Louis J. Barletta, 62, a renowned demagogue who built his political career scapegoating immigrants, was defeated in a landslide on Tuesday, November 6. He was surrounded by family and friends at an election watch party in his hometown of Hazleton, Pennsylvania.
The cause of defeat was Pennsylvanians’ unwillingness to be represented by such a pathologically racist figure who has devoted his entire political career to selling out the working class.
In his early days, “Lou” made a name for himself as Mayor of Hazleton. There, he supported pro-corporate legislation that attracted low-paying, temporary jobs in brutal industries like meatpacking and warehousing.
Those who knew his politics well will always remember how these decisions devastated the local tax base and attracted the very immigrants whom he went on to criminalize in pursuit of his political ambitions.
But above all, Mr. Barletta will be remembered for his infamously discriminatory Illegal Immigration Relief Act (IIRA). It was as if fate was on Lou’s side in 2006 when his friend came across this ordinance – written by a white nationalist from California – while searching the Internet.
Lou spearheaded the law without any regard for its origins. Despite having no evidence to support his racist contention that undocumented people are inherently crime-prone, Lou stood firm, as he had a fondness for doing when the facts were not on his side. And even though a federal judge ultimately ruled that the IIRA violated not one but two clauses of the U.S. Constitution, Lou spoke with pride about this measure up until the bitter end.
So many will also remember – some traumatically, others enthusiastically – how he loved to tell fables about an immigrant invasion over and over again. Until one day, in a climate of intense economic anxiety, he was able to convince the good people of Pennsylvania’s former 11th Congressional District that electing him to Congress was somehow in their best interest.
He began his stint as Congressman by accusing cities that passed legislation favorable to immigrants of overstepping their jurisdictional bounds. Outside of posing for pictures with firefighters, his followers will attest that hypocrisy like this was his favorite political pastime.
His hard work on these issues earned him a coveted seat on the National Board of Advisors of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). FAIR is a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group with eugenicist origins. Barletta was always “proud” to serve in this capacity, dedicating himself to the cause of the organization’s founder, John Tanton, who once said “I’ve come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.”
Ever the opportunist, Congressman Barletta continued his desperate quest for power by introducing bill after bill after bill attacking immigrants. Remarkably, he did this while voting to take healthcare away from his own people and voting for a tax law that filtered even more of the nation’s wealth upwards to rich folks.
If there was one thing Lou was good at, it was convincing white working class people to see themselves and their interests through a racial lens rather than as workers who struggle to get by because the rich hoard every damn penny of the wealth the working class created in this country.
Barletta is survived politically by his hero, Donald J. Trump, who Lou always admired for his demagoguery, bootlicking, and tendency to enact horrific policy for the sole purpose of “owning the libs.” It was Trump, after all, who ultimately gave Barletta the national attention he craved by encouraging him to run for Senate.
To him, Lou always remained loyal. Regardless of whether the president called Mexicans rapists, bragged about sexually assaulting women, pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord, mocked disabled people, tried to eliminate trans folks, or nominated a pompous member of the ruling class accused of sexual assault for the Supreme Court. In fact, Lou made sure to bring one of his most cherished possessions – a cardboard cutout of Donald Trump – to all of his campaign stops to remind people of their brotherhood.
The end of his political career was defined by a Senate campaign in which Mr. Barletta so generously offered Pennsylvanians a cornucopia of bad ideas. He proposed ending mass shootings by putting guns in schools. He fueled the conspiracy that Democrats were behind the migrant caravan; the same conspiracy that allegedly inspired both the mail bomber and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter. With his knack for projecting his own ill-will unto his opponents, Lou even tried to play the victim on healthcare, despite having allied himself long ago with insurance companies over patients.
Sadly, for his politically bereaved, it wasn’t enough.
Lou Barletta’s political career may be over, but he has left us with so much: Ethnic tensions, a $1.4 million legal bill from the IIRA, and a loyal base of supporters who are going to have to unlearn all he has taught them about how power is distributed in America.
With this defeat, Louis J. Barletta will stroll merrily with his blindingly white smile into the dustbin of Pennsylvania history. For his dedication to pitting working people against one another to help the rich get richer, he will always be remembered as a contemporary of the anthracite region’s most ruthless coal barons of yore.
Barletta’s term officially ends at noon on January 3, 2019. At that point, in lieu of continuing to hound Lou, Anthracite Unite recommends getting organized, standing in solidarity with immigrants, and building class consciousness in our communities so that such a despicable figure never again holds public office in our state.
Also about Lou Barletta:
This Ain’t Trump Country; This is the Coal Region!
Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table
Lou Barletta Tied to Hate Group
Say it Ain’t So, Joe
Healthcare Not Wealthcare Protest
Lou Barletta: Burdensome, Illegal Alien
On Being an Intellectual Gadfly in Hazleton, Pennsylvania