I've been reporting for a long time on the many ways that the immigration debate has served as a critical nexus in the intersection between right-wing extremism and mainstream conservatism.
Last weekend, Sheriff Joe Arpaio -- the quasi-fascist chief law-enforcement officer of Arizona's Maricopa County, currently under DOJ investigation for his refusal to abide by court orders and his rampant racial profiling -- provided us with a crystalline example.
Because we got to see a classic case of someone in a position of real power lending the authority of his office to the empowerment of far-right radicals -- unintentionally, perhaps (though not likely), but with the same result regardless.
On Saturday, May 2, several thousand people came out to march in protest of Arpaio's increasingly thuggish tactics.
And as is often the case with such events, there was a little knot of neo-Nazis out there to counter-protest. This meant they were out there to support Arpaio.
The first part of the above video is taken from footage shot by one of these counter-protesters. A little ways in, you'll see a black Cadillac pull up containing none other than Sheriff Joe himself, who has decided to stop by and say hello to his supporters. He lets one of them pose for a picture.
As it happens, the young man posing for him is none other than Thomas Coletto, aka "Vito Lombardi" -- who, as Stephen Lemons reports, is not only the local leader of a neo-Nazi outfit, but was also busted for burglary in a supposed "Columbine"-type plot two years ago.
After posing with Arpaio, Coletto posted the shot on the neo-Nazi forum Stormfront.
And it's not as if Arpaio recoiled and hurried on when he figured out who he was talking to. You can see in the video he pulls over and shakes hands with someone in group standing with a Confederate flag.
The rest of the video is compiled from other footage available on YouTube, particularly the work of 287gGots2go, who let us see what this little clutch of white nationalists was like from the other side of the camera.
I think it tells everything we need to know about who Sheriff Arpaio counts on for his support. It also tells us everything we need to know about how these people feel empowered enough to come crawling out from under the rocks beneath which they usually hide.
Dan Weiss at Imagine 2050 has more.