Russell Pearce's Woes Indicate the Nativist Movement Has Seen Its Best Days

Russell Pearce, the personification of hatred, anger, and intolerance.
Dennis Gilman

The wrath of God seemed to descend on Fountain Hills on a recent Saturday, with a dark swath of monsoon engulfing the city where recalled, disgraced state Senator Russell Pearce held a joint fundraiser with his brother, former Justice of the Peace and candidate for county supervisor Lester Pearce.

Last month, a scheduled fundraiser for Russell Pearce, who is attempting an ill-starred comeback run for the GOP nod for state senator in Legislative District 25, was routed from three locations by anti-Pearce activists. This, after Pearce's sleazy campaign adviser, Constantin Querard, made the bonehead move of booking the anti-Mexican bigot's event at a Macayo's Mexican Kitchen.

I'm sure Querard thought the idea was cute, but it incensed Hispanics and others opposed to Pearce's nativism. The resulting phone campaign and promises of protests put the kibosh on the fundraiser, ensuring that the Pearce camp would have to choose wisely its next locale.

Which ultimately is why it ended up in a Fountain Hills Holiday Inn managed by Pearce fanatic Gary Lvov. Apparently, Lvov didn't have a problem associating the Holiday Inn brand with extremist politics, resulting in a virtually cancel-proof wingding, albeit one far north of Pearce's district.

But even with online flyers promising "free snacks" and "no charge," attendance was sparse and confined to Pearce true believers. Video and photos posted by a Pearce stalwart showed no more than 15 to 20 people present at any given time during the four-hour kibbutz, and they were the usual suspects.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who lives in Fountain Hills, showed up with wife Ava. State Representative John Kavanagh came by with his spouse, Fountain Hills Mayor Linda Kavanagh.

On his Facebook page, Pearce thanked slavish Pearce booster and Maricopa County GOP chair Rob Haney and wife, as well as "my wonderful family who showed up."

There also were the wackos who don't just drink the Kool-Aid, they bathe in it: plus-size masseuse and Mexican hater Brandy Baron; full-time Arpaio groupie and hillbilly queen Barb Heller; self-loathing anti-Hispanic Hispanic Art Olivas; and Matt Tolman, rumor monger and onetime chairman of Citizens Who Oppose the Pearce Recall.

It's difficult to imagine such a crowd of misfits forking over much dough. Basically, this was a small meet-and-greet, one where most people knew each other.

Still, hanging out with those who adore him, Pearce felt the need to explain himself. That week, members of the local Fourth Estate had their long knives out for Pearce over a slew of racist e-mails to and from him over the years, made public by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU obtained the e-mails via a massive public-records request and offered them as exhibits in its Valle del Sol v. Whiting lawsuit against Pearce's Senate Bill 1070. The organization argues that Pearce and other lawmakers had "discriminatory intent" in passing 1070, and so the ACLU is asking federal Judge Susan R. Bolton to re-enjoin the "papers please" section of the law for this reason, among others.

On June 25, the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the injunction on section 2(b), allowing it to survive on limited grounds. And the ACLU boldly has moved to block it once more, in part by using Pearce's own statements against him, culling some from his e-mails and some from his public pronouncements.

Readers of this column and of my Feathered Bastard blog will not find anything attributed to Pearce in the ACLU cache to be out of character for the Mesa bigot. Indeed, I have time and time again exposed many of the statistics used by Pearce and other nativists to support their anti-immigrant proposals as insidious fabrications.

For instance, the canard repeated by Pearce that "9,000 Americans each year [are] killed at the hands of illegal aliens" has no basis in fact, as I've repeatedly demonstrated in numerous blog posts.

Ditto the falsehoods that "60 percent of the homicides in Phoenix involve illegal aliens" and that "67 percent" of cops killed "in the last few years" were slain by illegal aliens.

And yet listening to some of TV's talking heads in the wake of the release of the e-mails, you'd think they'd never heard Pearce spout bogus stats before.

The reality is that Pearce has not changed over the years; he lies as he breathes. And he's been amazingly consistent in his hatred of the undocumented and in his depiction of them as an invading force rampant with criminality.

During his stint in the state Legislature, Pearce backed quite a bit of Nuremberg-type legislation aimed at Latinos — everything from denying American-citizen children born to undocumented parents their birth certificates to forbidding marriages between American citizens and non-American citizens, legal or illegal. Mercifully, these two particular bills never became state law.

As I've repeated 'til I sound like I've smoked a carton of Camels, 1070's stated purpose of "attrition through enforcement" is de facto ethnic cleansing. Pearce wanted to reduce the population of Arizona through fear, and everyone he wanted to vamoose was brown.

So I can understand Pearce's cluelessness when faced with the fake outrage of local journalists poring over his old e-mails. In one of the most egregious, he forwarded a column by notorious Colorado nativist Frosty Wooldridge, wherein Wooldridge compares illegal immigration to cancer and leprosy.

Wooldridge's work, a favorite of former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke's, regularly makes the rounds in nativist circles and often is posted on right-wing websites. Wooldridge's views parallel Pearce's. They always have, and they still do.

Speaking to the faithful few during his Fountain Hills shindig, Pearce praised Wooldridge and scoffed at the criticism raining down on him for e-mailing Wooldridge's words.

"I just want to clear the air, folks," Pearce told his handful of followers. "First of all, these are great e-mails [written by] Frosty Wooldridge, who works with [former Colorado Congressman] Tom Tancredo.

"[Wooldridge is] a great American. And the things they're trying to make out as racist comments are metaphors he used about the impact of the illegal alien invasion on America."

There's an echo there of Pearce's past reference to neo-Nazi baby killer J.T. Ready as a "true patriot" and his applauding Ready's incendiary rhetoric at a 2007 nativist rally.

Not to mention Pearce's public use of the term "wetback" or his forwarding of an anti-Semitic screed from the neo-Nazi National Alliance's website.

I could continue listing his outrages. The point is that Pearce never has ceased telling the world exactly who he is: a liar, a bigot, a xenophobe, an extremist.

Online comments in which he blamed the victims of last week's theater massacre in Colorado (because they weren't carrying guns, ready to take out an armed-to-the-teeth psychotic) have earned him even more vitriol from the general public.

Such is the downward trajectory of Pearce's career, an arc of hate that has him facing defeat for the second time in a year. Like the nativist movement itself, Pearce is on the wane.

Now that he's stripped of power, no one is beholden to him. This goes a long way toward explaining why many in the local news media now see Pearce as a convenient target, one whose racism and insensitivity suddenly appalls them.

After August 28's primary election, all that Pearce will have left is his dwindling cult, three government pensions, and a lot of free time to contemplate his infamy.

This freakish nativist monster finally will be crushed. What will be left for us is to try to ensure that his kind never achieves such power again in Arizona.

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