The more things change . . .


by David Safier

I just finished Jeff Biggers' new book, State Out of the Union: Arizona and the Final Showdown Over the American Dream. Biggers could have used a quote attributed to Mark Twain in his book's introduction: “History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” He moves back and forth between recent state history and Arizona's earlier years, pre- and post-statehood, showing that though things change, they also stay the same. It's a good read.

Take this passage from an essay by George W. P. Hunt, who would go on to be the first Governor of the new state of Arizona. Hunt was a successful businessman, but he never forgot his days as a worker, whose side he often took against what he called the "controlling influence" of the railroads and mining industries.

The same spirit of ruthless aggression which has crushed life and hope out of millions of lives in the factories, mills and mines of unhappier states, is gradually invading Arizona, calling up the courage and determination of every citizen in the defence of human rights. . . . It is right and just for every citizen, be he wealthy or be he poor, to take an active interest in public affairs, but the bounds of justice are transcended, and the rights of a free people are seriously menaced when corporations, as such, become compactly organized into political alliances for the influencing of legislation and the election of officials.

Hunt's concern about corporatization sounds incredible modern. His warnings about corporations forming political alliances to influence legislation — think ALEC — or to control elections — think Citizens United as the latest incarnation of the attempts to control the outcome of elections — resonate today as much as they did in the 1890s.

When, prior to statehood, the Labor Party made 27 demands on what should go into the state's Constitution — including, according to Biggers, "an eight-hour workday, women's suffrage, workmen's compensation, anti-corruption and fair banking practices . . . compulsory education," the right of recall and much more — the corporate interests called it both a "radical" and "socialist" agenda. The times have changed, but the language of opposition to labor-friendly ideas remains the same.

When he was Governor, Hunt sent a militia to protect striking miners against probable violent attacks by hired thugs, and the result was federal mediation and a deal that gave the striking workers much of what they wanted (even though part of the deal was that there could be no union organizing, which angered some in the labor movement). Hunt's actions were hated so much by the mining interests, they tried to recall him. They accused Hunt of sowing "class hatred and divisions" and creating "near anarchy" in the town. Accusations of class warfare and anarchy: still right wing favorites. (In a happy ending, the recall went nowhere.)

In another post, I'll excerpt a passage about cultural and racial hatred addressed toward Hispanics in turn-of-the-century Arizona, with a very modern-sounding, 1904 response from a Mexican-American resident of Arizona.


  1. It’s one of the books I put on my reading list for voters in my recent congressional campaign, the only Arizona-centric one besides Andrew Ross’s “Bird on Fire: Lessons from America’s Least Sustainable City.”

    In the impossible event that anyone is interested, here is the entire reading list:
    (1) The Price of Inequality by Joseph E. Stiglitz;
    (2) It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American
    Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics
    of Extremism by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J.
    (3) Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made
    the Rich Richer – and Turned Its Back on the Middle
    Class by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson;
    (4) End This Depression Now! bv Paul Krugman;
    (5) Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington
    Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street
    by Neil Barofksy;
    (6) The Great Divergence: America’s Growing Inequality
    Crisis and What We Can Do About It by Timothy
    (7) Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress – and
    a Plan to Stop It by Lawrence Lessig;
    (8) The Betrayal of the American Dream by Donald L.
    Bartlett and James B. Steele;
    (9) Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political
    Corruption, and the Hijacking of America by
    Charles H. Ferguson;
    (10) Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics by
    Bell Hooks;
    (11) Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010
    by Charles Murray;
    (12) The Myth of American Exceptionalism by Godfrey
    (13) The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change
    in the Obama Era by Michael Grunwald;
    (14) State Out of the Union: Arizona and the Final
    Showdown Over the American Dream by Jeff Biggers;
    (15) Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least
    Sustainable City by Andrew Ross;
    (16) What’s the Matter with White People:
    Why We Long for a Golden Age that Never
    Was by Joan Walsh;
    (17) The Cost Disease: Why Computers Get Cheaper
    and Health Care Doesn’t by William J. Baumol;
    (18) Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent
    War by Andrew Bacevich;
    (19) Bull by the Horns: Fighting to Save Main Street
    from Wall Street and Wall Street from Itself by
    Sheila Baer;
    (20) Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power,
    Prosperity, and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu and
    James Robinson

    Also, on my campaign website, I posted this quotation from Governor Hunt a century ago which in 1912 precisely spoke about the difference between the 99% and the 1% as if he was the brains behind Occupy Wall Street:,r:14,s:0,i:117

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