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. 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.
Let me be clear about No. 3. We can thank Salt Lake City, not dekookification, for the defeat of Russell Pearce. This symbol of Arizona extremism had become an embarrassment to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His words and policies went against church teachings. So he was finally forced to walk the plank. Don't be fooled: This was a Mormon takedown, not a triumph of moderation or St. Janet's "Sensible Center." And I say, good. The LDS has a long, constructive (even bipartisan) history in Arizona. Mesa Mayor Scott Smith carries on that ethic. Still, the church has followed the GOP into ever more extreme territory and remains an enabler of the Kookocracy, especially because of its superior organizational strength in a state that has lost offsetting centers of power and is marked by civic apathy. Stating this does not make one anti-Mormon.
As for Pearce, the evil that men do lives after them (and he will no doubt be back). SB 1070, the Jim Crow, voter-suppression, keep-'em-in-their-place, anti-immigrant measure, dripping with equal measures of hate and hypocrisy, is law. It and the climate it spawned have made Arizona an international symbol of intolerance, racism, cruelty and ignorance. Mission accomplished.
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.
The Republicans keep implementing ever more extreme versions of their policies and things just keep getting worse. Arizona stands among the worst of the states on virtually any measure of social well-being or quality competitiveness, and this has been the case for years. The latest abomination: Arizona "led" the nation in cuts to school funding. But this is just one of scores of areas where the state lags. Hurts me, too, but it's true. Better face up to it — and who is to blame.
Tourism has taken a serious, but little-talked-about hit from the vicious anti-Hispanic climate, and the state is at a huge disadvantage in attracting quality investment and talent in a global market. Even being "average" won't cut it now, and Arizona has become, as Mary Jo Waits warned, "the Appalachia of the 21st century" (albeit with championship golf and gated properties for the wealthy). This has happened under extreme-right Republican rule. The alt-fuels scandal? They got away with it, and god knows how many land-and-water swindles. The charter schools racket. The private prisons racket. Dodgy, in-the-dark National Forest land-swaps. And the close and profitable ties of all this to the Kook politicians. They veto desperately needed measures to improve education, quality of life, transportation, etc. etc. They veto even discussion of intelligent responses to climate change.
Yet they just keep winning elections. No accountability. No consequences. A largely compliant media.
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.
Don't go away depressed. Go out and fight.
One additional piece of important business. Preservationists are trying to save the last authentic piece of the historic Deuce, a half-block including the old Madison and St. James hotels, to which I came many a time while on the ambulance. The St. James is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In a heathy city, these would be saved and rehabbed into treasured buildings housing productive enterprises. In Phoenix, somebody has pulled a demolition permit to leave yet another blazing surface parking lot. Time is running out. Call Mayor Stanton and council members. And...why isn't there a higher tax rate for teardowns than for preserving historic buildings, and other positive incentives. I still remember a real "row" on Roosevelt, buildings housing shops, most of them leveled. It's a crime. Stand up.