For as long as I’ve lived in Arizona, Republicans have dominated state politics, and though I haven’t always agreed with their policy positions, I’ve never felt threatened by their governance. Until now.
From Russell Pearce to Joe Arpaio, Arizona’s Republican party is now dominated by extremist ideologues. These individuals have muscled their way onto center stage by promoting a singular issue, immigration enforcement, almost exclusively at the expense of other issues and crises. They have squashed the voices of compassionate conservatives and centrists and labeled any moderate brave enough to stand up to them as RINO’s (Republican In Name Only) and even socialists.
Fearing for their own political careers, many moderate Republicans have been forced to embrace the extremist dogma or be left with the choice of either switching to an independent party affiliation or waiting silently on the sidelines.
But now, more than ever, we need these moderate, sensible individuals to stand up to the bullies in their party and say, “No more!” We need them to lead us out of this mess by demanding a return to ethical and honest behavior versus a win-at-all-costs mentality.
The examples of our downward slide couldn’t be clearer; the need for change couldn’t be more urgent.
Take, for example, our popular, media-loving sheriff, the one who calls himself the “world’s toughest sheriff.” He turned a blind eye to crime and has yet to be held responsible. His department failed to adequately investigate more than 400 sex crimes. These included crimes against little girls and women; crimes that involved heinous sex acts and murder. He failed to protect and serve and still, for some reason, many Arizonans have forgiven him.
Why? Because instead of arresting rapists and murders, he knocked down the doors of car washes and restaurants, arresting and deporting a few handfuls of undocumented immigrants. You know, the real threats to society.
It’s likely none of Sheriff Joe’s fans were the victims or relatives of those left with the scars of rape or those still waiting for justice to be served. It’s likely these victims won’t be wooed by Republican presidential candidates seeking endorsements from a “tough Sheriff” or money from a newly formed PAC.
And now he’s announced plans to examine the legitimacy of Obama’s birth certificate. Yes, spending time on another PR ploy is definitely more important than hunting down criminals.
Then there’s our illustrious former county attorney, Andrew Thomas. In his quest to rid society of “invaders,” he and his henchwomen along with his pals at MCSO are accused of filing bogus lawsuits to intimidate their enemies, enemies that included elected officials and sitting judges. His rivals were targeted because they were unwilling to bend the law, and for that, they had to pay.
One would assume Maricopa County’s GOP party would run from that debacle. But one would be wrong.
No, the GOP party actually defended Thomas and even tried to play him as a victim. Keep in mind Thomas didn’t just attack Democrats; he went after fellow Republicans as well. Meanwhile, the real victims of Thomas’ power struggles have testified through tears about the nightmares they and their families were forced to endure, the belief their home phones were bugged and their every move monitored by authorities. Apparently, that’s the price they had to pay for refusing to compromise their ethics or their duty to uphold the law.
But that wasn’t the first time the GOP defended one Republican to the detriment of another. In the Russell Pearce recall election, fellow Republican Jerry Lewis has received what amounts to an excommunication by his party. GOP vanquisher and political consultant Chuck Coughlin made it clear to his fellow Republicans anyone opposing Pearce would be brandished with a T, as in “traitor.”
The lengths to which Russell’s Tea Party friends have sunk in order to guarantee a win in the recall election should have plenty of Republicans shaking their heads. But interestingly enough, instead of condemning the Cortes fiasco, many Republicans have either remained silent or, worse yet, tried to justify efforts to scam voters.
When it comes to Republicans behaving badly, Pearce, Arpaio and Thomas take the cake, but sadly, they are far from the only ones using unsavory, unethical and legally questionable means to gain and maintain power.
State Senator Lori Klein actually read a letter on the floor of the senate from a substitute teacher that said, “Hispanic students do not want to be educated but rather be gang members and gangsters.” The letter advanced stereotypes of Latino school kids as angry illegals and concluded with a plea to end the “invasion.”
Unfortunately, Senator Klein failed to verify anything in the letter, and when it was revealed the school district wholly denounced both the accusations and the teacher, Ms. Klein refused to apologize while Senator Pearce insisted on defending it. Apparently, it’s okay to publicly condemn bad behavior, even when not substantiated, but not necessary to apologize when the bad behavior was committed by the one pointing fingers.
Scott Bundgaard still hollers innocence even as police reports and eyewitnesses claim the opposite. Domestic violence isn’t a minor offense, and one would assume the powers-that-be would have already convinced Mr. Bundgaard to resign from office. But instead, he remains in power and voters will pay the price as yet another ethics trial gears up.
And the list goes on. From Senator Klein pointing a loaded handgun at a reporter to the freebies without repercussions in the Fiesta Bowl scandal, bad behavior seems to be the norm at the Capitol. But it doesn’t have to be.
Honest, intelligent and compassionate Republicans exist in this state, and they deserve to be heard. But until they stand together in opposition to the antics in their party and demand a return to good behavior, this state will continue to falter.
The long-term effects could be absolutely devastating to our economy and our image. There is no better time than now to turn the tide and take back our state. There is no better time than now for moderate Republicans to reclaim their party.