Tom Chabin was 100% right.

15 Aug 2009 10:20 am
Posted by: Donna

The truth hurts but it’s still the truth.

“They’ve not paid attention to who they’ve voted for,” Chabin told a gaggle of reporters just prior to the House convening on the floor. “This is the chaos that you buy.

“Voters in Arizona are shortsighted, disinterested and disengaged.”

I’ve been asked many times what I think happened in AZ in the 2008 election. Why, when most of the country went in an arguably more progressive direction, did Arizona put more rabid reactionaries in office? My answer doesn’t sit well with a lot of people but I stand by it. I mostly blame the voters. Sorry, I just do. I say this as someone who didn’t bother to vote in Arizona for the first six years that I lived here, so I shoulder my share of that blame. It was the craven and evil stupidity of the Bush administration that stirred me from my disengagement and got me involved. I started going to John Kerry meetups. I have since learned that there has been a concerted effort by the MSM and movement conservatives to cultivate political apathy. Still, it wasn’t anyone else’s fault but mine that I blew off my responsibility as a citizen.

You can regard the voters as passive consumers who respond to the party or candidate with the more appealing “message”, as they do with any other product, or you can think of them as active participants in their own government. I believe that they are always the latter. Always. Even if they appear for all the world to be the former. If they decide that Dancing With The Stars or their sports teams are more important than their government, then that is their prerogative and they (and unfortunately everyone else) will suffer the consequences. If they choose to believe supply side malarkey without checking the facts themselves and then proceed to vote against their own best interests to give tax cuts to the wealthy that is also their prerogative.

You can’t say they weren’t warned about what would happen if the Republicans took control of everything. We told them over and over, until we were blue in the face. Candidates and volunteers knocked on the doors and made the phone calls and wrote the opeds and LTTEs and tried to persuade them. In the end a plurality of Arizonans chose to put more Republicans in office. We do have some pretty gerrymandered legislative districts here but that doesn’t force the voters who live in Republican strongholds to return rabid ideologues like Russell Pearce and Jack Harper to the State Capitol term after term, but that’s exactly what those voters do. Voters in more competitive districts ejected moderate Dems like Jackie Thrasher and Theresa Ullmer and replaced them with right wing Republicans. 30% of the Arizona electorate opted to let others make decisions for them by abstaining from voting. Think about that. This wasn’t a city council race or a school bond election, where a GOTV effort could mean making a miniscule turnout slightly larger. This was Barack Obama running against John McCain in the longest, most expensive, most reported on election ever. It’s not like people didn’t know it was happening. It’s not like it wasn’t plainly obvious that Janet Napolitano was going to hightail it to DC as soon as Obama got elected. But nearly a third of the Arizona electorate had better things to do than vote on November 4th, 2008. I get into arguments with people all the time who want to lay the entire fiasco on the Democrats but the truth is no matter how badly you think the Arizona Democratic Party sucks, that level of apathy and ignorance in the public is depressing.

To illustrate this: On June 30th I protested with educators over the proposed harsh cuts to the schools at the Capitol. In a Senate conference room I sat next to a pink-slipped teacher who told me that she always voted R all the way down the ballot. She considered herself to be a moderate and had no idea what hardcore reactionaries her legislators were. She had no idea. Her Senator is Pamela Gorman. This self-described moderate Republican pink-slipped schoolteacher had no idea how far to the right Pamela Gorman is. Seriously. I’m not mad at her, though. Given my own history, why would I be? Clearly this woman, and others like her, need to spend some time living in the chaos they bought. I derive no satisfaction from saying that and I know that many, many people in our state will suffer greatly so that people like that teacher will suffer just enough to start paying attention to whom they are putting in office. Unfortunately, that’s what has to happen. Tom Chabin was telling the truth.

I have some more thoughts about this topic and I will return to it in an upcoming post. Right now I’m at the State Committee meeting, where we will discuss strategies and message in the caucuses and get an update from the state party on where we are headed. Pardon my less-than-cheery attitude but hopefully it will brighten if I hear some good news.


  1. Comment by Jen on August 16, 2009 11:04 am

    i heart Tom Chabin.

  2. Comment by Zelph on August 16, 2009 9:04 pm

    I agree with Tom Chabin that Arizona voters are an apathetic lot, but I still place at least some of the blame on the state Democratic party. The conventional wisdom was that Democrats have to be Republican-Lite in order to be elected in Arizona. As a result their message to voters was less than inspiring. If you want voters to be engaged, you have to give them something to get excited about. Barack Obama did that and now he’s President. Democrats have to stop being ashamed of being Democrats and stand for something if they want voters to feel like they have something to vote for.

  3. Comment by Donna on August 16, 2009 9:18 pm

    Yeah Zelph, Democrats need to be less self-effacing and more self-actualizing.

    But at the end of the day, 730,000 grown people in Maricopa County cast their vote for Joe Arpaio. Who did not make a secret of the fact that he’s a vicious racist thug. I have to point out, once again, that while the Dems may have had a flawed strategy, the state Republican Party had bupkis. So, presented with a vacuum (if you accept the premise), AZ voters chose rabid right wingers.

  4. Comment by Zelph on August 16, 2009 9:44 pm

    It grates me when I meet Democrats who voted for Arpaio and I’ve met more than a few. I think things may be changing though. Arpaio has overreached with his battle with the Maricopa County. You’re absolutely correct that many Republicans have no idea how batshit crazy the people they elect are. They just vote for the ‘R’. It seems to me that Democrats need to make more of an effort to let voters know what sort of clowns we have in the legislature.

  5. Comment by Eli_Blake on August 17, 2009 12:36 am

    I tend to agree with Donna.

    reason # 1: Republicans have always said they were for cutting taxes, cutting spending (which is exactly the same as cutting budgets) and shrinking government. What? You thought it was just rhetoric? Guess what, they mean what they say.

    reason #2: This is an account of a real conversation I had several years ago with a woman I know.

    You may recall Jim Irvin, the corrupt former corporation commissioner, whose corruption resulted in a $60 million judgment against the state in a suit filed by a company which lost out on a contract after their competitors paid Mr. Irvin a bribe.

    His corruption had been reported widely but he still narrowly won election the year before that.

    So anyway I was talking to the woman I knew in a local library. The newspaper was there and it was the day of the $60 million judgement which was plastered across the headline.

    We agreed that it was terrible. I asked her whether she had voted for Jim Irvin. She said she didn’t know, and asked, “Is he a Democrat or a Republican?”

    I answered, “he’s a Republican.”

    “Then I guess I must have,” was her reply. ‘I only pay attention to the important races like the President and the Governor, after that I just vote for all the Republicans.”

    I just wanted to go into the restroom, shut the door and scream. I mean, what do you do with people like that?

  6. Comment by Eli_Blake on August 17, 2009 12:42 am

    Donna, I do have one question.

    Did the woman you described still plan to vote for Gorman next time she can? Does she still plan to vote a straight GOP ticket, or is she finally wising up?

    I live in a very red precinct and even some of the more rational Republican neighbors I have, have finally figured out that Sylvia Allen is not their friend, and are open to voting for someone else next year. The cuts, not only to schools but also to rural health care and services are devastating and she has supported the cuts all the way down the line.

  7. Comment by BruceJ on August 17, 2009 12:07 pm

    People who get all of their information from right-wing propagandists like Rush and Faux News, that’s who.

    People who scream about a few percent more in marginat tax rates on the upper 0.1% of the country (many of whom will make nore in a year than these people will in a lifetime) as base tyranny, because R&FN tell them that it is.

    And they STILL don’t vote.

    Plus there’s the not-inconsiderable number of people in this state who are just plain mean, nasty, bigoted sons and daughters of bitches, who take pride in the fact that “ain’t no one o’ them gonna get a free ride offa me!” and whose version of the golden rule is “I got mine Jack, fuck off!”

    Of COURSE they elect people just like themselves into office.

    Then when it gets so bad that things are spiraling out of control, they elect thugs who will keep the trains running on time.

    BItter, clinging to their guns and religion, shit-for-brains each and every one of ’em.

    Yeah, kinda down on humanity this AM.

  8. Comment by Donna on August 17, 2009 12:52 pm

    Eli, the woman was appalled to realize that Sen. Gorman was one of the rabid ideologues. I’m not sure what she will do in the future but I hope she sees the error in her ways and will vote differently. She was protesting the cuts with the AEA.

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