Among the weirdness of Phoenix, here's one that stood out. I went down to Union Station on one of regular pilgrimages, to this building that represented so much of the city that's gone yet I still love. When they finally find a way to tear it down, I'll be gone for good. Outside the nearby immense Maricopa County jail complex, uniformed correctional officers and deputies stood smoking. Down the street, work was continuing on the new courts building, yet another dreadful dehumanizing edifice plopped into the public square. It was shift change and workers were walking to their cars past Sheriff Joe's men. The laborers were all Hispanic, all speaking Spanish, all passing without a care. The coppers didn't even glance at them.
How many were really citizens or legal migrants? Did it even matter? I saw this all over Phoenix. Whatever fear or outmigration the Jim Crow anti-immigrant SB-1070 provoked, Hispanics are everywhere and everywhere working. It reinforced my belief that the law is more about voter suppression and keeping them in their place than any cry for help because Washington failed to "secure the border." Even with the migration of millions of Midwesterners, Phoenix can't escape its heritage as a Southern town, especially with segregation. And on the other side of the tracks remains the huge underclass that keeps the low-wage economy going. It wouldn't surprise me if the 2010 Census showed the city with close to a Hispanic majority.
Most work hard and play by the rules. Some want to earn money and return to Mexico. Most want to be Americans. To be sure, they face virulent bigotry not unlike that endured by the Irish and Italians before them. Unfortunately, Phoenix is a poor melting pot. It lacks the economy with the rungs in the ladder to allow most to rise. The education system is among the worst in America, including the joke of the "charter school movement." And yet the man who has presided over not only its continuing miserable performance but a worsening is on his way to a new public office. Meet the new Attorney General, Tom Horne.
Arizona is crazier than most states but hardly unique. As this blog argued before it became fashionable, the Kookocracy is spreading national. Substitute large corporate interests for the Real Estate Industrial Complex as the shadow backers for "a grassroots movement" and you get the picture. "Low-information" voters, media dominated by right-wingers, demagogues such as Arpaio, tools like Jan Brewer, well-funded "conservative" "think tanks" and the NRA driving policy, turning legitimate worries and grievances away from their rightful targets (Republican policies) toward brown people and "socialists." Presto: The Tea Party.
Arizona has been a proving ground for Tea Party policies for more than 20 years. The result: Economic and social disaster. And yet watch the state reload before shooting itself in the foot yet again (in a bar, legally).