Tuesday, November 24, 2009

THE WILD, WILD WEST: A State of Contrasts

By Writer X

Something a little different today. Cue the cowboys and happy trails.

Rather than write about books and publishing this week, I wanted to write about Arizona politics and attempt to explain why RINOs like John McCain continue to get elected in my adopted state. I don’t claim to have all the answers but I do have more than a few opinions and observations and even a few facts.

Before I discuss the Maverick, first a little about Arizona.

Arizona has about 6 million residents, half of whom live in Maricopa County where Phoenix, the fifth largest city in the United States, is located. I can count on one hand how many people I’ve met in Arizona who can actually claim to be natives. Every other person seems to relocate here from one of three places: California, Illinois, and Michigan. Really can’t blame them, considering our lower taxes, wide open spaces, and consistently beautiful weather, if you don’t count the summers. It’s a dry heat. Really.

Despite the hodgepodge of humanity, Arizona votes largely Republican while the city of Phoenix (in certain pockets) leans Democratic. Tucson, Prescott, and Flagstaff are the other larger cities in the state but they’re really small (population-wise) in comparison. Tucson and Flagstaff, homes of the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University respectively, lean Democratic but vote Republican in their outlying, rural areas. With Phoenix in the center, these cities literally stretch from one end of the state to the other in almost a straight line. In between and sideways, you’ll find endless miles of open desert, ranches, farms, military bases, and Indian Reservations.

I travel to rural northeastern Arizona regularly. Many of the people I meet are horse-riding, bola-tie wearing, rodeo-loving, hard-working people. They want as little government interference in their lives as possible and, predictably, prefer conservative candidates. Let’s just say you don’t see too many Priuses and Change We Can Believe In! bumper stickers when you drive through tiny mountain towns with names like ShowLow, Snowflake, Pinetop, and Heber.

Other travel book tidbits: Arizona is also home to America’s toughest sheriff, Joe Arpaio, as well as the least toughest Homeland Security Director and former Arizona governor, Janet Napolitano. Sheriff Joe is probably the most popular and colorful politician in the state. He’s more popular than McCain.

John McCain’s political career started about the same time that I moved to Arizona in the early 1980’s when he ran for an open seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. His heiress wife’s fortune certainly didn’t hurt his political aspirations, although his personal story is certainly compelling and resonates with many Arizona residents.

McCain’s U.S. senate career began in 1987 and he’s been entrenched and enamored by Washington D.C. politics ever since. I forget when he started referring to himself as the Maverick, but I think it was during the mid-90’s when he dreamed up the McCain-Feingold Bill. Public opinion for him in Arizona hit its lowest point when he tried to ram the Amnesty Bill during President Bush’s last term. Since that disastrous exercise, he’s said, “We heard you” about a thousand times at townhalls that are attended mostly by senior citizens from Sun City. Illegal immigration, as you can imagine, is a hot-button issue in Arizona and only grows hotter. Arizonans overwhelmingly poll against amnesty and consistently list illegal immigration as one of their biggest concerns.

Despite his declining popularity within the state, McCain continues to win his senate elections because he’s got shoeboxes full of money and no one ever provides much competition. However, Minuteman founder, Chris Simcox, is challenging the Maverick for his 2010 senate seat. John Kyl, McCain’s senate buddy, laughed off this challenge not long ago in our local newspaper, The Arizona Republic. Turns out this wasn’t smart. This angered many people, especially those who’ve grown tired of John McCain and his RINO ways. Rasmussen, interestingly, did a poll last week between John McCain and J.D. Hayworth. Hayworth is a former U.S. Representative for Arizona; Harry Mitchell, one of our “moderate” Democrats who has disappeared into the Witness Protection Program since his vote for PelosiObama Healthcare, won Hayworth’s seat in the last election by a slim margin. According to Rasmussen, McCain and Hayworth polled in a statistical dead-heat. The only problem is that Hayworth isn’t running. Yet.

There’s a perception among Arizonans that John McCain only gets tough and only becomes a Republican when he wants something or when he’s up for re-election. Example: Suddenly he’s changed his stance on Cap and Trade, even calling it Cap and Tax now, leaving his friends Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham in the lurch on this issue. Must be election time. Many in Arizona would like to see McCain retire to one of his wife’s ranches in Sedona. Permanently. And if he could take his Paris Hilton-wannabe daughter, all the better.

Consequently, there’s a chance 2010 might be a closer election, especially given Simcox’s strong and visible stand against illegal immigration and open borders. If J.D. Hayworth decides to run? The game might be over.

As an aside, Janet Napolitano was rumored to be considering a future senate run for either John Kyl’s or McCain’s seat, but after her dismal (and daffy) performance as Homeland Security Director, I don’t think she would resonate with most Arizona voters again. Her ship has sailed. All anyone would have to do is plaster that goofy photo of her wearing the goggles and awkwardly clutching a rifle below a caption that says, “Terrorism doesn’t exist.” Besides, she left Arizona in a financial shambles when she didn’t think twice about accepting the position with Homeland Security.

More from the Wild, Wild West as it develops.


AndrewPrice said...

Thanks for the article Writer X, very informative. I've wondered why Arizona, which seems to be a rather libertarian state, manages to give us people like McCain and Napolitano.

It will be interesting to see how this election works out. Please give us updates if anything new happens. I would be very happy to see McCain replaced by an actual conservative!

Tennessee Jed said...

Thanks for this excellent post telling us about Arizona politics. I wonder if the perception among Arizonans that McCain only becomes "Republican" is when he needs something is because it is actually true.

I have been to your state for meetings as well as to play desert golf. I love your description of the northeastern folks as bolo tie wearing rodeo folks. I must admit to pulling on one of my Scully or Rockamount shirts and my boots in prep for reading your article (o.k., I didn't actually do that, but easily could have.) Jolly good show, Writer X!

Writer X said...

Andrew, you're welcome!

Napolitano won 46% of the vote with her Republican opponent winning 45%. She also followed the Fife Symington debacle, which history proved was not as much as a debacle after all. But it was definitely a distraction.

Regarding McCain, suddenly he's everywhere in AZ--he's doing townhalls, on local radio, in the newspapers. Must be election time!

Writer X said...

Jed, thanks for your kind words and for wearing your cowboy shirt and boots, or at least imagining it!

And you're right about that McCain perception: It's definitely become reality. It's quite comical, really, as I just mentioned to Andrew. All of a sudden, he's everywhere. He's a conservative tough guy now. His intentions are so transparent that it's laughable.

Glad to hear you've traveled to AZ, too. It's a beautiful state. Great golf, great wide open spaces. That's the part I love most. I've even learned to love cactus.

AndrewPrice said...

By the way, I love your Witness Protection Program comment! There must be a lot of Democrats applying for that right about now! LOL!

Writer X said...

Andrew, I forgot to tell you this funny Harry Mitchell tidbit...

When Joe Biden blew into town last week, apparently old Harry took to the podium to talk up the wonders of the Recovery.gov web site. This was, of course, before it was revealed that the $18MM web site was stuffed with inaccurate data, including data for AZ on bogus "jobs saved or created" in non-existent districts. Priceless. Following that, Harry wouldn't comment to the newspaper about the inaccuracies. And he's gone back into hiding. It never ends.

AndrewPrice said...

That's funny! So Harry didn't even know that the Arizona districts were fake. . . yet he represents Arizona in Congress. Wow, utterly incompetent!

StanH said...

Great read WriterX: I’ve heard that Joe Arpaio may run for Governor, is that true? If so that could be fun to watch, and instructive for the geldings in the Republican party, a firm unabashed conservative embracing America, and it’s sovereignty.

McCain getting voted out would be another lesson for the Republican party. Get right, or get gone!

Writer X said...

Thanks, Stan!

Yes, it's true that Arpaio might run but I've not heard/read yet where that is a done deal. Jan Brewer, the Republican Secretary of State who stepped in when Napolitano went running to Wash. D.C. has been less than impressive, unfortunately. She has been at odds with our Republican Congress. She wants to raise property and sales taxes to fix the budget deficit left by Napolitano; the majority in Congress do not.

We're still waiting to hear whether Hayworth will run. He's supposedly seriously considering it. He would provide more competition against McCain than Simcox, who is a relative unknown.

Tennessee Jed said...

Writer X - Actually, I do have all of that stuff, it was merely too early in the morning to be wearing it yet. If you live in Tennessee, particularly if you are a musician, sooner or later you go "cowboy." (I suppose that is more of a "Bushism" than"maverick.")

Cronickain said...

Good article Writer X. Loved the part about Nappy's ship sailing. Let's hope this is true.

RINOS reaching across the isle. I say we should reach across the isle with a bulldozer. RINOS give me a break. They only act conservative when its election time just like you said and McCain is a fine example.

If it's a wild west shootout we need maybe we should get with the African Safari hunters and do some RINO bagging?

Writer X said...

Thanks, ArmChairGen!

Love your visual. :-) I promise to do my RINO bagging with my vote in the next election. I'm hopeful that many of the other Republicans in my state will do the same. I think people are pretty fed-up. I was listening to a few clips from McCain's townhall yesterday on a local radio. Although very respectful, his constituents are not happy with him. A perfect moment for some serious shake-up.

Unknown said...

WriterX: My friends in Arizona are always asking me why I don't move there. I have no excuse other than inertia, and a bit of masochism (I guess). They're located in areas around Bullhead City and the environs, though we all grew up together in Southern California. Conservatives with strong libertarian leanings. The fun part is they're inviting a mouthy San Franciscan to come join them in their fight against the forces of the left and big government.

When I finally wrap up my affairs, I may just join them. I'll be as close to my daughters and grandkids in Arizona as I am now (San Francisco vs. Bullhead City, for example). Thanks for a very informative view of Arizona politics. Could you handle one more California expatriate?

CrispyRice said...

Very interesting, WriterX! I've often wondered how McCain stays in power down there, too.

Many of the western states are having the same issue of Californias fleeing the mess they made only to want to ruin their adopted state. Ugh!!

As an aside, I've loved my roadtrips through AZ. I love following old Route 66 past the Petrified Forest, the Meteor Crater, and Flagstaff. And I seem to remember an interesting abandoned missile site south of Tucson somewhere, I think, where the road is marked in kilometers. Hmmmm...

Writer X said...

LawHawk, you'll be welcomed with open arms. There's plenty of room for everybody, especially a Conservative! Come on over! :-)

As an aside, Bullhead City is very deserty, very beautiful and wide open. Plus it's a straight shot to Vegas, CA, and Phoenix. It's also growing leaps and bounds. Bullhead City needs you, LawHawk!

Writer X said...

CrispyRice, thanks! Believe me, there are many of us here who shake our heads at John McCain. Here's hoping 2010 provides some much-needed changes.

Glad to hear you liked AZ! Driving down Route 66 is about as close to Americana and apple pie as you can get. Love Meteor Crater! It's the kind of place where you half-expect to get abducted by aliens (the little green kind). Don't know about the missles you saw in south Tucson but there is a pretty large military base there that might be connected to that.

AndrewPrice said...

"the green kind" -- LOL! And here I thought that was all confined to Roswell!

Writer X said...

No way. I encourage anyone to visit Meteor Crater or even drive from Parker, AZ to Yuma, AZ and tell me they do not believe in aliens. If I had a spaceship, that's where I'd land.

Anonymous said...

Writer X,

I'm from Ash Fork, AZ (pop. 600) and went to school at NAU. Yes, I'm a Lumberjack :-)

I live in Las Vegas, whose population consists mostly of Californians who came to Nevada after they ruined their own state.

Just like in Arizona, the urban center skews democrat but the rest of the state is conservative.

President Obama won Nevada in 2008 yet Harry Reid has a miserly 38% approval rating and multiple polls have shown he is trailing both of the 2 relatively unknown Republican challengers.

Reid's biggest advantage is the support of the casino industry. Steve Wynnn will go on Fox News and decry the Obama administrations big government, tax and spend solutions but he's still supporting Harry Reid.

Money talks. Which is why the tea party movement needs to figure out a way to convert their passion & energy into dollars & candidates.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane.


Writer X said...

Betty, thanks!

Ash Fork is close to the Grand Canyon, correct? If I had to do it over again, I think I would have liked to have gone to NAU. Such a beautiful campus--and you can ski between classes! Very cool.

Nevada and AZ have such similarities in terms of demographics and challenges. That's a shame about Wynn. I've seen him a couple of times and was impressed. But you'd have to be an idiot to support Harry Reid. I have a virtual drink bet riding here at Commentarama that he loses! He deserves to lose and lose big. Talk about ignorning his constituents--and treating them like parasites. Let's hope he goes back to Searchlight or wherever he's from in Nevada.

CrispyRice said...

WriterX, our theme for that whole roadtrip was "Space in the Southwest." We started in Rachel, Nevada outside Area 51. Drove over to Meteor Crater and the missile thing in AZ. We moved on to Roswell, Alamogordo and White Sands, New Mexico, with more aliens and space museums. And finally up to the Very Large Array satellite post in New Mexico.

It's all perfect alien kidnapping territory!

I looked up the missile site. It's about 20 miles south of Tucson.


It was cool. You could see the whole missile, tour the living area and control room, sit in the chair, take pictures of yourself with your finger on the button... not that I would ever do that... ahem...

Oh look at the time. Ah, memories. :D

Writer X said...

CrispyRice, cool web site. Thanks! All these years and I don't think I knew it existed. Road trip!

FB Hink said...

Great piece! The similarities between Arizona and Texas are unmistakable. I’ve watched as our own state has been overrun by the great migration from failed progressive states, bringing with them the same core beliefs that doomed their former existence.

I’ve likened the California migrations to teams of locusts that displace longtime locals, drive property values through the roof, and permanently change the culture to shallow, laid back wine-sipping aloofness. After they’ve spoiled paradise, they move on, complaining that the quaintness is no longer there. (And please, no-offense meant to the staunch conservative Californians that founded Commentarama. Hopefully the migration will help conservatives take back your state.) We’ve been lucky to halt their advance at the small west Texas town of Marfa – another Santa Fe in the making.

We do see our share of Illinois and Michigan license plates and inner-city Houston has become a progressive playground. If only they would embrace their new state and understand our true spirit of rugged self-deterministic independence which has kept our state nearly immune to the economic calamity of the upper 49.

Writer X said...

Amen to that, FB! It's amazing to me that some of the people who move to AZ want to change the very things that make the state great. Interestingly, as the problems with illegal immigration worsen, you'd be surprised how many former democrats suddenly become conservative. When you are personally impacted, you wise up.

BTW, I love Texas! Everything's bigger in Texas. Such a beautiful state.

AndrewPrice said...

Hink, It's the same thing in Colorado (my home state). When they pulled the fire alarm on California in the 1990s, a bunch of them came here. "This is just like California was before it got ruined," they would say.

Then they would add, "Oh, you don't have a law to _______, just like we did in California."

Now Colorado is headed down the same path California took and they "don't understand" what's happened. Idiots.

FB Hink said...

Writer X, thanks for the love for Texas. When I was first married – jeez, has it been over 20 years already? – we seriously considered going west to Phoenix. I love the city, I love the heat, and I love the dryness. And the people are pretty cool as well!

Andrew, I weep for Colorado. I went many times to ski as a teen and many times since just to have fun. I knew that Aspen and Bolder were going the way of the dark force but I didn’t know it was getting that bad.

I tell you it seems to be that the whole west is being taken over. We go to Las Vegas quite a bit and you can certainly tell the mood of the city darkens on the weekends when the Californians arrive. We were ridding up an elevator once and a guy asked us where we were from. When we told him he spit out, “Ah, red state.” I had never felt so much disgust aimed at my direction from a total stranger. We were considering going west to retire but I’m now looking to the Caribbean as a last refuge.

Anonymous said...

Writer X,

Yes, Ash Fork, the flagstone capitol of the world, is just down the road from the Grand Canyon.

When I went to NAU not only could you ski between classes, we actually had a ski class for credit-sweet!

Back then (28 years ago *groan*) the enrollment was half the current size so it had the feel of a private college at the price of a state university.

I was laughing as I read the comments from Texas & Colorado. Everyone agrees that those darn Californians are ruining the southwest :-)

FB, we've thought many times about moving but we can't seem to tear ourselves away from the Colorado Plateau-it's truly God's country.

I guess our only option is to fix the problem :-)


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