Sorry, B-Rock, but I ain't feelin' it.
Democrats were understandably ecstatic last night at the Wyndham Phoenix Hotel. They chanted, "Yes We Can," along with Barack Obama on the wall-size TV screen as he gave his acceptance speech in Chicago. Afterward, they sang and clapped along with the Stevie Wonder hit Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours. Strangers slapped me on the back and offered me their fists to "bump" with mine.
I'm a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, and yes, I voted for Barack Obama. But his win gave me zero pleasure. Indeed, my frown deepened as the night wore on. That's because it was like reading about the belle epoque while landlocked in Siberia circa 1900. Or hearing about the French Revolution while slaving on some rice farm in feudal China. Sure, it all sounds great, but it don't help me none.
For while Obama swept the nation, and Dems won key victories in states like North Carolina, where Kay Hagen upset incumbent Republican Senator Elizabeth Dole, and in New Hampshire, where Jeanne Shaheen triumphed over GOP lizard-man Sen. John Sununu, we still live in the backward cactus patch of Maricopa County. Here the forces of reaction are unfettered, triumphant, and thirsty for revenge.
Of course, I'm referring to the reelection of County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who regularly run roughshod over civil liberties with nothing to fear from a compliant Board of Supervisors. Arpaio's win was disappointing, but expected. There are simply too many old, white geezers in this county who identify with our crusty top cop and admire the cruelty of his regime. Throw fear and hatred of Mexicans into the mix, and Dan Saban never had a chance.
The Saban campaign was all about a wiser use of law enforcement's resources. It's not like he ever said he was going to give illegal immigrants a free pass. And he would have kept Tent City as an overflow mechanism for the jails. He just promised responsible government, as well as an MCSO that didn't terrorize the innocent, punish its enemies, and allow malfeasance to end in the deaths of inmates and subsequent multi-million dollar payouts.
Voters rejected this platform in favor of jailhouse murders, widespread corruption, and the petty vindictiveness we've all come to associate with Sheriff Arpaio. It's as if the U.S. Constitution stops at the borders of Maricopa County, and Joe's Law (as he titled his recent memoir) begins. The majority of the electorate wants it this way. Indeed, I'm beginning to finally accept that injustice and consent to tyranny are in the soil here. It's not the first time in history that authoritarian regimes have been democratically elected, of course. It's just the first time I've been hermetically sealed in one.
The reelection of Thomas is even harder to swallow. He effectively hooked his wagon to Arpaio's decrepit, but still-popular, horse, doing ads with the sheriff, and riding the man's coattails for all it was worth. Tim Nelson battled him every step of the way. I watched Nelson campaigning up 'til the last minute in Laveen, where there were sometime hour-long lines to vote. The crowd was mostly Democratic, wearing Obama shirts and buttons. But too many of them had no idea what the County Attorney does, or who Andrew Thomas or Tim Nelson were.
One man in line who'd just spoken with Nelson and received literature from him kept confusing Nelson with Thomas, as I talked to him. The guy at least knew that he wanted to vote against Thomas. So in a way, he was one-up on many other Dems I spoke to, who didn't seem to grasp what the County Attorney even does.
"What we saw a lot of was so many people who went to the polls not yet decided on this race," Nelson told me after his concession speech at the Wyndham last night. "It's not that they were torn between two tough choices. They really weren't focused on it. We needed to get the word out a lot more."
I've got some news for the jubilant crowd at the Wyndham: Andrew Thomas and Joe Arpaio can come arrest you on trumped-up charges in the middle of the night any time they want. The Patriot Act aside, Thomas and Arpaio have far more power over you than the President of the United States ever will.
Sorry to go all geek on you, but remember what Yoda said about the Sith in Phantom Menace? "Always two there are...a master and an apprentice." Here Thomas is the understudy. He will rubber-stamp anything Arpaio does, no matter how extreme. The hope was to have Nelson defeat Thomas and become a check of sorts on Arpaio's power, much as Republican Rick Romley was on Arpaio when Romley was county attorney.
But now that possibility is kaput, and we all know that Attorney General Terry Goddard lacks the huevos to stand up to this dastardly duo. Governor Janet Napolitano will soon abandon us to near-complete Republican rule here in Sand Land so she can join the Obama administration in some capacity. Not that she was ever inclined to do much. The woman sticks her neck out for no one.
(Yes, she did take a million-plus away from Arpaio's efforts to round up brown folk earlier this year, but that's been about it. Has she ever spoken out forcefully against the sheriff's unconstitutional actions? You know, like Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon has done? Nah.)
The only scintilla of promise for justice in this benighted county is that a new Obama administration will eventually mean a new U.S. Attorney for Arizona. And a Democrat in that position might be willing to go after Arpaio on charges of corruption, abuse of power, or racial profiling.
But until then, there's little to be overjoyed about here, in spite of Obama's victory. Ours is truly a desert in more ways than one.
PS: For all the detractors suggesting I skedaddle, thanks much. Your hatred warms my cockles, and verifies what an evil little crew you all are. I think I'll stick around just to spite y'all. Heh.