Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Arizona Illegal Immigration, 'Birther' Bills Show Rightward Shift

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Arizona Illegal Immigration, 'Birther' Bills Show Rightward Shift

Article excerpt

Arizona lawmakers, fresh off sending a controversial illegal immigration bill to the governor, on Wednesday advanced a bill requiring presidential candidates to show a birth certificate in order to appear on the ballot there.

Even by the measure of Arizona's long history of conservatism, the past week has been extraordinary.

In the past six days, the legislature has passed the nation's strictest anti-illegal immigration bill, a law permitting concealed weapons, and the House has approved a bill requiring a presidential candidate to show his or her birth certificate to appear on the state ballot.

The last bill, which now must pass the Senate, was a clear nod to the birther movement, which claims that President Obama was not born in the US.

This is the home of five-term Sen. Barry Goldwater, known as "Mr Conservative" - the politician most often credited for sparking the resurgence of the American conservative political movement in the 1960s. But a confluence of factors, ranging from the rising pitch of the illegal immigration debate to the departure of a Democratic governor and her replacement by a Republican has tilted Arizona even further to the right.

"They had a Democratic governor, and when she left, that completely changed the political calculus," says Matthew Kerbel, a professor of political science at Villanova University. Now the legislative and executive branches are of the same party, he says.

"We are seeing this state deal with that list of issues which reflect what the national Republican party's most animated portion of voters is after," says Mr. Kerbel. Like-minded people are attracted to the political fight and move residence to join in, he and others say.

It is this migration that has served to amplify Arizona's conservative leanings in recent years.

"The truth is that Arizona has been a state with far-right politics going back many years, but in [the] last weeks and months is an even more remarkable lurch to right," says Mark Potok, Director of the intelligence project for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups. …

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