Arizona turns on Tea Party with veto of Obama 'birther bill'


Los Angeles

It was fun while it lasted, but the state of Arizona's stint on the front line of right-wing Republicanism appeared to be over yesterday, after its Governor vetoed new laws dealing with two of the great obsessions of the Tea Party movement: the right to bear arms, and the question of whether Barack Obama was actually born in the US.

Jan Brewer, who until now had been a darling of the conservative media, first threw out new legislation that would have allowed citizens to carry firearms through university campuses. Then she scrapped a "birther bill" which would have required future presidential candidates to present their birth certificates to electoral authorities.

Her move is significant because it provides evidence that leading Republicans are starting to become concerned that the party's dramatic shift rightwards during President Obama's reign might end up damaging its chances of winning support among mainstream voters at the next election, in 2012.

Recent weeks have seen Donald Trump, the eccentric reality TV host and property developer, propel himself to second in the polls to win the party's presidential nomination by touting the conspiracy theory that Obama was actually born in Kenya and speculating that America's first black leader "may be a Muslim".

The spiel was meat and drink to many Republican voters: according to polls, more than 50 per cent believe the President was born outside the US, and just under half also think Mr Obama is a Muslim. But dwelling on such issues will inevitably alienate centrists.

Arizona found this out to its cost last year, when Governor Brewer signed a hardline anti-immigration bill which would have allowed police to stop, search, and ask for proof of citizenship from anyone who resembled an illegal alien. It sparked allegations of racism, nationwide protests, and a consumer boycott. After several months, the law was thrown out by the courts for being unconstitutional.

Governor Brewer's decision to veto the "birther" and firearm laws is doubtless designed to avoid a repeat of that saga. Explaining the move, she raised the spectre of the "birther" bill turning Arizona into a target for liberal satirists and expensive lawyers. "This is a bridge too far," she said. In any case, Ms Brewer argued, the proposed legislation would also have designated a single official as "gatekeeper to the ballot," which "could lead to arbitrary or politically motivated decisions".

The law further to liberalise gun ownership rules, meanwhile, was poorly timed, since the Arizona Senator Gabrielle Giffords is still being treated after being shot by an allegedly mentally-ill resident of Tucson who was legally able to purchase a handgun with an extended ammunition clip.

Ms Brewer added that the law was "poorly written" and would inevitably throw Arizona into conflict with federal law, leading to further time-consuming and pricey court cases.

Governors of US states tend to use the right to veto new laws sparingly, since it can be politically difficult to override the wishes of local politicians. However Mrs Brewer's move prompted admiring comments from local Democrats, who are perhaps tired of Arizona being a byword for "crazy" in political circles. "She knows that these bills are not going to help with Arizona's image," the Senator Steve Gallardo told Reuters. "All they do is put us in the national spotlight and make us look silly."

Arizona's edicts

* Lawmakers proposed a bill to nullify the granting of automatic citizenship to the children of illegal aliens – despite its status as a federal law enshrined by the 14th Amendment. It is unlikely to be passed.

* A bill allowing guns on college campuses was vetoed this week because it was "sloppily written". Arizona's governor said that it applied to schools, where firearms are already prohibited by federal laws.

* Arizona's notorious "1070" law authorising police to stop suspected illegal immigrants and demand proof of citizenship outraged the Hispanic community, which claimed innocent people would be harassed because of their skin colour.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine