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Even After Resigning,

Pearce Will Not Go Away

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Russell Pearce. Image by Gage Skidmore and used under a Creative Commons license.
Now That Russell Pearce Has Left His Republican Party Position After Drawing Criticism — Even From Within The Party — Some Might Think He Will Go Away, But The Reality Of The Situation Indicates Something More Troubling About The American Right


By Clipper Arnold
Special for Modern Times Magazine

Sept. 19, 2014 — Following some reprehensible remarks on his radio show, Arizona Vice Chairman of the republican party Russell Pearce resigned this Sunday.

So we once again can say goodbye to the far-right reformer.

Or can we?

By now, those who follow politics know that Pearce has always engaged in xenophobic discourse against immigrants, and then a week or so ago made some embarrassingly draconian, bigoted and classist remarks on his radio show aimed at citizens who receive public assistance. Numerous fellow members of the GOP subsequently called for his resignation.

Pearce said on his show "you put me in charge of Medicaid … the first thing I'd do is get [female recipients] Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligations. Then, we'll test recipients for drugs and alcohol, and if you want to [reproduce] or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job."
He also said that those who receive public assistance should be treated as if they lived in a stark military barracks (no “Xbox 360s” or “big screen televisions” would be allowed). They would be required to keep a clean living space and all of their possessions would be inventoried and subject to inspection at any time.

He said that those were not his words and that he failed to attribute them to another person. But he did not refute them nor identify to whom they should have been attributed.

Sure, he is now likely done with serving in any “official” political capacity. His removal from office a few years ago did not stop the party from electing him vice-chair of the party, though. And, now, it seems, he will continue to stay on the airwaves: from 6 to 7 p.m., Saturday night, 960 AM if you got nothing else better to do. He will also remain in his bureaucratic job  working for the Maricopa County Treasurer helping low-income seniors get tax-breaks.

Pearce is no stranger to controversy and most of it supported by or ignored by those who call themselves republicans. However, it appears the outcry over his remarks simply couldn’t be tolerated by other members of the GOP during such a crucial election year. But, would Doug Ducey, or others jump on that bandwagon without an election looming? He will still vociferate to the ‘tea party’ and republican base, after all, through his radio show. Obviously, there are many in that party that will still back him and likely share his ideals.

KKNT describes Pearce’s show, in part, as, “He's the John Wayne of the airwaves, the Chuck Norris of the talk radio circuit. As dedicated to the conservative cause as ever, conservatives are turning to The Russell Pearce Show for conservative news and views because the Senator Pearce keeps the liberals on the run.”

Yea, running all the way to their polling place.

Pearce was the primary sponsor behind SB 1070, and, as a result of the controversial bill, made history in 2011 as the first Arizona state lawmaker to ever be recalled. In 2006, he spearheaded an immigration enforcement program egregiously referred to as “Operation Wetback,” emailed an anti-semitic article to his supporters, and endorsed a homicidal neo-nazi for Mesa City Council. In 2008, he sponsored legislation that would ban groups such as the Black Business Students Association at ASU. And, in 2010, he partook in an initiative to block $7 billion of federal funding for Arizona’s Medicaid program.

By this point, it’s clear that Pearce is not a fan of citizens receiving public assistance of any variety. However, it is also utterly clear that this man is absurdly delusional.

First off, studies have shown that drug testing recipients of welfare is a gargantuan waste of time and resources. Salon reported in 2013 that states that have implemented a drug testing program have had less than 1 percent of their recipients test dirty, which has saved states literally hundreds of dollars in exchange for the tens of thousands typically needed for testing.

Additionally, one of Pearce’s primary duties in a position he holds working for the Maricopa County Treasurer is helping low-income seniors get tax-breaks. This means that public assistance might not necessarily be the problem for Pearce. Perhaps it’s more about who is receiving it, namely women or minorities.

Despite this toxic misinformation and hypocrisy, the truly troubling portion of Pearce’s severely misguided ramblings materialize when he seemingly regurgitates portions of Brave New World as if they should be enacted into public policy. The remarks of forcibly exercising biopower by sterilizing low income women until they are gainfully employed speaks to a deeper fetishization for fascistic control of women’s bodies.

There’s no debating that this hate-filled ‘welfare queen’ rhetoric is a virulent anachronism.

Thankfully, various members of the republican party also appear to think Pearce has gone too far this time. Conservative pundits and leaders including gubernatorial candidate Doug Ducey took to Twitter to denounce Pearce’s remarks, with some calling for his resignation.

When “extremist” prominent leaders of the republican party make troubling remarks such as these, it’s painfully easy to see how republican senators can unanimously and shamelessly vote against bills that would prevent pay disparities along gendered lines (as they did this week) or why legislation such as SB 1070 can be so partisanly polarizing. Even if Pearce is an alleged outlier, more seemingly moderate transpirings of this line of thinking occur. It’s one thing to chastise positions such as these while it’s another thing to continue to enact legislation or elect leaders in-line with Pearce’s underlying ideologies.

Let’s not forget that after his recall, Pearce was still elected by a 60 percent majority of Arizona republicans to the GOP Vice Chairman position he held until this Sunday.

Instances such as these make it clear why the right is undergoing a severe identity crisis. The American right has been in fits of existential torment trying to justify and whittle out what true conservatism means in a contemporary context and they may have come to the realization that Pearce is not it.

Moderate Arizona republicans of yesteryear such as Grant Woods and Rick Romley are supporting democrats this year.

Outbursts such as Pearce’s should be seen for what they are. This shouldn’t be seen by GOP leadership as an Arizona extremist causing PR trouble during an election year. It should be seen as the latest in a string of rhetorical disasters and actions that reveal the inner dialogue of a significant wing of the republican party — a party that is often criticized for perpetuating a war against women’s bodies and racist legislation.

This particular dialogue is problematic.

As such, it should be properly indicted and corrected, not because it makes party leaders or prospective nominees look bad, but because it is wrong, even if the majority of Arizona republican voters might be silently nodding their heads in agreement. If the current zeitgeist is any indication of what is to come, there will likely be more troubling controversy on the horizon.

And, Russell Pearce might still be involved in shaping the next scandal in some way.

So, likely we are not just saying “goodbye” to Russell Pearce, but, “until we meet again.”

Clipper Arnold is a writer from the Phoenix metro.
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