History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. — Karl Marx
Nobody seems to be admitting to voting for Diane Douglas as Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction. But of the 36.42 percent of registered voters who cast a ballot, a majority backed Douglas over her opponent, David Garcia. Douglas had no experience beyond a controversial stint on the Peoria school board. Garcia is a professor of education, former teacher and Army veteran.
But there you have it.
Garcia, nationally respected, ran on a solid platform of improving Arizona schools, which consistently rank at or near the bottom nationally. Douglas, rhetorically challenged, ran against what she saw as the evils of Common Core, which particularly resonates with white suburbia.
It surely helped Douglas that Garcia had a Hispanic surname. It helped her most of all that she had an R attached to her name. For the majority of state voters, no matter the self-identified "independents," are Yellow Dog Republicans. In other words, you could run a yellow dog as a Republican and they would vote for it over the most qualified Democrat.
I write all this as prologue for the latest, but far from last, Douglas stepping-in-it event. She fired two state Board of Education staff members for the Thought Crime of being allegedly "liberal." My doubt about that was confirmed when the governor, wealthy Republican Douglas A. Roscoe Jr. aka "Doug Ducey," reinstated the pair.
You can read the hilarity here, as well as her clumsy climb-down. But what did voters expect?
Douglas ran as a Palinesque Republican. Leading studies and respected empirical research. Best practices. Facts. That's just fancy pants elitism meant to mislead real Americans and take away our freedom. In this black-is-white, down-is-up world, knowledge is dangerous if it strays from the fixed dogma of Fox "News," Rush Limbaugh and the "think tanks" of the right.
Yet, following the eminences of Tom Horne-y and John "I just want to start my own Christian academy" Huppenthal, how much worse could Douglas be? And remember, Gov Roscoe is the Tea Party darling, also backed by the half-term governor of Alaska and Tail Gunner Ted Cruz.
Farce, worse farce and ultimate farce. Behold your Kookocracy, Arizona!
One quote attributed to her was most curious, where she accused the governor of creating "a shadow faction of charter school operators and former state Superintendents who support Common Core and moving funds from traditional public schools to charter schools."
Which part does she oppose? If the latter, then perhaps I misjudge her. As if the seemingly slow-witted stooge put forward by the state GOP is elected and, to the horror of her handlers, suddenly realizes the crime that has been perpetrated against real public schools and Arizona students. Even if I am correct, she was quickly hauled back into the building and sedated.
The Progressive-era Constitution of Arizona created a strong Legislature and Corporation Commission, weak governor, and a host of elected statewide offices intended to operate independently from the governor. The Board of Education, reporting to the governor, is a recent innovation.
There was even a time when the Superintendent of Public Instruction carried great weight and attracted people of substance, such as Carolyn Warner and Lisa Graham Keegan.
But it's also true that in education Arizona never really made the transition from being a sparsely populated frontier state to being the third most populous state in the West and highly urbanized. From funding to structure, it never happened.
Ideology took hold with the Charter Schools Racket, which may have been initiated with good intentions, but turned into a disastrous diversion of funding from real public schools into private interests running the charters. There's no evidence the charters do better. There's plenty of questions about accountability and the relationship between the charter industry and Republican legislators.
So more than 20 years after charters began in Arizona, the state's K-12 education is worse than ever. Sure, a few rich districts do all right — but even the Scottsdale schools have been through savage cuts.
It is no coincidence, but tied up tightly with the orthodoxy of tax cuts, the stealth costs of sprawl, abandonment of the commons, and white-right apartheid.
So who is Diane Douglas? I haven't been able to find the kind of proctology exam into her background that should be a basic for someone seeking high office. Was she the beneficiary of Koch and other right-wing extremist money? Probably. But would it matter? People voted for her. The people who voted.
Marx was wrong, though. With Arizona, where Republicans have ruled almost unchallenged for decades, the farce has come first, as the party has become so extreme and then batshit crazy. The tragedy is being visited on a generation of children who aren't lucky enough to live in, say, Kyrene. And the tragedy will continue.
But the charter racket, whether from the office of Douglas or Gov. Roscoe, will make out handsomely.
And those losers who graduate with no opportunities? We've got a nice spot in a private prison for you. Cradle-to-grave conservatism.