Much has been made by "left-leaning" commentators, notably Thomas Frank, about the disaster created in Kansas by Gov. Sam Brownback's enactment of conservative policies. And yet check out this chart:
Not to diminish "What's the Matter With Kansas," but Arizona is in worse shape. It arguably offers the better example of what happens when orthodox right-wing policies are enacted in a state without the oil and massive federal investments enjoyed by Texas. That Arizona is a growing, highly urbanized state brings into even starker relief the complete bankruptcy of the Kookocracy's "conservative ideas."
And they own this mess. The interregnum of St. Janet saw a constitutionally weak governor playing defense and never tackling the sacred cows of land use, revenue or water. Arizona's ongoing woes are the work of the regressive right that has taken over the Republican Party.
And yet, polls show at best a dead heat between Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred DuVal — in every way the superior contender — and Republican Doug Ducey. And no chance for Democrats to gain control of the truly powerful branch of government, the state Legislature.
How can this be?
I showed two charts above, but Arizona is failing by virtually every measure of economic and social well-being. Every policy advocated by the current bunch of GOP office seekers, from tax cuts to the Charter School Racket, vouchers for schools, the war on public servants, "tort reform" and cutting regulations.... All of it has been enacted with disastrous consequences, then doubled-down. Rinse and repeat. Again and again. Failure, again and again. Year after year. Election after election. Decade after decade.
The Arizona Free Enterprise Club, the law-optional reactionary PAC that helped take down Scott Smith in the primary and now targets DuVal, claims it is "dedicated to promoting a strong and vibrant Arizona economy."
How's that working out for you. Ms. and Mr. Arizona?
Remember the rule of holes: When in a hole, stop digging. The Arizona experiment of long ingestion of right-wing policies has proved poisonous.
Yet there is apparently no price to be paid. A few down-ticket statewide races might go to the Dems, but that was about the most optimism I could find when I put the question out to Facebook friends. Meanwhile, none of the serious and urgent issues facing the state will be addressed.
As to Ducey, he is a nullity. Even if one sets aside his record at Cold Stone Creamery — which one shouldn't do — he offers nothing new. I'm struck again by our age's childlike awe of the businessman for public office (e.g. Rick Scott in Florida). The public interest is not a business. No wonder none of our best presidents were businessmen (Warren Harding and George W. Bush were).
But greatness is not demanded. Ducey and the legislators of the right will be there to maintain and extend the policies of the oligarchs, going back to the Powell Memorandum and continuing now thanks to the likes of ALEC, the Koch brothers, dark money and the vast infrastructure including astroturf groups and "think tanks" such as the "Goldwater" Institute.
The other arresting lesson from the state of play is that Arizona has apparently learned nothing from the real-estate collapse, depression and current mini-depression. Not a damned thing. That's largely because the power brokers are part of the Real Estate Industrial Complex.
This is the point where readers will say, "I'm so depressed!" They should be mad as hell and animated to get busy. The right is always that way. These elections are decided by shockingly low turnout. The assurance of the right that "the Mexicans don't vote" might be shaken. DuVal is talking real issues. He needs people to have his back, if for no other reason than reality deserves respect. The Ducey Aflak Duck "tax cuts!" "economic freedom!" etc. bleating is a sick joke. Rinse, repeat.
But I won't brightside you. The outlook is tough. All around America, Republicans seem to be benefiting from hatred of That (Black) Man in the White House — even as they have ensured that his presidency has been hamstrung. We are redder than ever. The Cold Civil War will enter a new and dangerous phase if Republicans take the Senate.
Back to Arizona: The "big sort" continues to attract right-wingers and drive out/keep away those who can't stomach the Church of Ayn Rand. The state's most urban county continues to re-elect the appalling Badged Ego. Russell Pearce continues to pop up. Repeated national embarrassments do nothing to change what is essentially one-party rule.
This Arizona experiment shows you can fool enough of the people enough of the time. Especially if they are old whites who reflexively check the name with an "R" beside it — because all our problems are caused by brown-skilled people getting things they don't deserve. Especially if they get their information in the closed and self-reinforcing loop of Fox and Limbaugh.
It is especially tragic for Phoenix's future.
Take away Seattle and a few other precincts in King County and Washington state would be Idaho. Colorado is a bit redder, but Denver holds its own and continues to make progress.
The 500-plus square miles of Phoenix is a state-within-a-state. Much of it, and parts with money and active voters, trends red. Thus, the Legislature continues to kneecap Phoenix and other cities on undertaking intelligent urban responses. "Better Call Sal" and his tea-party Mini-Me Waring would love to build a Council majority.
Against this, advocates for a quality center city are always fighting uphill. A U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallago will be nice. But without more like him, without senators who will work for the city... Texas has a red delegation but they bring home the bacon. Dallas has ninety miles of light rail.
Still, nothing is settled. Go fight.