Birthers, Birchers, and Assorted Republinuts Let Their Freak Flags Fly, While Dems Become the Party of Pot

I have a terrible confession: I heart Sand Land Republicans.

For a sheer boredom-killer, there's nothing like a congregation of them, such as at the Arizona GOP's mandatory January meeting, where I'm always entertained.

Where else can you watch a pretty conservative five-term U.S. senator be censured by his own party because he's not wingnutty enough?

Or see John Birch Society members slug it out with states' rights advocates over a constitutional convention that never will happen?

Much less observe the passage of a resolution calling for the abolition of the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which instituted the direct election of U.S. senators?

Sorry, Dems, you guys just can't compete.

Democrats hold a state meeting the same day in January as their GOP foils. This year, they had just three resolutions: one aimed at the American Legislative Exchange Council, an anti-fracking proposal, and a resolution supporting the legalization of pot.

The ALEC-basher was tabled, but the other two passed. The Dems now officially are Arizona's Pot Party, which is cool, though Ds may be even duller stoned.

Nothing mellow or dull about Arizona GOPers, who wear their wackiness on the sleeves, as they did this past Saturday at Grace Community Church in Tempe.

There, the censure of U.S. Senator John McCain was a triumph for the state Republicans' dominant faction, known by GOP moderates and everyone else as "the crazies."

In Arizona, the crazies are at perennial war with the so-called RiNOs, or Republicans in Name Only, the label that party moon-howlers give their non-insane brethren.

McCain is the top RiNO in the crazies' eyes, but they've never been able to vote him out.

In 2010, McCain bested the crazies' candidate, former congressman and radio lip-flapper J.D. Hayworth, by 24 points in a GOP primary.

Thus, democracy is suspect to the crazies, because even though their party controls Arizona, their faction does not enjoy the ascendancy they believes it deserves.

Which goes a long way toward explaining some of the resolutions (submitted as a package by the party's resolutions committee) that were passed on a voice vote.

This package included a resolution supporting Joe Arpaio, one against "amnesty," another praising the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (which deals with states' rights), a resolution that would ditch Republican primaries in favor of a caucus system, and a call for repeal of the 17th Amendment.

In the case of the caucus suggestion, nominees would be picked by party crazies, not voting Republicans at large, who are far more moderate than the activists who give up their Saturdays to vote on meaningless resolutions.

As for the 17th Amendment repeal, it'd take three-fourths of the states to repeal what the states ratified in 1913.

Doing so would return the nation to the corrupt process of letting the geniuses in our state legislatures pick U.S. Senators.

The 17th Amendment repeal and the caucus-primary swap are fave ideas of disgraced, recalled former state Senate President Russell Pearce, who currently serves as first vice chair of the Arizona GOP.

In fact, he authored a similar package of resolutions that passed the Maricopa County Republican Committee a couple of weeks before the state meeting.

No doubt Pearce would like a way to get into Congress without having to worry about winning over the electorate.

Alas, these resolutions are all pie in the sky. Nothing short of divine intervention can revive Pearce's moribund career, and God sure ain't on his side.

Sheriff Joe was on hand to blow some hot air and naturally received a standing ovation from the party faithful before and after his remarks.

He also earned general applause for declaring that he's still investigating President Obama's birth certificate.

Birtherism, the most debunked conspiracy theory in the history of conspiracy theories, remains red meat for these Rs. It's a divorce from reality that could rival Jared Loughner's.

After his speech, I asked Joe whether he believed Obama was born in Kenya.

Joe replied that he was merely stating that Obama's birth certificate was a "forged document."

Arpaio told me, "I don't know where he was born — that's not the issue."

I'm pretty sure that was the issue, Joe, for those dumb enough to buy that Jerome Corsi-World Nut Daily caca.

The sheriff denied that taxpayer money is getting used to pay for the snipe hunt. Or that he likes to mention the birther stuff because he knows he can score donations off it.

Arpaio, who is no McCain fan, would not say whether he supported the anti-McCain resolution.

However, when asked by reporters, other politicos present said they were against it. Among them: congressmen Trent Franks and Paul Gosar and gubernatorial candidates Christine Jones and Doug Ducey.

The censure resolution was not part of the package offered by the leadership. So censure author Timothy Schwartz and his fellow McCain-haters had to score enough signatures to put it to a vote.

Schwartz and his cohorts, backed by Pearce and county GOP Chair A.J. LaFaro, easily exceeded the number required.

A McCain censure had passed at the county party meeting, and as most of the state committeemen are from this county, passage at the state committee was all but assured.

McCain's sins? Working for immigration reform ("amnesty," as they call it), cooperating with Ds, flip-floppin', and being "eerily silent" against liberals, while he "publicly reprimands conservatives in his own party."

Isn't that what the crazies were doing — publicly reprimanding McCain?

In any case, the measure passed by an overwhelming voice vote, with a couple of people speaking on McCain's behalf beforehand.

Carole Klein, from Legislative District 23, said she supported the McCain censure on the county level but now felt the Rs were shooting themselves in the foot.

"The entire media and those people who are Independents and the Democrats look at this and say, 'Oh, look at the Republicans . . . They don't know which way they're going,'" she said.

She quickly was hooted down.

When the item passed, LaFaro practically leapt into the air, as if experiencing a full-body orgasm. I caught up with him outside and asked if the vote didn't make the party look nuts to outsiders.

"Nah, we're not nuts," he replied. "We are very, very passionate conservatives who believe in this great country."

What about Ronald Reagan's vision of the party as a big tent, accepting to all kinds of Rs?

"I think the big tent of Ronald Reagan has changed, don't you?" he answered.

I mentioned McCain's primary triumph in 2010, and LaFaro quickly shot back:

"And he's gonna lose the next one if he even thinks about running."

I challenged him to put a $20 bet on that proposition. LaFaro laughed off the offer, though I was as serious as a parson.

Well, if he can't even put $20 on it . . .

Censuring McCain was not the weirdest part of the meeting. That belonged to the donnybrook over whether the party should oppose any call for a constitutional convention.

On one side were the conspiratorial conservatives of the John Birch Society, and on the other was a sort of states' rights contingent against any Bircher restrictions on the right to call for a constitutional convention.

During the back and forth on this resolution, speakers invoked the specter of liberal billionaire George Soros, as well as of the dreaded Council on Foreign Relations (ooga-booga). Sure signs that you've stepped into a far-right fruit-loop convention.

The measure went down in flames, and our republic remains safe, or, um, not, depending on which wacko you chat with.

On a side note, I was heartened to see longtime Sergeant at Arms Alberto Gutier survive a Tea Party challenge to his position — one of the few contested — by a mere 100 votes.

Sure, Gutier, director of the governor's Office of Highway Safety, is a good guy.

But if a Tea Party dude had replaced him, I might be persona non grata at the next state GOP meeting and miss all the wackadoodle fun.

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