Recent polls are showing that Arizona's police-state immigration law is broadly popular with the public -- and boy, are they all over THAT story at Fox News.
Here are the ugly results:
The Pew Poll, conducted in early May, shows that more than 60 percent of Americans support the Arizona law's separate provisions, which give police increased authority to question and detain people they suspect of being in the country illegally.
... Pew Research Center President Andrew Kohut said he was surprised by how popular the elements of the law are.
"What's going on here is while the public has had moderate views on dealing with the immigration problem, like support for a path to citizenship, they've long thought that more has to be done to protect to borders and to get better enforcement," Kohut said.
Kohut said he was particularly surprised about the level of support among Democrats. Fifty percent of Democrats said they support the law provision allowing police to question anyone they think may be in the country illegally.
... A similar poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal and NBC tells a similar story: 64 percent of American adults support the Arizona law.
Bill O'Reilly, upon seeing these results, naturally brought on Karl Rove to chortle about how these polls bode ill for President Obama and Democrats. And no doubt these polls are a heads-up to Democrats that they need to aggressively take control of the message, instead of letting Fox talkers and nativists define the terms of the debate.
Of course, if Rove devises the talking point, you can count on Fox's "news" shows to begin repeating them ad infinitum. Which, of course, is exactly what happened the next morning, especially on Megyn Kelly's America Live program. Kelly ran several segments on the poll numbers, including a "fair and balanced" debate with radio host Mark Levine and the utterly incoherent Mike Gallagher:
I'm always amused by right-wingers like Gallagher -- guys who make a fetish out of the Constitution, regularly claiming that President Obama is somehow violating it and instituting a "police state" -- who seem utterly unconcerned when their side tramples all over the Constitution, and Levine clearly explains why the law is unconstitutional.
Levine also says something well worth repeating:
Kelly: Mark, why would the president get involved in this? You've got -- you know, you've already got legal challenges that will be mounted by many other groups -- why would the Department of Justice, according to our attorney general, Eric Holder as of May 9, be considering challenging this law on their own when you've got these kind of approval ratings of the law on a nationwide basis?
Levine: It's a fair point, Megyn. Anyone can challenge the law, it's clearly unconstitutional -- it violates Article I, Section 8 -- and you're right that anyone can challenge it. I think the president, though is making clear that anytime you have a majority attack the rights of minority, that's something where you want the Justice Department involved.
I'll give you a great example: Jim Crow laws in Alabama and Mississippi were vastly supported by the great majority of people in the 1960s. That didn't make them right. Anytime you have a majority infringing on the rights of a minority, then that's usually when the Justice Department does need to stand up.
And Levine also points out one of the really disturbing aspects of the poll:
Levine: Hold on, Mike -- 71 percent said -- this is the most interesting poll -- 71 percent of Americans think that legal Latino citizens will be harassed by police. 71 percent! So you have 71 percent of Americans thinking that Latinos, legals, will be harassed, and they still support the measure! [Note: Kelly shortly points out that the actual figure is 66 percent.]
Of course, at this point Gallagher becomes simply incoherent, and meanders off into claiming that the recent defeat of an incumbent Democrat in West Virginia was related to the Arizona immigration bill. Eh?
Well, it's true that laws like the one in Arizona that purport to deal with a "real problem" -- that is, drug-related crime -- by taking away the rights of a despised minority have in fact always been popular.
Levine is right that Jim Crow laws enjoyed broad popular support for many years. I can think of an even more vivid example of a broadly popular measure to strip minority Americans of their civil rights:
Those who've read my book Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community are aware that not only was the evacuation and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans -- including some 70,000 American citizens -- during World War II an extremely popular measure, it was in fact avidly demanded by a near-hysterical public, particularly along the Pacific Coast, after Pearl Harbor.
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