A few weeks ago, I got an unexpected call from an old friend, Randy Parraz, to tell me about the 10-year anniversary celebration of the Russel Pearce recall campaign. He also asked that I try to read his new book about the recall, Dignity by Fire, beforehand.
If you’re an Arizona progressive, you’ll love this book. And you’ll learn from it. If you had anything to do with the Pearce recall, there’s a good chance you’re mentioned somewhere. If not, you’re bound to recognize a few friends. Far more importantly, you’ll be uplifted and energized. In Dignity by Fire, Randy chronicles how even the toughest challenges can be met through organization and dedicated activism. I had some involvement in the Pearce recall, but I never fully grasped at that time how a huge – and critical – our victory was. As Randy notes: “In a matter of 18 months, Arizona went from ground zero in the fight against anti-immigrant hostility to zero tolerance for any and all anti-immigrant legislation.”
Also in Dignity by Fire are important reminders of how timid and unreliable our establishment leaders tend to be when much is on the line. The group behind the Pearce recall, Citizens for a Better Arizona, received little support from elected Democrats at the time. There were exceptions to be sure, but most elected Democrats didn’t want to “poke the bear.” The Democratic leader most hostile to Citizens for a Better Arizona was none other Kyrsten Sinema. Fast forward 10 years to the present and we’re seeing Sinema’s antics play out again, this time to kill higher taxes on billionaires and the programs those taxes would fund, like expanded Medicare coverage and paid family leave. There was a lesson to be learned there 10 years ago that hopefully we’ll learn this time around.
But the timidity of establishment Dems is a minor part of the story. The takeaway is how dedicated, organized activists can effect real change. One chapter leads with this Louis Brandeis quote: “Most of the things worth doing in the world had been declared impossible before they were done.” Think of all the supposedly “impossible” things out there worth doing. All it takes is inspiration, hope, and a lot of energy. Dignity by Fire will provide you with a good bit of all three.