Polluted, degraded, shameful and poisoned. That’s what our elections in Arizona and nationally have become.
Finger-point we must to the MAGA extremist whose strategy is to divide with suspicion, hate and misinformation. But those of us in the middle, on the left and progressive bear some responsibility too. Would we be in this cauldron of boiling political poison if we had pushed Hilary Clinton or Fred DuVal to election victory? Setting the tone and agenda of political discourse for four years.
But this is where we are today. On any issue that prods our conscience to concern and action, we find the politics of the day numbing our senses to the point of questioning our commitment and resolve. Is this the cause of the low Democratic voter response to date?
As of Wednesday, Oct. 26, less than two weeks from the Nov. 8th elections, only 22 percent of registered Democrats in Maricopa County have returned their ballots – by mail or otherwise. And only 11 percent of Independent (Others) voters have returned their ballots. Republicans have returned only 19 percent of their ballots.
The more Democratic ballots returned early in the election process, the more state party officials, local precinct workers and candidate campaigns can focus on the remaining outstanding ballots for Democrats, Independents and likely Republicans.
But there is hope with people of courage and rage against our political climate. There are signs of energized Democrats knocking on doors, making phone calls and marshalling social media to get out our vote. Hopefully, sooner than later. There are disaffected Republicans who have turned against the MAGA extremists, left the party and are publicly voicing support for Democratic candidates at the local, state and national levels.
Likewise, there are independent voters who are telling pollsters and GOTV canvassers the policy positions (or lack thereof), rhetoric and venom of the far right is a “bridge too far.” Just a few examples of divisive, anger-driven MAGA politics make the point.
Playing the “race card” in Arizona is alive when supporters of the Republican candidate for Maricopa County Attorney – reportedly prominent business leaders and owners of sports franchises in Arizona – used the cover of “dark money” PACs to fund a poster against Democrat Julie Gunnigle’s campaign for the office. It featured a “mug shot” of her black campaign manager, when he was illegally arrested for exercising his free speech and those charges were later dropped.
As Garrick McFadden, attorney and former vice-chair Arizona Democratic Party and former co-hair Maricopa County Democratic Party’s Black Engagement Committee wrote, “This is the worst collection of Republicans we have ever seen and many Republicans know this and are crossing the aisle to vote for Democrats. This is one more stain on them: unabashed racism. That is why they employ it. They have no plans, no record, no experience, and no service to run on. The only thing they have is fear and hate.”
Recent examples of camo clad, gun toting extremists and self-describe “vigilantes” taking pictures of voters and their license plates at ballot drop-off locations in the Valley, is just a recent manifestation of voter suppression in Arizona. Going back to “Jim Crow” era voting laws and through to the 2020 election where protesters and armed groups tried to interrupt the voting process in Maricopa County and voter suppression attempts by the MAGA extremists in the Arizona Legislature this last session. These current unlawful scare tactics are rightfully being challenged by local and federal law enforcement and by legal cases in the courts.
The current voter intimidation has been fueled for years by the “big lie,” the “Fraudit,” fake AZ electors and the current crop of MAGA extremists election deniers running for Governor, Secretary of State and Attorney General. The cumulative result is a real threat to our democracy.
Democratic candidate for Secretary of State, Adrian Fontes put it succinctly recently. “This election in November could be the last regular election in American history. We are on the edge. We are on a precipice. That is how fascism takes away democracy. That’s how totalitarianism wins.”
Justice Ruth Bader Ginzburg (the real Notorious RBG) is calling to us from the beyond. Rage! Rage! against the extreme politicians and their anti-abortion supporters who are dismantling the rights of women to choose their healthcare options. Against them we have the majority of Americans who want safe and legal abortions. But we have to vote to restore those previously constitutionally protected rights.
In another article in this publication, Laura Terech, Democratic nominee for the Arizona House in Legislative District 4, writes: “But we can’t make progress if half of our population is relegated to the second class – forced to carry to term pregnancies from rape or a nonviable pregnancy. In November, choice is on the ballot.”
As this is published, a majority of Democrats eligible for early voting have not returned their completed ballots. By acting now, before the Nov 8th election, we have a chance the prescription for our poisoned politics will cure what ails us.