Thorpe's latest bill, HB 2277, seeks to designate "American free-market capitalism" as the state's official political-economic system.
As Thorpe explains in the legislative intent section of the bill, he's concerned that The Youths are all converting to socialism because they don't know better:
A. The legislature intends that taxpayer dollars not be used to promote or to provide material support for any political-economic system that opposes the principles of free-market capitalism, including socialism, communism and fascism.
B. Polling has demonstrated an alarmingly high percentage of individuals under forty years of age who appear to not understand either:
1. The history and positive national and international impacts of the American political-economic system of free-market capitalism or how America's public policies have helped to promote individual freedoms, home ownership, private property rights, innovation, economic activity, an abundance of food, an enhanced quality of life and prosperity.
2. The history, negative impacts and loss of freedom suffered by individuals living under non-American political-economic systems, including socialism, communism and fascism.
Designating anything as the state's official ______ (fill in the blank) is usually pretty meaningless. Arizona's official state mammal is the ring-tailed cat, and literally no one cares.
However, the prohibition on "material support" is pretty alarming. Taken to an extreme, it could potentially mean that state universities would be banned from providing any resources to campus chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America. Some local socialists worry that it could also be used to prevent socialist candidates from receiving Clean Elections funding.
Likewise, a ban on "promoting" socialism, communism, or fascism could theoretically be construed to mean that you can't even teach those subjects. Similar language was used in Arizona's Mexican-American studies ban, which targeted courses believed to “promote resentment toward a race or class of people."
A federal judge recently ruled that the Mexican-American studies ban was unconstitutional. And any of the outcomes mentioned above almost certainly would be, too.
But introducing legislation that is aggressively reactionary and probably unconstitutional appears to be a theme for Thorpe. Last year, he tried to ban social justice classes and events that "advocate solidarity based on ethnicity." Then, he tried to stop college students from voting at their dorm addresses. The weirdest part about all of this is that he self-identifies as "a student of the U.S. Constitution."
Anyway, it's no secret a lot of young people have been joining Democratic Socialists of America lately, due to a wide variety of grievances with the capitalist system. (For the record, what DSA wants is not the same thing as fascism, at all.)
"I basically find it hilarious when right-wing baby boomers suddenly look up and notice that millennials all hate capitalism," said Andrew Hudson, a 30-year-old Medicare for All organizer with DSA Phoenix. "Then they're scrambling like, 'Crap, does anyone know how to do McCarthyism?'"
What's somewhat unusual is for a legislator to write a bill that accuses "individuals under forty years of age" of being ignorant and/or wrong because they aren't worshipping at the altar of capitalism. It's also extremely condescending.
"Thorpe's lack of awareness about Americans under 40 shows us just how far the Republican party is removed from what is actually happening," said Patrick Morales, the 25-year-old organizing director of Progressive Democrats of Arizona. "To assume anyone under 40 just doesn't understand politics is to assume you will still be in office after they vote."
In Flagstaff, where Thorpe resides, members of the Northern Arizona University chapter of Young Democratic Socialists of America pledged to fight the bill.
"At YDSA NAU, we have worked closely with individuals in the community that struggle with copious amounts of debt, homelessness, and poverty," the group wrote in an extended Twitter thread. "We have seen what 'free market' capitalism does to individuals in our town. It is inevitable that this legislation can and will hurt many people in our communities; including potential anti-capitalist politicians."
Overall, though, the reaction from young socialists can best be summed up as, "You scared?"
"Bob Thorpe and people like him are right to be concerned," wrote Jake Kless, a 19-year-old ASU student who identifies as a socialist. "There is a powerful shift in how young people view the American economic system, and capitalism is losing its place as the' only true, realistic option.' I think we care more about where wealth goes than how much wealth we can create."
Attempts to reach Thorpe for comment on Thursday were unsuccessful.
Update, 2/13: The House Federalism Committee, which Thorpe chairs, has voted to advance HB 2277.
Thorpe said that the bill wouldn't affect university funding. He also rejected the suggestion that he was calling young people ignorant.
"It was highly reported in the news that there are young people of different generations who think it would be great to Iive under socialism," he said. "It’s a terrible shame if young people are coming out of a college environment and they have a different perspective that living under fascism, socialism, communism, any of those '-isms' is preferable."
The bill passed 5-2, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed.
However, one of Thorpe's Republican colleagues, Representative Noel Campbell, was apparently at a loss for words.
“I want to support you but this bill… this is so…. I don’t even know what to say about it," he said. "I’m befuddled.”