Here's the short course: If you don't vote for Fred DuVal, you're an idiot. See you in November.
Here's the longer course: Most of what we will read and hear about the Arizona gubernatorial race will be worthless. There will be much sound and fury, signifying nothing.
A big example will be the Republican primary. The entertainment factor is not to be discounted if one is blessed or cursed with an acerbic wit. Who can be the craziest? Behind this, however, will be the reality that all Republicans are Kooks or under the thumb of the Kooks. I like former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, and in a different Arizona he might make a great governor. These attributes will no doubt doom him. If he succeeds, he will be a prisoner of the Kookocracy.
Little or nothing will be said about how the party has become exclusively the province of extremists. The era of the "Sue Nation" (Gerard, Grace, etc.) and Carolyn Allen and even Gov. Jane Dee Hull is gone. The few non-crazy Republicans in office must carefully toe the line or be branded RINOs and destroyed.
The state that empowered a centrist, pragmatic wing of the GOP, the one that existed up through 2000 when experts kept predicting that population growth would turn the state purple or blue, is arguably gone. The state that Bill Clinton carried in 1996, gone. In its place is a Big Sort place where people of the same political leanings have gathered. In our Cold Civil War, Arizona is solidly in the New Confederacy.
I wish it were not so. Without Seattle and a few enclaves of King County, Washington state would be as red as Idaho. The same is true of Oregon outside of Portland, Salem and Eugene. Yet Phoenix, the nation's sixth most populous city, does not exert the same power in Arizona, even with the reliably blue city of Tucson in the mix.
The same expert class that predicted a more moderate and even liberal Arizona as a result of in-migration in the 1980s and 1990s, now sees Arizona turning blue because of its Hispanic population. The Hispanic electorate is growing and solidly Democratic, but turnout rates are depressingly low. In Arizona, the same might be said for everyone. Primaries, even elections, are won with 20 percent or less turnout. Maybe there's a progressive state hiding in there. But don't hold your breath.
What is clear is that the old Anglos vote with great reliability and enthusiasm. Thus, the High Sheriff of Maricopa County is reelected again and again against highly qualified challengers. Jan Brewer beat Terry Goddard, one of the most qualified people ever to seek the office of governor.
The right-wing infrastructure in Arizona is highly developed and will be the beneficiary of vast sums from the national oligarchs. Soup to nuts, school boards to the governor's chair, the extremists are firmly in command. The Democrats have nothing to match this. History shows they didn't even realize the playbook that was being successfully executed against them every election cycle.
Don't expect to be reminded how the Republicans have had a near total lock on power for decades. Anything that's wrong — they own it. Their damage should be issue No. 1. St. Janet came and went like the wind. A more robust Democratic Party might have been built if Carolyn Warner had won the governor's race in 1986, but the party turned to a circular firing squad and we got Evan Mecham.
The coming months will contain little of substance unless DuVal presses the point — but he does so at his peril.
SB 1070 and the general climate of bigotry and violent whackiness have been a disaster for the state. By almost any measure of economic competitiveness or social well-being, Arizona comes in at or near the bottom. This situation is made more serious by the fact that it is a populous, highly urbanized state and Arizona competes in this cohort for talent and capital. It's not Mississippi, except in how it performs.
So many of the state's problems, from the Yarnell fire to water resources, come down to land use and stopping suburban and exurban sprawl. Arizona is in the bull's eye for some of the most devastating effects of climate change. Nothing is being done. Environmental problems are terrible and getting worse. Funding for state parks is a travesty.
There's a fundamental disconnect between tax revenues and the requirements of progress — or even holding one's own — with such a populous, urbanized state. A transportation infrastructure is stuck in 1970 comes to mind. The shameful underfunding of the public schools is another, something made only worse by the charter school racket. Who is getting rich off that? And off the private prison racket? And off the Arizona Commerce Authority?
Women's reproductive and health rights are under attack. Voting rights are under attack.
And yet, try writing about this as a newspaper columnist and see what happens. Imagine the receptiveness of the electorate to hearing it from a gubernatorial candidate? "He hates Arizona," they'll say. "Everything's fine! You don't have to shovel sunshine!" "What about economic freedom, the goddamned Mes'cans and getting the gub'ment off our backs?"
The institutions that once would have pushed for more sanity — major corporate headquarters, especially — are gone. In their place, is an electorate full of hate and Fox "News" talking points, atomized and driven to apathy by sprawl. The Real Estate Industrial Complex maintains its outsized influence despite the disaster it helped cause when the bubble burst.
Can Democrats change this? Maybe. But they must try, actually show up, and not bring a knife to a gunfight.
Finally, remember that the constitutionally most powerful branch of government is the Legislature. Unless Democrats take it back, not much will change.