Jon Talton’s latest post on his Rogue Columnist blog is an incisive historical analysis of Arizona’s political dysfunction. Definitely commit to reading the whole thing if, like me, you are inclined to groan at the first sentence:
I’m glad to see my former Arizona Republic colleague Laurie Roberts carrying on a little of my work by calling for dekookification this election.
But in the same paragraph Talton makes it clear that Roberts’ “de-kookification” project faces some fundamental and likely insurmountable challenges:
Her job should be safe as long as she doesn’t go after the three great enablers of the Kookocracy: 1) The Real Estate Industrial Complex, 2) The individuals with means and major institutions (you know who you are) — the fellow travelers — that don’t want to rock the boat, and 3) The Mormons.
Talton reminds us that the Kookocracy, as he calls it, in Arizona didn’t spontaneously erupt from a vacuum two years ago. It originated decades ago with powerful politicians and businessmen who sought to create a permanent Republican majority through aligning reactionary social conservatism with business interests. My only minor quibble with his take is that he seems to deny the extent to which “smart” conservatives like Jon Kyl have drunk the right wing koolaid.
The Kookocracy is Jan Brewer. “No class,” as Jack Kennedy said of Nixon. And no brains — the exemplar of the arrogant ignorant, anti-intellectual national “conservative” movement. It is Tom Horne, John Huppenthal, Ken Bennett and the rest. It is the majority in the Legislature, the biggest impediment to the state’s economy and progress. “Moderate” Republicans, the ones who once stood in the center of state GOP politics, were long ago read out of the party as RINOs. A smart guy such as Jon Kyl must affect a hard-right posture, refusing any of the compromise that even Goldwater routinely engaged in, for fear of attracting a primary opponent further to the right.
I think people put way too much hope in intelligent-seeming and amiable Republicans like Jon Kyl being secret moderates who, upon being joined by more overtly reasonable Republicans and freed of worry about a primary challenger, will suddenly do all the compromising and good governing they yearn to do. This “closet moderate” theory is definitely at work in some of Laurie Roberts’ de-kookification selections. She recommended Senators John McComish and Adam Driggs as “keepers” in the state legislature even though neither had a primary challenge, both have voted pretty consistently with the kooks, and both have perfectly credible moderate Democratic challengers in the general election. Yes, her endorsement of them was based on her belief that poor McComish and Driggs are forced by the kooks to vote for those bad bills. I don’t know why it’s so unthinkable that several years of ALEC conferences and complete immersion in right wing culture might have the effect of radicalizing many formerly moderate Republicans. I hear all the time how McComish used to be moderate. That’s nice. I used to be a size 4. It may be true that McComish was once pro-choice and moderate but I don’t believe he is now. Not even deep down inside. The few times McComish has gone against his caucus this past session, usually under intense outside pressure, are far more of an exception than a rule. If you truly want to moderate the state legislature, it just makes a lot more sense to retire McComish and Driggs and give a chance to Janie Hydrick and Eric Shelley, their moderate pro-education Democratic opponents. But the aversion to Democrats winning competitive seats runs so deep in many establishment centrists here that they won’t even consider it.
(And, as I’ve noted here many times before, establishment-types here seem to have a complete unwillingness to accept that your average successful Republican business owner or executive actually has a higher probability than his working class counterpart of being a rabid kook who thinks fertilized eggs should have human rights and that Obama is a Kenyan-born radical socialist who hates America. Many of the kooks in elected office in Arizona today are successful business people. So this notion that the business-minded Republicans will rescue us from the kooks is not grounded in reality.)
Talton is clearly no fan of the Democrats or the Obama Justice Department but he points to the need to end one-party rule in Arizona:
I hate to dampen the spirits of the dekookifiers who believe the recent primary election marked a turnaround. It doesn’t until Arizona rebuilds, from the ground up, an opposition party. The Democrats would do. But an opposition party of some kind. Arizona was once a two-party state. The turnaround won’t begin until Arpaio goes down at the ballot box. Considering that the Obama Justice Department declined to apply the rule of law to the bankers whose frauds brought on the worst collapse since the Great Depression or to the CIA torturers of the Bush years, it is no surprise that the Badged Ego skated. If he is Sheriff for Life, no turnaround. And all this requires greater turnout than the shameful low twenties of the typical Arizona election. Specifically, it will require large Hispanic organizing and turnout — otherwise, the self-selecting, white-right/apartheid suburbs will win, again.
I agree that party building among Hispanic and other historically disenfranchised communities is essential. There’s also another group of voters who really need an education. Once again, I’m talking about self-described moderates who continue to vote Republican despite the obvious fact that the GOP is swarming with nasty misogynist bigots who don’t believe government should play any role in making people’s lives better. I recently wrote an open letter to them that was half tongue-in-cheek and half earnestly pleading. These voters persist in voting Republican for “economic” reasons and consistently swing important elections to Republicans. Which (oh the irony!) leads to the very economic damage they supposedly wish to avoid. Consider this 2010 exit poll:
It’s clear that the Democratic strategy of appealing to moderates has paid off to a large extent. Goddard got a healthy percentage of the moderate vote at 59% but it wasn’t enough. Had he upped it to 75% and everything else stayed the same he’d be our governor today. While I don’t necessarily want the Democrats to devote even more resources than they already do to chasing these moderate “economy” voters, something has got to be done to get through to them that they are enabling the kooks with every GOP vote they cast. Maybe someone who was, you know, a columnist for major newspaper in Arizona could explain it to them. Nah.
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Bio: I grew up in Silver Spring, MD, and an adventurous streak led me to join the Navy. I moved to Arizona in 1997 after serving 10 years in the Navy to work in semi-conductor manufacturing. I got involved in national and Arizona politics in 2003. I ran for 2006 State Senate in Ahwatukee and was a Delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention. I now live in North Central Phoenix with my boyfriend, Mark, and our three dogs. I've been blogging for Democratic Diva since 2007 about local and national politics with a strong emphasis on women's issues.