The Farley Report from Phoenix #213: 11-6-14

As Farley Report readers know, this isn't your typical email blast from a politician. If it ever becomes one, I will stop sending it entirely. I don't want to inflict that on you.

Aren't you relieved that the email season is over? 

No more all-lower-case subject lines and weird alternate font characters from constantly shifting senders for the same candidates, aiming to confound your spam filters? No more use of the capital-letter O instead of the numeral 0 ($1O,OOO,OOO instead of $10,000,000) to shock you into how much your favorite candidate's opponent is raising from the Koch Brothers or Boehner? No more desperate pleas to beat artificial deadlines, and concocted nightmare scenarios, and assembly-line identical emails with identical language from candidates in different parts of the country?

I have to say, our homogenized, consultant-driven, money-focused campaign system is on the verge of breakdown. It appears more aimed to confound than enlighten. Candidates across the US were strictly limited by advisors to safe, generic poll-tested messaging as billions of dollars in dark money unleashed by the Citizens United decision were invested in 30-second spots aimed at spreading lies and trashing different opponents in similar ways in every state.

The result of all this was an electorate that turned away from our democratic duties in record-setting numbers, burnt out and disgusted by the whole scene and wanting no part of it. Statewide as I write this turnout is at 37.45%, the lowest turnout for a general election since we started keeping records 70 years ago. There are still votes being counted, but The previous low was 46% in 1998.

I understand why people didn't turn out, since candidates' expressions of why folks should vote FOR them were drowned out by their consultants' and backers' ads yelling about why folks should vote AGAINST their opponents. And, call me old-fashioned, but I believe reasonable, moderate people turn out when they feel motivated to vote FOR someone. 

But I don't accept that as an excuse. As Americans, our founders bequeathed us a grand democratic experiment that depends on an informed, motivated electorate that takes part in the public realm in the form of elections. People in new democracies around the world proudly wave their purple-inked thumbs in the air after waiting in line for hours on end, braving marauding gangs in some cases, to exercise their hard-fought right to vote. Surviving negative 30-second spots to find out the truth on our own and then vote that truth doesn't seem so hard in comparison as a way to honor that sacred trust we all share as Americans.

In this context, while the outcome wasn't quite what I had hoped for, I am pleased that in the face of that rightward headwind blowing across the country we Democrats in the Arizona Senate at least maintained our current membership. Voters have maintained our 17-13 Republican-majority party division as we enter a year that will bring tremendous challenges to keep our state fiscally afloat and schools funded as we face the dual threats of continued economic stagnation and the gaping budget holes left by arbitrary corporate tax giveaways that their proponents promised us would fix the stagnation years ago.

There are solutions to these challenges, and I will advocate as hard as I can to enact them. We can finally tackle the revenue hemorrhaging from more than $12 billion in special interest tax loopholes currently in our sales tax code, like the infamous 4" pipe exemption. We can agree to prune back previously enacted corporate tax cuts that are not yet fully phased in, especially given the statistical lack of correlation between absurdly low business taxes and economic growth. 

Here's just one example that refutes the corporate-cuts-induce-growth argument -- according to the Tax Foundation, Minnesota has the third-worst business tax climate in the country, but its economic growth is the 13th highest in the country.  Arizona has the 23rd best business tax climate and is among the worst for economic growth. 

Low corporate taxes are great when the school system and transportation system are working, but no matter how low they are, businesses won't move or stay here and create jobs if they can't find well-educated employees, well-funded schools for their kids, and good transportation to get employees to work and goods to market. 

The solutions are not innately partisan. While I don't have the majority with which I had hoped to govern, our Medicaid expansion proved successful governance can happen from the minority. Success comes not just from numbers, but from ideas, persuasion, and unexpected relationships, often with people you tried to defeat in the very recent past. Although a two-year elections cycle makes this difficult, at some point we as representatives of the people have to stop running for office and start governing. This would be an excellent time to do so.

We are not as demonic as we were portrayed by our opponents in the recent elections, nor are they as demonic as we portrayed them. While we may not have voted for them, they are now our colleagues, endorsed by their constituents, and they are also looking for solutions from a different perspective. I welcome their ideas as we serve all Arizonans together.

Along those lines, I look forward to working with President Biggs, Speaker Gowan, and our new Governor Ducey as a partner to put real solutions in place. Doug and I were Toll Fellows together a few years back (a bipartisan national leadership training program for senior level elected officials and staffers from around the country) and we spent some time talking about our mutual desire to put ideology aside and find ways to work together on policy. I called him yesterday to congratulate him and he told me he still wants to do just that -- we plan to meet in the next month to talk ideas. 

As all of you who have lived on this earth for any length of time know, life does not always give you want you want. But, to quote Mick Jagger, sometimes you get what you need. Arizona needs our elected officials to work together to fix our problems. For the next two years, I will redouble my efforts to do just that. 

Thanks for your continuing faith in me as your Senator. 


Steve Farley

Senator, District 9, Tucson


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