Keep Arizona green. Bring money. — Old expression
It was well and right to let a day pass for celebration that Gov. Jan Brewer finally vetoed the anti-LGBT Jim Crow SB 1062. To thank the better angels of Arizona's nature and imagine more appeared. To join in the boozy cheering at Seamus McCaffrey's downtown. A day when, as one observer put it, "we (could) be gracious in victory and in defeat."
Now it is time for a serious assessment. The illusion that with the international spotlight off, Arizona can "move on," the usual "nothing to see here, move along," could not be more misguided or toxic.
I don't see much profit in dwelling on Gov. Brewer and wondering if she is more complex and pragmatic than thought. Do not be fooled. She is no surprising "liberal hero."
If that were the case, she could have made it clear to legislative Republicans that the bill would be vetoed even before it was passed. She would have avoided letting the bill sit for days like a vagrant's turd deposited on her desk.
She could have issued a veto statement clearly, strongly grounded in morality. Instead, it was largely fuzzy proceduralism and nods to the "religious freedom" crowd (probably drafted by fixer Chuck Coughlin) cloaking a fear of the state losing billions. Her manner was that of a pouty teenager being forced to clean her room. She is a kook. She is not too bright. But she is ambitious and can take orders. And she might want to become a U.S. Senator.
To be fair, Hendrik Hertzberg disagrees with me.
One fascinating aspect of this situation is how SB 1062 collided with two forces not in play with the odious anti-immigrant Jim Crow SB 1070 (which Brewer happily signed and rode to a smashing defeat of Democrat Terry Goddard).
One is that it happened at a time when social media are much more potent than even four years ago. Twitter and Facebook helped spread Arizona's reputation as a bigoted and backward place around the world and like a firehose pumping from to the ocean.
The second is that we're in a moment of gay ascendancy. Unlike 2004, when George W. Bush leveraged anti-gay hysteria to (maybe) victory over John Kerry, most Americans are more tolerant.
Support for gay marriage has shown a dramatic increase, according to the Pew Research Center. Equal rights for all people, regardless of whom they love, is accepted by a majority, by the culture and increasingly by the courts.
It was easy to legislate against the brown immigrant working poor with no legal rights. To do so against Americans — and ones with better purchasing power than straights — was another matter.
While Brewer dallied, the story grew like a wildfire, reaching televisions and front pages around America, constantly on the Internet — the only destructive absurdity missing was Valinda Jo Elliott and her flipflops, towel, cigarettes and lighter. The message was worse than "Arizona is crazy." What was left of the state's "brand" was burning down.
Arizona has always been unusually dependent on outside capital. Today, lacking major local banks or much mining, ranching or agriculture, it is more vulnerable than ever. It lacks the economy of Texas or Georgia, but it has a large population. Thus, Arizona's carrying costs are far higher than the average Krackpot state of the New Confederacy.
Arizona's economy is far less diverse than in the 1990s, even as it has added more people. It needs tourism more than ever. It needs people moving in to mortgage tract houses, especially the ones being laid down farther out on the fringes, and buy at ubiquitous malls and shopping strips more than ever. The growth machine must be fed or the unsustainable contraption will crash into the Sonoran dust.
The Ponzi scheme — with championship golf — has to be kept going.
And, whatever the happy talk, things remain wobbly and wounded from the Great Recession. Housing is deeply troubled. Another terrible blow waiting to fall: The full consequences of the merger of US Airways and American Airlines.
Thus, the veto was inevitable as the business bigs lined up and demanded it. This was not the Phoenix 40, with a deep, personal and business attachment to the place. But the fact that these were out-of-state moguls who can take their investments elsewhere may have made their admonitions even more powerful.
Another potent force was the Mormon Church. Although the LDS played probably the decisive role in the 2008 California gay marriage ban, in Arizona we were talking real money at stake, both the church's land speculation at the Eastmark sprawl and the real estate and tourism businesses of individual Saints. Thus Sen. Jeff Flake was an early proponent of a veto. Wealthy Republican and former LDS Bishop Willard "Mitt" Romney joined him.
Finally, the NFL, hardly a bastion of tolerance, began feeling out Tampa Bay, in a state hardly known for its progressive leanings, to move the Super Bowl from the Glendale cotton field. For the local-yokel business hustlers and what passes for political leadership, this may have turned what began as queasy second-thoughts about this bigoted law into full-blown panic.
None of this is to diminish the sincerity with which the Resistance and others fought against this measure. But most of them also fought against the other horrors of today's Arizona, unsuccessfully. Chad Campbell and some other Democrats battled valiantly. It's nice to be on the winning side of a galvanizing event.
But in the end, to paraphrase the president, the outcome was not about red or blue — it was about green.
Insufficient attention in l'affaire SB 1062 has been paid to the other side. The ladies and gentlemen are bigots and there's an end on 't, as Dr. Johnson might say.
That's not how the right sees it. Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, labeled Brewer's veto "foolish" in Politico. Like Lowry, Mike Huckabee claimed the bill had been misunderstood and mischaracterized. In Rush Limbaugh's view, Brewer was "bullied by the homosexual lobby...the nationwide drive-by media...(and) certain elements of corporate American in order to advance the gay agenda." U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann said the veto "eviscerated free speech." Tucker Carlson opined that forcing businesses to serve gay customers was fascism. Russell Pearce showed up after the veto to blame "radical leftist activists."
It's easy to say these people are unhinged. But lazy, too. According to Gallup, 36 percent of Arizonans describe themselves as conservatives vs. 21.6 percent as liberal. To me, "moderate" means low information. So attention must be paid. A large number of Arizonans listen to the opinion-makers above and rarely venture into the world outside the right-wing closed loop. One should not doubt their commitment or level of belief.
"Conservatives" — I use the quotation marks because I don't know what they want to conserve — have controlled state politics for decades. Anyone who wants a political future, e.g. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a one-time Green, must genuflect before them.
For conservatism as constituted today, the culture wars have been very profitable. Now they have suffered a crushing defeat.
Who owns this drubbing? Majority Leader Andy Tobin ("married to his wife Jennifer for 25 years. They have lived in their home in Paulden since 2004, where they have been raising their five children") sped the bill through the House. Sen. Steve Yarbrough of Chandler, who according to his member page "has been married to his wife Linda since 1968," sponsored it in the Senate.
Senate President Andy Biggs of Gilbert ( who "is married to Cindy and they have six children") was another big force behind it. His member page brags that he was named “ 'Champion of the Taxpayer' from Americans for Prosperity for his cumulative service in the state legislature." Americans for Prosperity is a big-time national conservative group that, among other things, requires candidates to take a pledge denying climate change.
The legislation was passed by majority Republicans on a party-line vote, although as the firestorm grew three said they regretted their votes.
The Center for Arizona Policy, described as a "social conservative group," was also behind it. This group flies below the radar; it is not, for example, found on the Open Secrets site. It was apparently founded by right-wing politician Len Munsil. President Cathi Herrod's bio states:
CAP is a nonprofit research and education organization committed to promoting and defending the foundational values of life, marriage and family, and religious liberty. One hundred-twenty-three CAP-supported bills have been passed into law since CAP made its first appearance at the state Capitol in 1995.
Is it grassroots or astroturf? I don't know. I couldn't find its major donors or 1099. Munsil campaign material makes cryptic mention of the organization being "associated with" Focus on the Family, one of the most influential national fundamentalist groups. Talking Points Memo has this look at the national "religious freedom" movement.
We do know that Republican and fundamentalist Christian groups have been introducting similar legislation in New Confederacy states. Brewer's veto leaves many unanswered questions. One: How would Cathi Herrod react to a Muslim dry cleaner refusing to serve Christian customers? Would that be dandy?
But the more important question is how deeply national conservative big money and dark money have penetrated Arizona conservative politics on every level.
Finally, remember the self-mythology of the right is that it is always losing to godless liberal socialism. It is a movement that thrives on the myth of constant grievance and oppression by the dominant left. The reality since the 1970s has been far different, but the lore has a powerful pull. Will real defeat energize the extreme, know-nothing right or break it?
Unfortunately, the veto actually does not move us forward into the broad, sunlit uplands. It does not break the spell and return to a "normal" Arizona, conservative to be sure, but not crazy.
Normality in this state, alas, means more shoot-em-up gun laws, more attacks on women's reproductive rights, more voter suppression, more cruelty to immigrant laborers in the shadows and the working poor in general. The High Sheriff for Life is as powerful and pernicious as ever. Dismantling public education to favor private schools and their theocrat and charter-school racket backers continues apace.
The private-prison racket is thriving. The "Goldwater" Institute has become a brawny legal SWAT team for the right, dropping even the pretense of scholarship. The religion of tax cuts makes it impossible to even backfill needed 20th-century investments, much less those needed for a competitive and high quality of life future (state parks get no general-fund money; passenger rail between Phoenix and Tucson, are you joking?).
Nor should we forget the 2011 assassination attempt on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, which resulted in the death of six including a federal judge. The local-yokel apologists keep saying this was merely the work of a madman ("Move alone, nothing to see..."). But he did not attack, say, John McCain or Trent Franks. He chose a Democratic member of Congress whose election contest had been marked by a flood of right-wing hate and threats. The connection of this horrific crime to the larger political, social and economic ills of the state are persuasively argued by Tom Zoellner in his book, A Safeway in Arizona.
As long as these policies, attitudes and acts define Arizona, the bright beginning the sunnysiders claim the veto promised will be stillborn. The next national embarrassment will be coming. And the media/social media radar is locked on the state now.
Contrary to some national coverage, it is not the result of Arizona being a "Wild West" state. No. Big Sort Midwestern reactionaries moving to my home state are mostly to blame. The problem, as "Soleri" eloquently described, is closely tied to a suburban built environment that discourages connections. It is Jim Kunstler's "geography of nowhere," populated by people from elsewhere (or natives who made a killing on real-estate hustles).
It is also difficult to know if things would have been different had St. Janet not decamped mid-term for D.C., as a reader asked. Napolitano saw her "sensible center" increasingly fall away. She was frustrated with having to "play defense" against the Kooks in the Legislature, year after year. She had no future in Arizona politics. Alone, she could not change the state's trajectory — especially as the Kooks found the Mexican Bullet to use against their opponents in SB 1070. Could she have done more to build a Democratic Party in Arizona? Perhaps.
Now, as Stephen Lemons asks in New Times, can Democrats capitalize on the SB 1062 disaster in this year's elections? If they can't, the outlook for Arizona is dim indeed. But let's be clear: This embarrassment originated in the Legislature, the most powerful arm of state government.
Want to help Arizona? You have to return the Legislature to Democratic control. Not some dreamy coalition of Dems and "moderate Republicans." The latter were mostly forced out as RINOs years ago; a few hide under cover, but not in the Legislature.
It would be bracing if the overreach of SB 1062 was a turning point. Whether that turns out to be true will heavily depend on whether Democrats show up as Democrats — and the people who came together to oppose the bill will see the state's crisis clearly and be willing to do what is necessary to fix it.
Read more about this developing story on my Arizona's Continuing Crisis page.