By now, it's widely known that Arizona has passed the most absurd, draconian and unseemly anti-immigration bill the nation has seen to date, one in which police are required to stop and ask, "Papers, please," of anyone who looks like they might be in the country illegally.
Jon Stewart, America's most trusted newsman, had it right when he called Arizona the "meth lab of democracy." Rachel Maddow revealed that an Arizona conservative activists with strong ties to white supremacist groups and the eugenics movement helped write the bill that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law -- even though Brewer herself admitted she had no idea what an illegal immigrant looks like, and failed to coherently explain how the bill could be enforced.
Even Tom Tancredo of Colorado, a former Republican congressman and Tea Party darling who at times makes Rush Limbaugh look like Paul Krugman, said the law goes too far.
For progressives, attacking the new law is kind of like bashing a refrigerator-sized pinata with an aluminum baseball bat, no blindfold necessary. The reactions were swift and furious.
Racist. Mean-spirited. Probably unconstitutional. And that's just the reaction from this guy.
But, not surprisingly, the WashPost's Eugene Robinson adds a bracing dash of realism to the left-wing feeding frenzy. After condemning the law for the first half of his column, Robinson astutely points out that Arizona is on the front line of an immigration crisis that Washington -- and, more specifically, Washington Republicans -- have failed to deal with.
Maddow agrees, and offers concrete proof of the hypocrisy.
Robinson didn't even get to the estimated 460,000 undocumented immigrants in Arizona today, or the nearly 23,000 people killed in drug-related violence in Mexico since a government crackdown in 2006. That crime wave has begun to lap at the metaphorical shores of the United States, and border states like Arizona are largely left alone to deal with the crisis themselves, by any means necessary.
Arizonans, by a wide majority, have given the law a thumb's up, helping explain why Brewer put pen to paper and went for it. She'd apparently rather take her chances with a convoluted, unenforceable law the Supreme Court will probably swat into the cheap seats -- not to mention the bad publicity, and the hundreds of millions the state will lose through tourism boycotts -- than risk being portrayed as weak on immigration.
And, in the national hullabaloo over the new law, news coverage seems to have overlooked a big, last-straw reason Arizonans are good with state-sanctioned racial profiling: last month's headline-grabbing murder of a popular, gun-toting rancher who was killed while tending his own property.
Police believe his assailant was in the state illegally, and that he fled back to Mexico after the crime.
To be clear: the Arizona law is short-sighted and bigoted, IMHO -- are undocumented immigrants from Ireland going to be stopped? What about European students whose papers have expired? But, placed in context, it's easy to see why it happened, particularly in such a political climate of heightened us-versus-them fear. The question is, where do we go from here.
What this means for Democrats' call to move immigration reform up on their to-do list, with White House backing, is unclear, especially since the issue has replaced race as the third rail of American politics, at least for the moment.
Just ask John McCain.