The recent forced resignation of recalled ex-state Senate President Russell Pearce from his position as first vice chair of the Arizona GOP shows the power that public humiliation can have, if the circumstances are right.
When I first reported Pearce's outrageous statements calling for the sterilization of female Medicaid recipients, did I think it would lead to Pearce's ouster?
Not at all. I mean, let's be honest, Pearce's comments were pretty much par for the course for a guy whose career in public life is encrusted with scandal and racism.
His palling around with neo-Nazi kid-killer J.T. Ready, his corruption as head of the state Motor Vehicles Division, the ease with which he uses the ethnic slur "wetback," his wallowing in the trough of free trips and tickets from Fiesta Bowl honchos -- this tawdry history never has bothered the Arizona Republican Party too much.
Which is why in January 2012, Pearce was elected first vice chair of the Arizona GOP by a majority of the party's state committee.
The position already was occupied by respected incumbent Diane Ortiz-Parsons, who is, as her name suggests, of Hispanic descent.
Yet, GOPers turned her out, with about 60 percent of them voting for Pearce instead.
The symbolism was telling. Months earlier, Pearce had been recalled from office, losing the recall election in his district by a staggering 12 points.
As state Senate president, he was one of the most powerful politicians in Arizona. But Pearce's family members and friends were reduced to fielding a sham candidate, Olivia Cortes, in an effort to split the anti-Pearce vote.
The ruse failed. Cortes returned to obscurity.
You would think having a woman with the last name Ortiz-Parsons as your first vice chair would be a plus for a party that has a serious problem winning support from Latinos and women.
Instead, Rs chose the author of Arizona's hateful immigration legislation, Senate Bill 1070, to replace her.
— Sean Noble (@seannobledc) September 13, 2014
Republican strategist Sean Noble was first out of the gate to condemn Pearce's remarks
This hero worship of Pearce is not reflected in elections that include the wider public.
When Pearce made a stab at a comeback later in 2012, running for state Senate in deeply red Legislative District 25, wealthy newbie Bob Worsley wiped the proverbial floor with the Mexican-basher, besting him by double digits.
Thus ended the myth that Pearce was not rejected in 2011 by fellow Republicans, in addition to Dems and Independents.
Over the years, there have been many Republicans who've opposed Pearce in one form or another, from U.S. Senator Jeff Flake to Flake's brother-in-law Kevin Gibbons to GOP strategist Nathan Sproul to Pearce's recall opponent Jerry Lewis to influential Mesa Republican Tyler Montague.
But the base of the actual Republican Party in Arizona, which consists of precinct committee members and, on the next level, state committee members, is seriously insane.
At the beginning of this year, after the state GOP re-elected Pearce to first vice chair during its mandatory meeting, I wrote a column observing for the umpteenth time the sheer nutbaggery of the Arizona GOP.
I mean, once you listen to Republican state committee members debate a resolution on why or why not a constitutional convention would be a good thing -- the modern equivalent of 14th-century monks debating how many angels can fit on the head of a pin -- you will never doubt how cuckoo Arizona GOPers can be.
Nativism, fear-mongering, and Mexican-baiting are key ingredients to this toxic Republican stew. One of the main reasons U.S. Senator John McCain was censured at the same January meeting was his support of "amnesty," meaning immigration reform in any guise whatsoever.
Even the reputedly sane Republicans feel obliged to cater to this lunatic asylum of party activists.
Indeed, the Republican primary this year featured loads of tuskers calling each other out as Obama lovers, using photos of the president like researchers using a "conditioned stimulus" in classic Pavlovian experiments.
In other words, say "Obama" and Sand Land Rs start to froth.
Look at the hysteria whipped up by the Rs in response to the women and children crossing the Mexico-Texas border.
It quickly became the dominant issue in the gubernatorial primary, and soon even GOP moderates like former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith were pandering to the racists in the party.
This crisis never really affected Arizonans much. But why let an excuse to bash brown folk go to waste?
— DJ Quinlan (@djquinlan) September 15, 2014
AZ Democratic Party Executive Director DJ Quinlan admits Noble denounced Pearce before the Dems did
Similarly, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery's recent embrace of anti-Muslim McCarthyism in the form of disgraced ex-FBI agent John Guandolo -- who thinks the current CIA director is a secret convert to Islam -- is a hunk of raw liver for baying right-wing hounds.
Montgomery, a Republican with ambitions for higher office, knows better than to bring this guy to town to teach bigoted propaganda about Muslims to local law enforcement, as he still plans to do. But such is the price of success in local Republican politics.
In Legislative District 6, the GOP chose former state Senator Sylvia Allen to replace former state Senator Chester Crandell, after Crandell fell off a horse and croaked.
Allen has a history almost as infamous as Pearce's. She has publicly declared that the Earth is 6,000 years old, that exhaust from airplanes are "chemtrails" created by the government to poison people, that trees are "stealing Arizona's water supply," and that the United Nations is plotting to take over the United States.
Running for that same seat is a sane Republican, Tom O'Halleran, who has served both in the state House and the state Senate. But he's running as an Independent, because too many of his fellow Republicans regard him as a RiNO, "Republican in Name Only."
Given such examples, what was different this time with Pearce's call for tubal ligations for poor women?
Well, for one, it's an election year, and there are a number of tight races up for grabs. And the only power Pearce really had as first vice chair derived from his cult of personality.
But I give Sean Noble of consulting firm DC London credit for doing what a lot of Rs have not done in the past: speaking out publicly against Pearce and calling on him to remove himself from party leadership.
Granted, Noble had a selfish reason for tweeting his denunciations of Pearce early on, as he supports several Republicans in this campaign cycle.
But to its credit, DC London has worked against Pearce's influence for a couple of years now, blocking his return to the Legislature and crushing his brother Lester Pearce's attempt to become a Maricopa County supervisor.
Noble was first out of the gate with a condemnation of Pearce and a demand for his scalp.
In fact, he beat the Dems to the punch, as even Arizona Democratic Party Executive Director DJ Quinlan admits, since Noble's attack on Pearce preceded the predictable pounce on Pearce by the Ds.
The first Republican candidate to blast Pearce on his sterilization comments was GOP contender for attorney general Mark Brnovich, who compared Pearce's words to the horrors of communism that his mom experienced in the former Yugoslavia.
Noble's DC London is managing Brnovich's campaign, natch. And Brnovich's Democratic rival, Felecia Rotellini, surely would have hanged Pearce's comments around Brnovich's neck.
After Noble and Brnovich got in their licks, a number of Republican candidates piled on.
Pearce tried to hold out, but in the end, his resignation note was written for him -- literally, according to my sources.
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Does it matter whether this newly discovered sense of shame is motivated by political expediency or disgust or both?
Not to my mind. But for Pearce's resignation to have a lasting impact, sane Sand Land Rs will have to stop shining on the wackos.
Meanwhile, their party remains, like the coffee, Chock full o'Nuts.