Tuesday, March 08, 2011

What The Hell Is Wrong With Arizona? Let's Start With Trent Franks


After Roy Ashburn, a by then chastened California Republican state Senator, was arrested, drunk, in a car with a young male prostitute he apologized, sincerely, for leading an anti-gay Republican jihad in the state Senate and tried to explain why he had done it. There is no member of the U.S. Congress who should pay more attention than vicious homophobe and closet case Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ):
Patt Morrison: "A lot of people, gay or straight, are probably wondering why you voted even against issues like insurance coverage for same-sex partners."

Senator Roy Ashburn: "The best I can do is to say that I was hiding. I was so in terror I could not allow any attention to come my way. So any measure that had to do with the subject of sexual orientation was an automatic 'no' vote. I was paralyzed by this fear, and so I voted without even looking at the content. The purpose of government is to protect the rights of people under the law, regardless of our skin color, national origin, our height, our weight, our sexual orientation. This is a nation predicated on the belief that there is no discrimination on those characteristics, and so my vote denied people equal treatment, and I'm truly sorry for that."

Why bring it up today? Well, aside from having learned nothing from the torment of a dozen Republican colleagues-- like him frightened and hysterical closet cases who have gone out of their way to target gay families for abuse and have then been outed, disgraced for hypocrisy and shunned-- Franks is seriously considering a run for the open Arizona Senate seat being abandoned by Jon Kyl. If he does enter the race, he sets up a social versus fiscal conservative primary battle with Jeff Flake, a far more respected Goldwater-type Republican-- far right but not a drooling hate-monger. Franks is a drooling hate-monger and the primary campaign will be a bizarre circus. And in red, red Arizona, it's likely whoever emerges the winner will be going to the U.S. Senate. This morning I re-read a passage that struck with me about the political situation in Arizona in Will Bunch's extraordinary book, The Backlash.
It is here-- in a land of luscious painted deserts bisected by blue highways, in the forty-eighth state, in practically the farthest corner of the United States from the temperate, coastal habitat of the Founding Fathers-- where the rubber finally met the road for backlash against the presidency of Barack Obama. It is as if the rising mercury in these arid badlands was symbolic of the skyrocketing political temperatures, where the promise of an American melting pot gave way to the realities of immigration and fears over our national identity in the twenty-first century.

Arizona had it all. The loose strands of unrest that you witnessed in other corers of the United States-- the gun worship of Knob Creek, the strange notion that Barack Obama was "not American," all the paranoia about Washington and "socialists" and big government-- were all wrapped together there with a big xenophobic bow. Geographically, this might be the extreme lower-left corner of America, but it was increasingly clear that the Grand Canyon State was the center of a great divide cleaving the nation in two.

The rest of the nation probably should have seen in coming. Political rage had been simmering here for years-- even when economic good times and a real estate boom tamped down the natural tensions between a mostly white, older, transient citizenry and a blue-color work force heavily comprised of undocumented Hispanics. The angry background noise was also submerged in the 2008 elections when the moderate and-- at the time, anyway-- self-proclaimed maverick Republican John McCain became the political face that Arizona was proud to show the rest of the nation. In particular, the middle-of-the-raod albeit occasionally mixed signals that the longtime GOP senator sent out on immigration meant that most outsiders weren't aware of just how angry the talk had become on the radio down in McCain's hometown, and many didn't know about the armed Arizonans patrolling the barren border regions or harassing the day laborers.

...[T]he passion of the anti-Obama uprising swept like a flash flood into the very corridors of the statehouse there, in a flurry of some of the most powerful anti-Washington legislation enacted since the day 150 years ago that South Carolina had actually seceded from the union in a similar jumble of concerns over states' rights-- and skin color. In a remarkable two-week stretch, the Arizona legislature enacted a law that made it easier for rank-and-file citizens to carry guns in public, nearly added an arcane ballot rule for presidential candidates aimed to sow uncertainty about Obama's citizenship, and allowed law enforcement officers to use racial profiling to make arrests and create a climate of fear among Latinos. The three bills may have seemed quite different from each other, but they collectively demonstrated the head start Arizona had when it came to the backlash. Together these pieces of legislation contained all the seeds that had been planted by the far-right radicals ever since Obama's election, and they all addressed the same problem in the eyes of white conservatives wielding political power, "manning the barricades of civilization," in the historian Hofstadter's famous phrase, against the invasion of the dark-skinned Others.

Thus, it is Arizona where the world is seeing the dire consequences of this whole backlash movement-- the most alarming rips in the very fabric of national unity in a century and a half, a nation that appears to be coming apart at the seams for a second time in its young history.

...It should come as no surprise that it was Arizona where the Tea Parties blossomed early. The ideas of the Tea Party "like minds," which included Beck's 9-12ers, gun aficionados, and the militia-friendly, spread quickly among voters here, proceeding rapidly up the political totem poll, where careen-driven politicians were eager to translate the most extreme of these into law. Under the sun-soaked sheen of red-tiled roofs, this was a state of paranoia, a place where men now brandished their legal weapons at the edge of speeches by Obama and where a pastor openly prayed for the president's death.

Enter Trent Franks, a fifth rate opportunistic rug rat with no education beyond high school and nothing to offer but naked bigotry and an ability to appeal to the lowest common denominator of the most nihilistic among the extremists. It could only work in a place like Arizona. His overall lifetime ProgressivePunch score is a startling 1.78-- worse than Michele Bachmann, worse than Virginia Foxx, worse than Steve King, worse than Darrell Issa... worse than any member of Arizona's uber-right wing congressional delegation. (Flake's score, by way of comparison, is 7.23.)

Angry at the world because of his deformed appearance-- he's had 9 unsuccessful operations to fix a cleft palate and lip-- and his urge for sexual contact with other males, he was an activist for religious sociopath James Dobson and his hate group, Focus on the Family. He's led unsuccessful ballot initiatives in Arizona to ban abortions, use tax dollars to pay for private schools and replace the progressive income tax with one favoring the very rich, before going to work as a consultant on the presidential campaign of Pat Buchanan. He's also fanatically opposed to online gambling and is probably best known for claiming "Far more of the African American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by the policies of slavery," for referring to President Obama as "an enemy of humanity," and for a series of bizarre anti-Muslim assertions

He served two years, 1985-1987 in the Arizona House of Representatives and came in third in a reelection bid after he was reportedly discovered having sex with a man inside the Capitol. Now, as part of the lifelong cover-up, he wants to file impeachment charges against Obama over DOMA

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