The Remarkable Rise of Jan Brewer
By J. R. Dunn
One oddity about the Arizona illegals controversy is how little fallout, positive or negative, has touched the politician who set it off: Governor Jan Brewer.
As women have moved into the forefront of conservative politics, they have become targets for serious assaults from the left. The treatment they receive is far worse than that given male politicians of the same order, as we have clearly seen with Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. Families, looks, personality, grooming — every last element of their lives and persons becomes fodder for some of the trashiest elements of the contemporary political scene. No insult is too low, no attack too foul. The gentleman has truly become an extinct species, at least on the left side of the fence.
But nothing of the sort has happened with Jan Brewer. She has encouraged and put her signature to one of the most controversial laws in recent memory, one that has aroused open accusations of Nazism and led to boycotts, media condemnation, and lawsuits. It is a bill that is rapidly setting the grounds of debate for the upcoming midterms, and not at all in the left’s favor. And yet Governor Brewer — much to her own relief, I’m sure — has not yet become a target in the same way as Palin and Bachmann.
At the same time, she has not received the recognition she deserves, either. Brewer is a serious conservative, and one who, unlike many careerists who talk the talk but skitter into the shadows whenever anything more concrete is required, actually is doing things, throwing down the gauntlet not only as regards illegal immigration, but also firearms rights, deficit spending, and most recently, the PC stranglehold on public education. Governor Brewer has, in a matter of weeks, gone from being the accidental governor of a second-tier state to standing as an exemplar of the activist conservative politician.
Perhaps no greater irony in a story full of ironies lies in the fact that Brewer was born in Hollywood, California in 1944. Her father, a civilian employee of the Navy who worked as a supervisor at a Nevada munitions depot, was forced to retire for health reasons due to exposure to chemicals. The family returned to California, where her father died only a year later.
Brewer moved to Arizona after her marriage to Dr. John Brewer. She became involved in politics through a route not unusual for women: concern over her children’s education. Disgusted by what she saw at the school board meetings, Brewer decided to run for a seat on the board in the upcoming election. But when a legislative seat opened up, she ran for that instead, winning the election and taking office in 1983.
Brewer served as a representative for three years before moving on to the state senate, where she served from 1987 to 1996. She was Majority Whip from 1993 to 1996.
Brewer was a conservative reformer of the type that has grown common since the Reagan era, helping to craft and pass laws involving tax relief, budget reform, truth in sentencing, and charter schools. She was the sponsor for the first Living Will statute passed in the U.S.
From 1997 to 2002, Brewer served as chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and Scottsdale, is the fourth-most populous county in the country, with 3 million-plus residents (some of them are even legal). At the time, it was also one of the most ill-run. When Brewer took office, Maricopa was caught in a near-Greek debt spiral, having borrowed $165 million simply to maintain adequate cash flow. Five years later, Brewer had transformed Maricopa into one of the most financially stable counties in the country. Governing magazine went so far as to rate Maricopa as “one of the two best managed large counties in the nation.”
Brewer was elected Secretary of State in 2002. She has never once enjoyed a free ride while campaigning — all of her elections have been contested. Her major order of business on taking office was to deal with a chronic state budget deficit. She updated laws and procedures, removed outdated publication requirements, and trimmed work assignments and eliminated state overtime. Brewer was easily reelected in 2006.
In 2009 she succeeded to the governorship under Arizona’s unusual succession law (the state has no lieutenant governor) after Janet Napolitano was called on to save the country from the militias. Her tenure as governor has been nothing less than spectacular. Brewer expanded firearm rights by signing a gun law allowing the carriage of unloaded guns. She repealed Napolitano’s domestic partner dependents bill, which awarded gay partnerships the same privileges as married couples. Her 2011 budget cut state participation in such federally-sponsored health-care giveaway programs as S-CHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program, also known as KidsCare, a kind of kindergarten ObamaCare) and AHCCCS, (Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System) — the state’s version of Medicaid.
But Brewer’s major impact involves illegal immigration. Arizona is not only a frontline state, but also the current flashpoint of the illegals crisis. Since enforcement in urban areas has improved over the past decade, illegals have been forced to attempt crossings in more remote areas, with Arizona the target of choice. Deterioration of conditions along the border, marked by shootings, assaults, theft, and vandalism, has become insupportable. The Arizona border is today’s equivalent of the urban “combat zones” of the ’70s and ’80s, where, thanks to ideology and lack of will, crime was allowed to run rampant. Politicians on the national level — even native son John McCain — chose to turn their backs. But as the man said, all politics is local. The Arizona border crisis is local politics with a national impact.
Governor Brewer is the first politician to take the type of action the public has demanded. Senate Bill 1070 is no radical measure, as lefties across North America (not to mention within the U.N.) have been quick to assert. It is in large part a reinforcement of current federal immigration law. At the same time, it is not merely a ritual effort passed to placate the public — many police and sheriff’s departments in Arizona and elsewhere (at least, those not run by Joe Arpaio) have chosen to avoid trouble by ignoring illegals under the pretense that it’s a federal matter. Bill 1070 assures that such departments will actually stir themselves to enforce the law.
The bill is already having a dramatic impact, despite the fact that it does not go effect until the end of July. Illegals are fleeing the state for more comfortable milieus. Politicians across the west are calling for similar legislation. The left is throwing fits, always a useful development. The messiah himself has been forced to lower his gaze from the vision of national redemption to the mundane matter of border security. The issue will be central to the midterm elections, adding even more heat to already hissing tea kettles.
Not bad for a politician that most observers considered a placeholder who would be out of office in short order.
Governor Brewer is running for a full term this fall. There’s little doubt that she will get it. She is the rare politician who has seldom made a false move (apart from being an Abba fan, which we can forgive this one time. Fleetwood Mac would be a deal-breaker, though.). Even a successful effort to raise the state sales tax through Proposition 100 is excusable as a one-time means of closing the state’s budget gap. Brewer has promised that the new tax will be temporary and considering her record as a fiscal hawk, there is no reason to doubt it. Much more to the point is Arizona’s decision, announced last week, to join twenty other states in the lawsuit against the implementation of ObamaCare.
Feminism has backfired on the left. The heralded “Year of the Woman” (was it 1992?) was supposed to introduce a new breed of female politician that would inevitably steer the country in a progressive direction. Instead, the best and most effective female politicians have been conservative, many entering the public sphere after raising families, clear evidence that the traditional way of life is in no way as stultifying as the radfems insisted. Palin, Bachmann, and now Brewer are setting the political standard for millennial America. We are fortunate to have them.
Now if only we can get some of the males to try whatever it is they’re drinking.
J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker and editor of the forthcoming Military Thinker.