Netroots Nation announced that its 2015 national palaver will be in Phoenix, Daily Kos announced it won't officially participate because Arizona politics sucks, and for progressives it was like somebody dipped a haunch of lamb into the Amazon to test for piranhas.
Before anybody could jerk the meat back into the canoe, only a bare bone survived.
For once, I'm not ranting in favor of the piranhas or the peacemakers. I'm just sharing some personal observations that have built up over the past 33 years.
Feel free to hide a piranha in my lunchbox.
As for whether Daily Kos boycotts or not, Kos is a big boy and gets to make his own decisions -- I'm not generally in favor of enforcing conformity, as long as everybody gets to decide for themselves.
Kos writer Mother Mags of Phoenix already provided an excellent overview on ways that today's Phoenix doesn't fit the outsiders' Arizona stereotype, so most of my ramblings will be background.
Keep in mind that if a county or district is 53 percent registered Republican, chances are the elected officials will all be Republican because of the party's high voter turnout. And these days, yes, that's likely to mean Tea Baggin', race-baitin' moon-howlers get elected.
But the other half of the citizens go right on with life.
Arizona-bashing progressives need to remember that with all of the state's faults, it produced Tucson -- the third city in the U.S. to pass a gay-rights ordinance, back in the Bronze Age of 1977. Since Anita Bryant managed to get the Miami-Dade law repealed, I guess Tucson's is the second-oldest such law in the country.
Pretty damn progressive for 1977.
Soon after we moved to Tucson in 1981, a Baptist preacher who'd moved there a few months earlier discovered there was a gay-rights ordinance in place and decided, "Well! We'll just take care of that right now!"
He couldn't even get enough signatures to put it on the ballot.
Pretty damn progressive for 1981 or so.
For a young same-sex couple with two toddlers via a surrogate and fears that the state would take the kids away from us if word got around, Tucson in the 1980s was as good as it was going to get. (We didn't even know of any other couples in a similar situation.) The relationship didn't survive the move, but the kids turned out fine.
One of the last big kerfuffles I remember before leaving Tucson was a vote on building the first high school in the upscale Catalina Foothills School District. As I recall it, when the election was scheduled it was considered a slam-dunk -- the district was busing 700 high school kids a day (I believe it was) into the Tucson district, and it obviously would be cheaper in the long run to have a high school in the foothills.
But exit polls on election day indicated a sea change. One comment that stuck in my mind was something like, "My husband and I discussed it at breakfast and decided our kids need to attend school in the city, with all different kinds of people, to prepare them for the real world."
Pretty damn progressive for the mid-1980s.
A short time later, I moved to Phoenix and one of the first kerfuffles I remember there was a group of Scottsdale residents demanding that a portion of south Scottsdale be de-annexed and turned over to either Phoenix or Tempe.
Latinos had moved into that area, and this group of fine citizens didn't want a Latino neighborhood in their suburb nor Latino kids in their school district.
My point is that not so long ago maybe Phoenix and Scottsdale were part of the Arizona problem, but the Phoenix of today has almost nothing in common with the Phoenix of 25 years ago. Outside of the central core I still wouldn't say it's an anthill of progressive activists, but it's moving with the rest of the country.
The Phoenix mayor, Paul Johnson, and his wife, Patty, are both outspoken advocates for LGBT acceptance and other 21st-century attitudes, as are Tucson Mayor Jonothan Rothschild and Bisbee Mayor Adriana Badal, among others. U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva of Tucson has been a progressive voice for so long that most Arizonans don't remember when he wasn't.
Yes, we get publicity for obscenities like SB 1070 (the "don't be brown on our ground" debacle) and this year's SB 1062 ("my right to be a bigot trumps your right to be gay") -- which, you'll recall, Gov. Jan Brewer's staff helped write and then she had to eat it in the middle of a shitstorm. Disasters always get the media coverage.
And disasters like that happen when your state legislature is gerrymandered to produce a body far to the right of the population. But also remember: Arizonans addressed this a few years ago by voting for an independent redistricting commission. It'll take a few elections to get rid of some powerful people, and Republicans are still filing lawsuits to challenge it, but change is under way.
Mother Mags also was correct in saying that many of our most bone-headed citizens moved here from other states -- we didn't always get the cream of the crop. You sent us your flotsam, so don't blame us when it smells!
I believe it was an editor at the Texas Observer who said decades ago that any thinking person who lives in Texas automatically has a love-hate relationship with the state.
Yes, we still have Sheriff Joe Arpaio (we've tried to get Massachusetts to take him back, but so far they're reluctant to cut a deal). Yes, we even still have Sheriff Paul Babeu, who built a career on immigrant-bashing while he was involved in a long-term same-sex relationship with an undocumented Mexican. (Babeu also came from Mass., now that I think about it ... )
We still have a lot of problems that need to be addressed, and the ones that require legislative action probably aren't going to be addressed any time soon.
Let the state without sin cast the first stone.