republicans outspent the Democrats by at least 7-1, with an estimated two-thirds of their money coming from out of state sources, including the Koch brothers.
With this election, America has turned the corner into the post Citizens United world where democracy is just a facade and elections are up for sale to the highest right wing bidders at every level. Inevitably, there will be attempts by the losers to play down the significance of this catastrophe. The spinners are already at work blaming purely local factors: the divisive Wisconsin Democratic primary, the failure of President Obama and the national Democrats to get involved in the recall attempt in a serious way, politically or financially, etc.
But the national Democrats, and those in other states, can no more distance themselves from the results of this election than can sailors in the stern of a ship distance themselves from an iceberg that has smashed the prow. If Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers could buy Wisconsin in June, what is to stop them from buying America in November? A Romney presidency is now more likely than ever before. Even if Obama somehow manages to hold on to the White House, the doors are now wide open for even more laws directed against not only union members, but unpopular minorities and scapegoats of every description at the state level.
To borrow an image from one of the greatest of poets, Virgil, (in Book 1 of the Aeneid), the wind god, Aeolus, has hit the side of the hollow mountain of Wisconsin with his Koch brothers spear, and the storms of scapegoating and bigotry which had been chained up inside are now rushing out and will soon be whirling across America.
What does the Wisconsin election mean for immigration? Immigration was not ostensibly a big issue in the recall effort. Wisconsin does not have a high Hispanic or other minority population compared to, say Arizona, even though many immigrants who work in hotels and similar service areas in Wisconsin are union members. As mentioned in my June 5, blogging, last year a bill modelled on Arizona's S.B.1070 anti-immigrant law was introduced in the Wisconsin legislature, but it went nowhere..
However, even aside from the specter of a Mitt Romney/Kris Kobach/Joe Arpaio administration coming into power next year, there are likely to be devastating consequences for immigration from the Wisconsin election. Superficially, the main issue in the recall election was Governor Walker's attack on unions, especially public service unions, whose collective bargaining rights he took away.
But just as the attack on public service unions in Wisconsin is also an attack on the union movement in general, so are the attacks on unions, which will now spread to many other states, joined at the hip with attacks on other Republican scapegoats as well - women, same sex couples, the poor, the sick, Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians, Muslims, and, most of all, immigrants.
The Wisconsin election has now given a green light to the bigots of every description to win elections through access to unlimited billionaire financing by stirring up hate against any and all targets - public service employees seeking collective bargaining rights, women seeking abortion and contraception rights, same-sex couples seeking marriage equality, minority US citizens trying to vote - and immigrants looking for a decent life in America.
Some of my colleagues are of the opinion that, since the Obama administration has already been taken over by the mania of the four anti-immigrant "D's" - Deportation, Detention, Denial of meritorious petitions, and Draconian enforcement investigations, the outlook for immigration in America could not possibly become any worse. While there is good reason for this opinion, which I understand and fully respect, the message from Wisconsin for immigrants, and for all other other groups in America who are the targets of discrimination, prejudice and scapegoating, is loud and clear: "Amigos, you ain't seen nothin' yet".
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.