Tea-Publicans love to quote Ronald Reagan’s anti-government smear, the nine most terrifying words : “I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.”
American satirist P.J. O’ Rourke clarified the problem well when he said that “Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work, and then they get elected and prove it.”
Boy howdy, do they ever! Their strategy is to make such a mess of government that people lose all confidence in government (and other public institutions). A Gallup poll, Confidence in U.S. Institutions Still Below Historical norms (June 2015), found that already low confidence in our system of government, our economy, the media, banking, big business, religious institutions and watchdogs was further eroding.
From a broad perspective, Americans’ confidence in all institutions over the last two years has been the lowest since Gallup began systematic updates of a larger set of institutions in 1993.
Tea-Publicans believe that by making government not work, voters will reward them for being the Cassandra who prophesied that “government does not work.”
(They of course have no plan to “fix” government to make it work more effectively or efficiently. That’s not their objective.)
Unfortunately, this evil plan has worked like a charm. Voters are simply too ignorant or disengaged from politics, or too discouraged with a broken system to vote and to hold those responsible accountable.
This anti-government sentiment is strongest among the so-called Tea Party types. Which brings me to Pima County’s Queen of the Teabaggers, County Supervisor Ally Miller.
Tim Steller of the Arizona Daily Star had an insightful commentary over the weekend. Ally Miller’s Pima County strategy is to “damage the brand”:
I have appreciated the best of what Ally Miller has brought to the board in her stormy first three years after replacing Ann Day: Skepticism about business as usual in Pima County government. The latest example, of course, is her valid questioning of the plan to build a headquarters for World View Enterprises in a county-funded incentive deal that would be paid back in 20 years.
[A business only made possible in a bill sponsored by former Rep. Ethan Orr (R-Tucson). Ethan Orr’s special interest bill for space tourism.]
But the problem is her healthy skepticism comes wrapped in unhealthy cynicism, self-centeredness and paranoia that I think would make a Miller-run county board disastrous.
Consider the phrase “damaging the brand.” I learned of this phrase recently and it helped me understand previously incomprehensible aspects of Miller’s years — mainly, why she makes so many whacky accusations along with the handful of pointed, accurate ones. In other words, why she’s so consistently negative about Pima County.
It’s all about damaging the brand. The brand, in this phrase, is the county government in all its aspects. And the idea is that if she can adequately damage the county’s image, voters will push out the board majority and longtime administrator Chuck Huckelberry with them.
Here’s the first sentence of an email Miller wrote to fellow opponents of November’s bond elections soon after those ballot issues lost.
“I’m still not sure they realize I have been setting the table for 3 years damaging their brand and setting the table for 2016,” she wrote Nov. 6. “I thought they were beginning to figure that o [sic] … but it is good they seem to be oblivious.”
I asked Jeannie Davis, whom Miller fired as chief of staff in late December, if “damaging the brand” was a phrase and concept used during her 21 months in the office. She confirmed that but would not elaborate[.]
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Former Miller aide Joe Cuffari didn’t know the phrase “damaging the brand,” but when I spoke with him last week, he said the concept was very familiar.
“The idea was there of ‘Let’s not work for the constituents, but let’s try to bring Pima County down,’” he said. “Her agenda was just to get herself re-elected and get the other supervisors out.”
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[Miller] has made accusations that caused some damage, and when they were proved groundless, simply moved on to the next accusation.
When I talked to him Friday, [Supervisor Ray] Carroll put it this way: “She might have 100 conspiracies that she’s thinking exist, but only one in 100 actually exists.”
One trait common to all Teabaggers is their love of conspiracy theories. They keep conspiracy mongers like World Net Daily, Breitbart.com and Info Wars, just to name a few, in business. It’s all a government conspiracy, dontcha know! Ally Miller should star in an episode of the new X Files.
One of my favorite conspiracies has been Miller’s repeated contention that Raytheon Missile Systems does not actually want the buffer zone that the county created through re-routing a road and buying property near the company’s plant. The idea was to give the company room to expand so any future growth would not go out of state, as the last big project did.
Miller said this in 2014 but has made similar comments a refrain whenever Raytheon comes up: “As a voting member of this board, one would think that the Raytheon members who want this road moved so badly would have contacted me directly.”
But some accusations have gone further: Twice Miller has taken accusations of wrongdoing by fellow board members to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office for investigation. And twice, the Republican-run AG’s office has said, “No thanks.”
Some of those employed by Miller’s office describe an erratic atmosphere. One moment, Miller would be happily working with the staff, the next minute, yelling at them and slamming doors.
“It was a tough environment,” Cuffari said. “You never knew what you were going to get.”
Cuffari said he worked with Miller for 45 minutes one morning, then a while later, she told him he was fired.
The turnover in her office has been astounding. As Carroll put it: “I’ve had less employees in 20 years than she’s had in three.”
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Sergio Mendez and others reported much of the work of the office consisted of going line-by-line through Chuck Huckelberry’s memos, budget documents and county-board agendas. The accusations that those searches produced have been the substance of Miller’s tenure, allowing her to pursue a “damage the brand” approach.
Another of Miller’s supporters, Gini Crawford, received the post-bond-election email and didn’t understand that reference to brand-damaging, but she does think the county has an image problem.
The difference between Crawford’s view and mine is that she sees the problem as strictly the county’s making.
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Crawford said Closen, Kim DeMarco, who is challenging Bronson, and Richard Hernandez, who is challenging Ramon Valadez, don’t plan on running as a slate, but they are loose allies.
All it would take is two of those three challengers winning, along with a Miller victory to turn “damaging the brand” into something more consequential — undermining the operation of our local government.
The so-called Tea Party is an anti-government insurrection with a design on anarchy. Being anti-government, they have no interest in making government work more effectively or efficiently. That would undermine their bumper sticker politics of “government does not work” and the very reason for their existence.