Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Joe Arpaio-- What Recalls Were Invented To Remedy


-by Bob Lord

Progressives across America have a rare opportunity.

Joe Arpaio, the megalomaniacal sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, is the face of racism in America today. He is facing a well-organized recall campaign. Arpaio has been elected six times, dating back to 1992, by raising zillions of dollars from right-wing ideologues and using the funds to play to the fears of Maricopa’s conservative population base, particularly the fearful senior citizens in the retirement communities west of Phoenix, while smearing his opponents with horrifically deceitful ads. But each election has been a tougher sell for Arpaio than the one before. Last November, he squeaked by with 50.7% of the vote.

I’d need a few hundred paragraphs even to summarize all of Arpaio’s vicious acts as Sheriff. The Phoenix New Times has printed dozens of full-length articles exposing his depraved actions over the years, which range from stripping prisoners of all human dignity and forcing them to exist on food I would not give to my dogs, to flagrantly violating Arizona’s campaign laws, to diverting virtually all resources to immigrant harassment while failing to investigate the rape and molestation of women and children in El Mirage, to illegally misspending $100 million of taxpayer funds, to costing Maricopa County $70 million in successful lawsuits filed against it, to illegally harassing and intimidating his political opponents, to unconscionably and systematically engaging in practices fully intended to tear apart the County’s Latino community and inflict as much misery as humanly possible. Perhaps the best summation of Arpaio is that he once said it was an honor to be compared to the Ku Klux Klan.

So, could this public menace, this scourge on our society, be removed from office through Arizona’s recall process? Is this a cause worth fighting for?

Enter Randy Parraz, labor leader, community organizer, civil rights activist, and progressive hero. In 2011, Parraz decided it was time for Russell Pearce, author of Arizona’s infamous SB1070 and close Arpaio ally, to go. Pearce was no easy target. As the representative of a deep red district and President of the State Senate, Pearce had power and money on his side. When Randy approached me for help, I said “Randy, you’re f*$%ing crazy, but I’ll help you anyhow.” Well, Randy wasn’t crazy. He was whip smart, with energy to match. He succeeded against all odds. Russell Pearce was the first leader of a State Senate in U.S. history to be recalled. And when he ran in the 2012 election, he was beaten again.

Randy has made it his mission to recall Arpaio. This time, I’m betting Randy can succeed, as long as he gets the financial help. So, will he get the help?

Arpaio’s recall should be a cause for progressives not just in Arizona, but nationally. Even if you’re not sufficiently moved by the need to stop Arpaio from inflicting more misery on Maricopa County’s minorities, you should be behind this as a strategic initiative for several reasons. First, the process of recalling Arpaio will be productive, even if the signature goal is not reached or Arpaio survives the recall election. Successful or not, the recall effort means hundreds of signature gatherers going to door-to-door in Latino neighborhoods registering new voters. Successful or not, the recall effort means causing Arpaio’s right-wing donors to burn through cash at a rate in excess of ten dollars for every dollar spent on the recall effort. Successful or not, the recall effort means a light is shone on Arpaio’s corruption far more intensely than it ever has been shone before.

Of course, the rewards of an unsuccessful recall effort pale in comparison to those of a successful recall effort, a goal I believe is well within reach. If the recall succeeds, hundreds of thousands of immigrants will be freed from Arpaio’s harassment and intimidation. If the recall succeeds, the budget of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office will be used to fight crime for the first time in 20 years. If the recall succeeds, a clear message will be sent to every Arpaio wannabe, both inside and outside Arizona. If the recall succeeds, persecuted groups nationwide will be emboldened to stand up and fight their oppressors. If the recall succeeds, Randy Parraz will be thrust onto the national stage. For those who seek real change, one Randy Parraz easily is worth about 100 mealy-mouthed, contribution-driven, self-absorbed Congressional Reps.

Can this effort succeed? Absolutely. The trend line shows Arpaio doing worse in each election. Projecting out one more election (the recall) he’ll be below 50%. And the dynamics of a recall could be far less favorable for him than his previous elections. Unlike past Arpaio campaigns, he won’t be a down ballot race in a Presidential year, so his antics will receive far more scrutiny, the coattail effect will be eliminated, and the cost of ad time for his opponent will be far lower. More significantly, recall election candidates in Arizona do not face primaries-- they go straight to the general. If Arpaio is forced to face a sane Republican one on one, the way Pearce had to in 2011, he’s toast. So, yes, this effort can succeed.

As long as Randy Parraz gets the financial help he needs.

This one is not a brainer. Anyone who wants to help can go here for more information.

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At 10:42 AM, Blogger John said...

If I may play lawyer, Arpaio is also what stiff federal civil rights violation indictments exist to remedy.

Good luck on either avenue.

John Puma

At 2:15 AM, Blogger gcwall said...

The reason that Arpaio, with his costly and terrible record, is voted for sheriff term after term is that a majority of Arizona voters believe that the mistreatment of prisoners, ridiculous security costs to protect Arpaio and a racist view of immigrant prosecution are desirable traits in a sheriff. Arizona voters don't seem to mind the $70 million paid in fines for the way he carries out his duties and uses his police powers to harass political opponents and critics.


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