Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Thugs R Us

[Russ Dove in action in 2004. Photo by Jeffrey Scott/Arizona Daily Star (corrected).]

The dust is still settling from the election, but I think everyone has breathed something of a sigh of relief that the eliminationist rhetoric we heard from the right throughout this campaign failed to blossom into action.

Not that there weren't those trying. Down in Tucson, for instance, the far-right wingnuts who've attached themselves to the anti-immigration movement did their damnedest. My old friend Kynn Bartlett reports:
In the morning on voting day, two men -- anti-immigrant crusader Russ Dove and his cameraman -- showed up at precinct 49 in Tucson, at the Iglesia Bautista church, 4502 S. 12th St. Their plan: To harass and intimidate Spanish-speaking voters by using an "English-only" petition to screen for "illegal immigrants" trying to vote, videotape them, and post their likenesses on the Internet. Roy Warden also came, armed with a gun -- as he usually does -- and the trio started approaching a small number of people. MALDEF monitors were there, to observe the effect of Arizona's new requirement for ID to vote, and observed the attempted intimidation tactics.

The trio left around noon to head to other polling places, then gave up after talking to only a few people. MALDEF reported this to the authorities, who are investigating; MALDEF has photographs of the men from when they were there.

Who is Roy Warden, the man with the gun?
With a fanny pack loaded with water bottles strapped to his belly, a Glock 9mm on his hip, and a bullhorn to amplify his outrage, Roy Warden, 59, emerged this spring as one of the country's most controversial, volatile, and, many believe, dangerous characters of the anti-immigration movement. Along with occasional sidekicks Russ Dove, a former militia leader and convicted car thief, and Laine Lawless, the founder of the group Border Guardians who earlier this year urged neo-Nazis to terrorize Hispanics, Warden has burned and trampled Mexican flags in public, nearly started at least one riot, regularly wreaked havoc on Tucson City Council proceedings, and E-mailed a death threat to a prominent local public defender. Without regular followers or even a named group behind him, Warden is a one-man band of immigrant-bashing hate, a man so untamed that other anti-immigration activists shun him as an embarrassment.

But the ringleader of the operation was Dove, an ex-con with a long background in the militia movement. Kynn provides a full complement of details, including Dove's published plans for harassing Latino voters:
We will be exercising our "First Amendment Right to Free Speech" at the preceint polling locations protesting that "foreign nationals - legal & illegal" are being allowed to vote in our elections.

We will do this on the grounds of the English Language. No speak English - No Vote! ~ IT IS THE LAW!

We will have a Citizens initiated "English Only Petition" and we will lawfully ask each voter to sign the Petition.

Those who cannot speak English and are under 75 will be photographed and posted on the Internet as a suspected illegal voter.

And he explains how Dove's "petition" scam was essentially a pretense for harassment:
See, the petition is the key. His "English-only" petition -- apparently circulating in an attempt to get a bill on the books, even though there was an English-only proposition in Tuesday's election -- is really his modern-day version of a literacy test, a type of voter suppression historically aimed at African Americans and banned by the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

It works this way: He approaches Latino voters and tries to get them to sign. The petition is his pretext for initiating conversations with people approaching the polling location, and allows him to judge whether or not they are, in his opinion, "fluent" in English. Those who sign it are presumably fluent; those who refuse to sign are, no doubt, illegal immigrants attempting to vote.

Pictures of these supposed "illegal voters" are then placed on the Internet, as well as potentially being reported to police. Their only actual crime? Being judged by Russ Dove, an anti-immigrant nativist, to be insufficiently fluent in English to vote.

I've reported on Dove's activities recently, largely quoting from a Blog for Arizona post:
American Democrats for a Secure Borders is the brainchild of Mr. Russ Dove, the man who does 'U.S. Constitutional Enforcement' polling place patrols looking for illegal aliens trying to vote and runs Truth in Action News. Russ hangs out with such folks as Tom Tancredo, Randy Graf and his just-fired manager Steve Aiken, perennial candidate and avowed racist Joe Sweeney, and Mexican flag burning, public official threatening Roy Warden. Billionaires for Bush even gave Dove a card in their Deck of Block the Vote Heroes: he's the three of diamonds.

Another piece authored by Joseph Pothier has more:
Unlike Vanderboegh and Wright, who head state organizations of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, Russ Dove's role in the MCDC is more circumspect. A member of the militia umbrella group the Third Continental Congress, Dove managed to escape association with that militia's most notorious criminal action-- Bradly Glover's planned attack on the US Army base at Fort Hood in 1997, which eventually sent seven members of the militia group to prison.

Based in Tucson, Dove has long been involved with the Sovereign Citizen Movement in Arizona, calls himself "Russ 'Sovereign' Dove," and styles himself a "biblical constitutionalist." His hatred of government was no doubt stroked by his 1980 felony conviction in California for attempted grand theft (two first-degree burglary charges were dismissed).

Dove's current principal role in the MCDC is as a propagandist. He produces video tapes for the Minutemen, filming interviews with many MCDC participants during their border patrol operations and authoring frequent reports on immigration issues on his Web site and "Truth In Action News" radio show.

These are the kinds of figures who feel increasingly empowered by the mainstreaming of the anti-immigration movement, which has proven to be the most significant conduit for far-right extremism to pollute our mainstream discourse in the past decade and longer.

It was this kind of ugliness and extremism, emblematic of so much of the recent nature of right-wing discourse (see, e.g., Ann Coulter), that voters turned against last night. And yet, to listen to the urgings of the right-wing pundit class, it is the unleashing of this side of the movement-conservative psyche that is being urged on.

In their shocked state of denial about the meaning of the election, the right's pundits are busy fobbing it off onto the Bush administration's incompetent execution of the True Conservative Master Plan -- or perhaps more precisely, Republicans' failure to adhere to True Conservative Principles.

Hugh Hewitt's stand-in, Dan Bartlett (he of the astonishing predictive capacity) admits that
In the closing weeks of the campaign season, I felt like I was a lawyer who had a bad client while writing this blog. That client was the Republican Party which had broken its Contract with America from 1994 and had become unmoored from its conservative principles.

Moreover, the Great Repudiation, in this Bizarro Universe view, was a good thing, because it wiped the slate clean and now gives conservatives room to speak, and act, as they really want:
At the risk of committing apostasy, last night's defeat is good not only for our party but more importantly for our ideas and ideals. Those ideas and ideals have for too long taken a backseat to other less noble concerns. New leadership must emerge, leadership that understands our principles, can articulate them, and will not abandon them. A long overdue reckoning must now begin.

This is, of course, patent nonsense. Bush has been nothing if not slavish in his devotion to the conservative-movement line, and these same right-wing pundits have been nothing if not slavish in their praise and support for him every step of the way. Bush has delivered on so many aspects of the conservative movement's agenda -- particularly in reshaping the courts in the image of the religious right's agenda -- that it's hard to find an area in which he hasn't gone along.

The only area in which a significant number of conservatives have disagreed with Bush has been in immigration, where his proposals were greeted by the paleo-conservatives who have been driving the immigration debate with all the warmth reserved for Marxist professors at John Birch gatherings.

So if the paleos are going to be calling the shots on how real conservatives will govern, look for them to get positively medieval on immigration. After all, Fox's Neil Cavuto just gave none other than Tom Tancredo a near-endorsement as the likely Republican nominee for president in 2008, saying: "Illegals coming into America are sure to be front and center in the next presidential election here."

Rush calls the election's outcome "liberating," as though it now gives him license to be as nasty as he wants to be. And where Rush leads, Cro-Magnons follow.

Those fellows in Tucson just gave us a glimpse of how that will play out in real life.

UPDATE: Rusty Idols, keying off a Tucson Citizen report, also blogged about the Arizona harassment. And got an ugly visit from Roy Warden himself.

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