What does it mean?

We’re two weeks now from the November 2011 elections.

There has been a lot of tea-leaf reading, with pundits trying to figure out the 2012 implications of the Ohio referendum against the anti-labor legislation, the defeat of Mississippi’s ‘personhood’ amendment, and the victories by more progressive candidates and causes in some parts of the country.

And me?

I just keep thinking about Kris Kobach’s response when a reporter asked him about the significance of Russell Pearce’s recall in Arizona.

Pearce was the key sponsor of SB1070, the first harsh anti-immigrant enforcement measure Kobach got passed. Voters were, by all appearances, tired of his rhetoric, knack for dragging Arizona into costly litigation, and other ineptitude (not all immigration-related). So he was recalled, which is rather noteworthy, and then lost his recall election.

A reporter in Kansas asked Kobach about the defeat of his colleague, and he retorted that, if it had been a closed Republican primary, Pearce would have retained his seat.

But he was, after all, defeated by another Republican. Just in an election in which any Arizona voter could vote.

So what I keep thinking is this:

Did the intellectual architect of the legislative attacks on immigrant families just admit that these ideas only resonate, today, with Republican primary voters? If so, then, given that there’s obviously a general election in every cycle, did their guy just acknowledge that their days are numbered, at least at the ballot box?

There’s never been the kind of electoral evidence of support for anti-immigrant extremism that anti-immigrant organizations and politicians allege. Polls show that most voters don’t make their decisions based on immigration issues, and that Latinos and Asians–mostly with pro-immigrant positions–are the ones for which immigration is the deciding priority.

But it’s a far cry from believing that most voters don’t mark their ballots with an eye towards immigration policy to thinking that we could see an electoral scenario where anti-immigrant extremism is truly marginalized…and that one element of the electorate may cling to those positions long past the point at which they become toxic.

The truth?

I don’t know what it means. Is it that proverbial pendulum swinging back? Is it changing demographics within the electorate? Is it an isolated example in an off-year?

Or is it something more? A symbol that Americans, in this case specifically Arizonans, took a look at what they had become and, not liking it at all, got rid of the man they held responsible?

November 2011 was surely about May 2010. Let’s hope it holds some insights for August and November 2012, too.

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