On Saturday, voters in Louisiana soundly crushed Sen. David Vitter’s (R-LA) hopes to become their next governor.
As results came in and it became apparent that he would lose to Democratic challenger John Bel Edwards, Vitter also announced that he would not seek another term in the U.S. Senate. “I am going to refocus on the important work of the United States Senate,” Vitter said during his concession speech, NOLA.com reported. “I am, but I am only going to be doing that for one more year through the end of this term.”
Vitter’s gubernatorial loss and subsequent retirement announcement should be a viewed as a significant victory for those seeking a more just, inclusive country. During his time in the Senate, Vitter become one of the country’s most prominent advocates of virulently nativist policies.
While Vitter will almost surely be remembered most for his involvement in the “DC Madam” prostitution scandal that dogged him throughout his gubernatorial campaign, his nativist advocacy and relationships with leading nativist organizations should not be dismissed.
Here are a just a few instances of Vitter working alongside, and pushing the agenda of, the prominent anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim groups since he announced his gubernatorial campaign in 2014.
- In February 2014, Vitter introduced a bill, S.1990, to prohibit undocumented college students from receiving in-state tuition rates.
- In March 2014, Vitter worked with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to block a congressional resolution honoring legendary labor activist Cesar Chavez. According to Politico, it was the eighth consecutive year such a resolution had been blocked.
- In the summer of 2014, Vitter was one of the leading demagogues during the crisis of Central American children and families fleeing
pervasive violence in the region. Vitter sponsored and co-sponsored numerous bills, such as S.2632, calling for mandatory detention and expedited deportations. Tim Murphy, a reporter for Mother Jones, noted at the time that Vitter’s proposal “would entail increasing the nation’s immigration detention capacity by a factor of 365. And flying all those immigrants home would require more planes than currently exist.”
- In October 2014, Vitter was honored by anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy as a “Champion of National Security.”
- In December 2014, Vitter and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) co-hosted a group of sheriffs mobilized by Sheriff Tom Hodgson of Bristol County, Massachusetts, for a misleading press conference in opposition to President Obama’s immigration policies. The flagship anti-immigrant hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) helped coordinate the press conference.
- In January 2015, Vitter renewed nativists’ perennial attacks on the 14th Amendment by reintroducing S.45, the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2015. Vitter would attempt to insert the language of the nativist bill into several pieces of legislation throughout the coming year. FAIR and NumbersUSA both encouraged their members to contact Senators and support Vitter’s efforts.
- The organized anti-immigrant movement similarly backed Vitter’s attempt to prohibit so-called “sanctuary city” jurisdictions with multiple bills following the tragic death of a San Francisco woman in July this year. Senate Democrats ultimately blocked Vitter’s Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act (S.2146) in October.
With his poll numbers sliding, Vitter’s desperation became more apparent in the final week of his gubernatorial campaign as he attempted to stoke fears surrounding refugee resettlement policies in the wake of the horrific attacks in Paris. Vitter baselessly sounded the alarm about a “missing” Syrian refugee believed to have resettled in Louisiana and other instances of Syrians purportedly sneaking across the U.S.-Mexico border.
Louisiana voters fortunately rejected Vitter’s fear mongering and, in the process, brought about the early retirement of one of the Beltway nativist movement’s most strident allies in Congress.
As Vitter’s opponent noted in a victory speech Saturday, “This election shows us that the people of Louisiana in a time of deep cynicism about our politics, and also about our future, that the people have chosen hope over scorn, over negativity.”
Image credit: Billy Hathorn, Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commo