So I wasn’t sure what to expect from a story that National Journal was going to write on Arizona politics. Sure, its NJ, so there will be a bit of a slant leftwards as there usually is, but the interview I gave to James Oliphant, the author, was really pleasant, and the questions gave me hope that someone was going to actually get it right for a change. Then you see the headline and realize “Better luck next time!”
Rather than waste an opportunity though, I figured I’d make the most of today’s media (social in particular) and provide the sort of instant rebuttal that people never used to have. I’m sure my response won’t generate nearly the amount of hits that the original article will, but a year from now someone looking for that story on a search engine will see it ranked at the top and my response will be somewhere on that first search page as well. In that way, the truth has a chance.
First, no one “hijacked” anything. Hijacking is a violent act defined as “stealing, seizing by force, swindling or extorting” and winning elections in the state of Arizona is none of those. But it immediately sets the tone and prejudices the reader. Then he lists three derogatory nicknames for me all designed to read like I’m the Devil which he says came from “local press”, giving them credibility, like it was some agreed upon perception. He never reveals that all three nicknames come from the same disgruntled New Times columnist who just really dislikes my politics.
Then he labeled me a “carpetbagger” in my early 30’s who moved to Arizona looking for a way into campaigns. Well that’s silly. I have been involved in campaigns since I was a teenager and I was in Arizona getting my MBA (and doing some campaign work) in my 20’s before moving back to Arizona in my early 30’s. Note the use of “carpetbagger” (DEF: An outsider, especially a politician, who presumptuously seeks a position or success in a new locality), another sly way of creating a negative perception. Apparently, caring deeply about the issues and getting involved in the political process is presumptuous at the National Journal.
Most of the rest of the article is slightly out of focus, never enough that you’d get a retraction printed, but enough that the truth is lost. It shows up in small fibs designed to provide the piece color, like our conversation being served over “slabs of sourdough.” I love the way that reads, almost musically. Sadly though, I had french toast and he had biscuits smothered in gravy — no one had sourdough. And in word choices… My clients are “fringe” who have to be “more provocative.” Hardly. Nor have I ever claimed one-third of the Legislature is my client. I’ve never had more than 25 legislative clients in office at one time. And candidates who run with public financing is a smaller and smaller part of the mix here in Arizona. For many races it is no longer practical to run using Clean Elections.
There is the almost mandatory use of statistics, this time to attempt to prove the majority of voters were somehow not involved in electing the Legislature. “35,500 voters determined the Legislature’s composition” is a game where you figure out the margins of victory and show how “narrow” the winning margin is in an effort to erode a claim to having a mandate. Well, if Romney had won 350,000 more votes spread over four states (including big ones like Florida, Ohio, and Virginia), he would have become President. But you won’t read National Journal writing about Obama’s narrow election courtesy of a liberal fringe.
Then the story wanders off into the tired proposition that conservatives and business interests are enemies working at opposite goals. Frankly, the vast majority of my clients are endorsed by the Chambers of Commerce and groups like NFIB, and the tremendous success that those groups have enjoyed at the Legislature over the last decade are due in large part to the conservatives I helped elect. Yes, we definitely disagree on some high-profile issues, but lower taxes, less regulation, and a better economic climate is a shared goal and if you look at the results, Arizona has been the winner.
Which is where the article ultimately fails. Arizona is #1 in the country for new startups, is among the nation’s leaders in job creation, has enjoyed a great deal of success in wooing major relocations from Fortune 500 companies, and the general mood of the public here is better than in most states. Moreover, the majority of voters have a favorable view of their Legislature in spite of the incessant drumbeat of negative stories that the Arizona and national media likes to generate. An honest piece of liberal journalism might lament the fact that Arizonans seem to like their conservative legislature, but this piece couldn’t even admit it.