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Prepare for the Battles to Come:10 Useful Lessons about the Arizonification of the USA

Photo credit: Frontera Fund
Written by Carmen Cornejo

Arizona used to be known as the anti-immigrant laws testing lab. Thanks to a group of extreme legislators commandeered by Russell Pearce, plus corrupt law enforcement agents like Joe Arpaio and ideologues like Jan Brewer, Arizona endured a decade of anti-constitutional agenda… and a slumping economy.

Now that Arizona has been rejecting these policies through litigation, advocacy, protesting, and voting out extreme conservatives, it is really sad to see the rise of Trumpism in the U.S. It’s as if Trump’s supporters have not been paying attention.

To prepare for the battles to come, we outlined the most important lessons we’ve learned from Arizona’s experience:

1. Never underestimate the fringe politicians and their ascent to power. Back in the day, Arizonans dismissed Russell Pearce’s racist rhetoric. They never calculated he would become Arizona’s most powerful Senate president and dominate the legislative agenda for years. Big mistake. His speeches were full of lies, exaggerations and conspiracy theories, just like Trump’s. His sources of information were Neo-Nazi sites, fake news and fake data sites. Many found Arpaio’s pink underwear and green bologna funny until the wrongful dead lawsuits and bills started to pile up. Do not underestimate the clowns and their power to sway the uneducated and resentful masses.

2. These Republicans are not your regular Republicans. They seem to belong to the party and represent some of its tenets. But do not be mistaken, they are not thinking about economic progress, you or your well-being. They need big ego trips that verge on the ridiculous. Remember when Arpaio deputized actor Steven Seagal and used a tank emblazoned with his name to execute a warrant against a cockfighting ringleader? Bravado is unconstitutional and costs money.

3. They pretend to support free enterprise, but they do not. They lack the knowledge of laws and the experience to improve the economy. Their actions only benefit those who donate to their campaigns, like the private prison industrial complex. Just reflect on Trump’s tweets about Boeing, falsely accusing the company to charge 4 billion dollars for Airforce One, which sent the company stock down.

Additionally, they will not be inclined to invest in education for all to develop the future labor force.

4. Their actions will be anti-constitutional. Authoritarianism is anti-constitutional. So is implementing laws and policies that single out a particular class of individuals. Be prepared for litigation defending the constitution.

5. Racial profiling is bad for the economy. After SB1070 was implemented, many Hispanics fled Arizona, to the delight of those promoting attrition through enforcement. But the economy suffered the attrition as well, and some sectors of the economy could not find a labor force for demanding jobs, such as working in construction in the Arizona heat.

6. Anti-immigrant extremists will end up in jail, or worse. Anti-immigrant radicals became Fox News media darlings. But many of them ended up in jail or killing people. Remember Minuteman co-founder Chris Simcox, the convicted child predator currently serving a 19.5-year prison sentence? Or Minuteman member Shawna Forde, who was charged with killing a girl and her father in an Arizona home invasion? Or J.T. Ready, the anti-immigrant Neo-Nazi who embarked on a murderous shooting spree that killed a 15-month-old baby, her mother, grandmother and her dad, before turning the gun on himself?

Given the conflicts of interest evident even before the inauguration, it is safe to say that there will be, at least, economic improprieties within Trump’s circle and their satellites.

7. Mexico is not your enemy but your valuable business partner. People of Mexican origin are used as scapegoats to unify the economic outliers of the globalized economy. But the economic ties between the countries are strong and should be stronger for strategic and logistic reasons. Just ask current Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, who presided over the Arizona-Sonora delegation, to forget and undo Jan Brewer’s actions. No wonder. NAFTA increased regional trade over its first two decades, from roughly $290 billion in 1993 to more than $1.1 trillion in 2016.

8. An attack on any of the members of the globalized economy is an attack on the future. We must stand together with all constituencies of multiculturalism: women, people of color, Jews, Muslims, religious minorities, and our brothers and sisters in the LGBT community. Multicultural, Multiethnic regional economies are more prosperous than the red states. It is the right, the moral thing to do and makes economic sense. 

9. You can fight back. Arizonans fought back by litigating, protesting, calling boycotts, organizing and registering more people to vote and become active in the electoral process. Thus, we got rid of Russell Pearce first and, later, Joe Arpaio. National groups are already picking the brains of longtime Arizona activists to organize on a national scale.

10. A new day will come. We will prevail! A new day will come to restore civility and constitutionality. We just need to have our guards up and stay involved.