Barring a Donald Trump Doomsday, 2016 Wasn't As Bad As You Thought For Arizona Politics

I have a very low bar for the incoming Donald Trump administration: no nuclear fallout.

Everything else, within reason, can be fixed. But that radiation thing is a little hard to roll back. So if Trump can avoid the use of a nuclear device in the next four years, I predict the nation will endure.

Meanwhile, the left’s sackcloth-and-ashes routine over Trump's beating Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College was enervating in the extreme; the harebrained drive by progressives to get Republican electors to vote against Trump was both absurd and dangerous.

I mean, do we really want electors — chosen by their respective political parties to cast largely ceremonial votes — to start picking whomever they want for POTUS? What if the roles were reversed and wingnut groups across the country were urging Democrat electors not to vote for Hillary, using the same tactics? Progressives would pitch a fit, and claim a coup was under way.

A little advice to my lefty pals: No one likes a whiner. Yeah, HRC won the popular vote, and the Electoral College is an anachronism that we need to jettison, but changing the rules after the game only works when you’re 12 years old and playing fort in your backyard.

Russian hacking? Yep, it helped the Donald propaganda-wise, but I disagree that it was a deciding factor. Look at the Billy Bush videotape of Trump boasting about grabbing women “by the pussy.” That wasn’t “hacked” by anyone, and by all rights, it should have ended Trump’s candidacy. But it didn’t, largely because of the many flaws of Clinton and her campaign. The richest irony of the race is that HRC lacked an ability her husband has in spades — to talk to average people in the vernacular — while a billionaire New Yawk real-estate tycoon was able to do precisely that.

If Democrats will end their crybabying and start thinking strategically, they will see that things are not as bad as they imagine. True, when I say this, I feel a little like Eric Idle at the end of Monty Python’s classic religious satire Life of Brian, leading an endless line of people dying by crucifixion in a jaunty “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”

But if Hillary had won in the Electoral College, a Republican Congress would have spent the next four years seeking to impeach her. The political deadlock in D.C. would have continued. And the recession that some economists tell us is likely in the next four years would have been blamed — rightly or wrongly — on the Democrats.

Beginning in January, Republicans will be fully in control of the reins of power. In other words, it’s all on them. And there’s a lot of stuff they can screw up.

Take the economy. Unemployment is low, inflation is nearly nonexistent, and gas prices (in metro Phoenix) are right around $2 per gallon of regular. Sure, growth is sluggish, but we aren’t in a recession. Compared to the financial crisis George W. left Obama with in 2008, Trump has zip to complain about.

As far as international relations go, we still have soldiers in Afghanistan and other places, and we face a constant global threat from radical Islamist terrorism, but the nation is not “at war.”

And yet, even before taking office, Trump has been causing diplomatic incidents with China and refusing daily intelligence briefings. As former CIA director Leon Panetta recently pointed out (and ex-Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge agrees with him), if there is a 9/11-like terrorist attack on U.S. soil in the next four years and Trump has been dodging intelligence briefings, the president will be the goat.

Same goes for the economy. If Trump begins ripping up trade deals left and right — as he has been promising to do — and the economy tanks, Trump and the Republicans will not be able lay that at the Democrats’ doorstep.

I concede that Trump’s rhetoric toward Mexicans and Muslims, and his threats of an immigration crackdown, are troubling. But in this battle, the Democrats will be wearing the white hats, and civil-rights activists will be our heroes. On the other hand, if Trump emulates Nixon on China and seeks a real fix on immigration, Democrats should seek common ground.

What about Trump’s appeal to white supremacists? In June, the Pew Research Center reported that births by minorities in the U.S. had surpassed births by non-Hispanic whites, a growing trend for the foreseeable future. Demographics will trump Trump and the neo-Nazis in the end. Our future is multiracial, and unless white folk start gettin’ busy like never before, there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

On the local front, there were some significant victories in 2016 for both the pragmatic and the progressive. Chief among these: Sheriff Joe Arpaio is history. Of course, it only took 24 years to get rid of the alter-kocker autocrat, but Democratic and Republican voters alike were weary of him wasting our money on his perennial “Joe shows” — like his latest “birther” press conference, one final reminder of the profligate idiocy of this man, which will soon become a bad memory.

With Arpaio’s fall and the defeat of Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell, Democrats have a genuine opening in the state’s most populous county, with two promising faces who might end up being candidates for higher office: Sheriff-elect Paul Penzone and Recorder-elect Adrian Fontes. Though Republicans still have a registration advantage in the county, the Ds have been whittling it down. And if Penzone and Fontes live up to expectations and remake and re-energize their offices, they will help close that gap.

Also this year, Arizona’s smelliest political skunk — Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu — lost in the First Congressional District general election race to Democrat Tom O’Halleran. The 1999 home video of Babeu making light of abuses at the creepy boarding school for wayward teens he once helped run (with which the Democrats carpet-bombed voters during the campaign) may have caused irreparable damage. Stick a fork in him? We can only hope. At any rate, be grateful to his sister Lucy for putting that video in the public domain.

U.S. Senator John McCain’s victories over his primary rival “Chemtrail Kelli” Ward and his general-election foil, outgoing CD1 Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, are both positive developments. McCain pulverized Ward, a walking PayDay bar who represents the Alex Jones wing of the Arizona GOP. Maybe Ward will follow through on her promise to challenge Senator Jeff Flake in the 2018 Republican primary — there’s nothing more fun than watching a nut get crushed twice.

Dems will gag on this, but because of McCain’s status in the U.S. Senate and his prominence as an elder statesman in the Republican Party, he will be more influential as a check on Trump than Kirkpatrick would be as a Democrat consigned to the minority. McCain has been critical of Trump during and after the election and has promised that the Senate will not act as a rubber stamp. Think what you will of him, but the man believes in his country, and he will not sit quietly if Trump seeks to drag us all to ruin.

As for the failure of Prop 205 — the ganja-legalization initiative — even that’s not as great a loss as it seems. It remains no big deal in this state to get a medical pot card if you want one, and Arizona now touches three states (Colorado, Nevada, and California) that have legalized weed for personal use.

So if you really feel the need to get baked legally (without a medical ganja card), cross the California border and light up. Or do what intelligent people do in this state: Get high at home, quietly, with your front door closed. You’ll be amazed at how many people leave you alone.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons