Attention Comedy Central: Here’s another one.

You’ve seen them before; Comedy Central stories with the “Arizona” dateline. Sometimes I think the network should be paying us for so regularly supplying prepackaged material for their staff writers. I mean, where else could they have found “Creationist” Rep. Sylvia Allen and her belief that the Earth is 6,000 years old…and now bring her back as the Chair of the Senate Education Committee?

While it is still early in the legislature’s season, they’re brewing up another one down at the Capitol: HB 2024.

It is not as clearly goofy as Ms. Allen’s material, but given the increasing antics of self-described “patriots,” it is timely. This one has to do with HB 2024 and it’s creartor Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley.

Basically, HB 2024 would provide ample opportunities for the State of Arizona to cut off ties with the federal government. So take that Texas!

But I digress and I want to provide some genuine assistance to Mr. Finchem.

First off, I believe that Mr. Finchem may have been misled on a number of matters that he suggests ought to be remedied by his proposed HB 2024.

If enacted, his legislation would put the brakes on any Arizona government spending to implement any presidential “executive order” until approved by Congress and found to be “constitutional.”

Now, to be fair to Mr. Finchem, his legislation is not limited to presidential executive orders. He also wants to protect us from the evils of “policy directives issued” by federal agencies. And as they say, “But wait! There’s more!” HB 2024 would also apply to the United States Supreme Court.

For those who are fans of “circular logic,” as with “orders” and “directives,” HB 2024 requires Supreme Court rulings be determined as being “IN PURSUANCE OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES.” That suggests Mr. Finchem envisions a Supreme Court that issues its rulings, adjourns and then reconvenes for the purpose of determining whether what they just did was constitutional or not, don’t you think?

A review of Mr. Finchem’s proposal suggests that his view of presidential “executive orders” in particular seems to have been shaped more by talking points than facts. He might be better informed by a quick Google search of “presidential executive orders,”  the first of which was issued by President George Washington. Washington ordered the “federal prosecution” of any citizen who was caught interfering with the war between England and France.

(By the way, given that the framers of the Constitution were still around and, we can safely assume, keeping a close eye on the government they just created, General Washington’s “executive order” was pretty much fine with them.)

The Google search would show him that most of the nearly 50,000 presidential orders tallied since the Nation’s founding are relatively mundane items dealing with the composition of committees, commissions and so forth with some clarifications of the administrative rulebook on how laws are enforced, while Congress deals with what the laws are. Mr. Finchem might be more informed on this by looking up President Obama’s recent order regarding guns in the Federal Register . If he needs help navigating the Register, they’ve produced a handy dandy video

All of that levity aside, HB 2024 would also apply to significant matters that have helped to form the bedrock of the United States. I’m sure it was an oversight, but perhaps he could be persuaded to amend his proposed legislation to exempt some “executive orders.” The “Emancipation Proclamation”  issued by President Abraham Lincoln ending slavery comes to mind.  ( They’ve even done a film about this:

But that’s not the end of it.

What should cause universal concern about HB2024, is that Mr. Finchem proposes the State of Arizona turn back the clock to 1803 before the Supreme Court decided Marbury v. Madison, the case establishing the Court as the body that decides what is or is not “constitutional.”

Because in Mr. Finchem’s HB2024 world, Supreme Court rulings would then be treated as little more than ‘suggestions,’ thereby incurring the expense of changing all middle school textbooks to delete references to “three coequal branches of government.”

So keep an eye on HB 2024 and Mr. Finchem. This one has “Comedy Central” possibilities.

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The “Wave” and Now What?

Okay. Enough whining and rationalization.

Republicans, both nationally and locally, began their march toward the 2014 “wave” 6 years ago when U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said their number one goal was making “Obama a one term president.”

Everything else they’ve done flowed from that pronouncement and was designed to make President Obama and Democrats look bad, no matter their successes.

And it worked.

Fixing the “Republican Recession” courtesy of George Bush the Second? It wasn’t good enough or fast enough.

Saving America’s auto industry and thousands of jobs? A government “bail-out.”

Doing for the health care of Americans what every president since Harry Truman, including Nixon, Reagan and Bush the First, had been trying to get accomplished: Universal access to health care and the elimination of some of the insurance industries more distasteful practices: “Obamacare,” “death panels,’ loss of one’s physician, you name it.

The government shutdown? It was Obama’s fault.

All of that and more: Obama isn’t a citizen, a Christian or, God save America, he’s a Black man.

The list is nearly endless, but the direction was always the same: Using an arsenal of tactics to support the, “one term president” strategy.

In sum, they couldn’t spew out distortions and outright lies fast enough in order to feed Fox news which, in turn, wove the day’s Republican talking points into “news,” for the consumption of Republicans whether calling themselves Conservatives or Tea Partiers.

In Arizona, filled with Republicans ready to accept such nonsense, the “wave” created by McConnell and crew, wiped out nearly every candidate save a few of our targeted members of Congress who had the resources and savvy to fight back.

The Arizona result: a newly minted Republican governor who made it through two elections as an “empty suit,” state school superintendent who dislikes education, secretary of state — the top election official, who led legislative efforts to suppress minority voting and a legislative majority prepared to continue regular appearances on “The Daily Show” for the next two to four years.

Democrats, both elected and those individuals and groups within the Party apparatus have played defense. And not very well.

At virtually every turn Democrats were caught up in the Republican political traps struggling to find a way out, only to become more entangled with hooks in their mouths.

We railed against the Koke brothers. We outed Tea Party Republicans and their new leader, Senator Ted Cruz.  Day after day, Democrats swung back like tennis players trying to win against a practice machine that kept firing balls across the net while we stumbled running back and forth trying to hit one back.

McConnell’s grand strategy was a huge success except for one tiny little problem: It failed to make the President a one-termer. But there was enormous collateral damage as millions of American’s, caught up in the GOP frenzy, had bought the anti-Obama, anti-Democrat, anti-government narrative.

All of this was not strong enough to offset the Democrat’s voter turnout and subsequent election of Barack Obama to a second term, while maintaining control of the U.S. Senate and watching the U.S. House turn into home base for Republicans who seemed to have been awakened from a frozen sleep induced sometime during the 19th century.

None of that derailed the McConnell plan. It was just fine-tuned and funded for 2014.

Republicans spent about a day licking their wounds after losing ground during the presidential election year. Then they got back to work, setting aside the “one term” president target in favor of just taking control of virtually the entire country.

Which they have.

Meanwhile, Democrats continued living in a dream world that, supported by the political infrastructure of pollsters, media consultants, strategists and party operatives, promised a return to power that was doomed to fail as their offensive squad only rarely made it on to the field.

The exceptions, foremost among them U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, detailed a strategy that, party labels aside, was exactly what Americans were looking for: Progressive Populism with a concrete plan to fix the economic imbalance between the rich and the rest of us.

Unions would get a fair set of rules to govern how they and corporations would coexist and the FCC would revisit the need for a return to the Fairness Doctrine so that radio, TV and Cable channels were required to present competing sides of issues.

Net neutrality would become the law of the land.

They talked about reining in Wall Street and prosecuting corporate leaders for devastating the country’s economy, stepping in to save a generation of young people from student loans that totaled in the trillions of dollars making credit card debt look minor.

They supported health care reform that eliminated insurance companies from the equation thereby freeing up billions of dollars in profits that would be used to make health care truly universal.

They exposed the American war machine that worked against peace to keep their profits flowing. And they called for campaign finance reform with teeth to stop the billionaires from purchasing the United States at bargain-basement prices.

So when it came to gearing up for the 2014 mid term elections, Democratic candidates embraced Progressive Populism as the best way forward and won back everything they had lost over the past several years.

Yeah, right.

It didn’t happen, of course. Democratic candidates ran away from the President and his record and offered up little more than what has been called “Republican Lite” as their solution to the country’s problems.

At least one Democrat running for the U.S. Senate even refused to say publicly whether she had voted for the President, while others didn’t want him to visit their states, even those that helped carry him into a second term.


In Arizona, Democrats were hindered by a number of factors that deserve attention. In years past they might have tried to recover from the “wave”by making repairs to the roof. But this year’s results call for tearing down the house and starting over again.

This does not mean much effort needs to be put into deciding who is to “blame.” That’s pretty much a waste of time. What should be done, must be done, is review what happened and hold people and groups  accountable for what they did or did not do.

And that process should be started now before memories start to fade, documents are lost and people disappear.

Think of this as an audit to determine what worked and what did not work — “work” being defined as getting candidates elected.

To be sure, no process is perfect, but after years of licking wounds and going on vacation, any serious decision to make critical decisions designed to win elected offices should not be delayed.

Without jumping the gun, one decision that ought to be at the top of the list is, to borrow a phrase, “Make Doug Ducey a one-term governor.”

More to come…

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Republicans and Sex; Democrats and Money

Dear Friends,

I was meeting with some friends the other day and, as is becoming more commonplace for me, one of them proclaimed that he was not going to vote because “there’s no difference between the parties. They’re all the same.”

In the past, I must confess, I would have challenged him citing all sorts of good deeds attributable to Democrats; and misdeeds put at the feet of the Republicans. All of them, mind you, directly out of the campaign headlines, talking points, brochures and TV spots — I feel somewhat responsible for my part of that last category. But I digress.

Instead of challenging, I started thinking to myself that he might be correct — there are ingredients the two parties share. Currently one of those is the extraordinary ability to discuss anything and wind up doing nothing — or little enough.

But even D’s and R’s will cop to that one these days.

So I was convinced that there must be something deeper; something that really defines the differences in a way that reaches a fundamental core from which many, if not most decisions and positions flow.

I looked back over more than 40 years of hanging around politics and politicians when it finally occurred to me that the underlying issue may be both sociological and psychological, not political.

Which is how I arrived at Grossfeld’s Theory of Political Difference.

Basically, it goes this way:

Democrats are comfortable with sex, but obsess about money. By contrast, Republicans are comfortable with money, but obsess about sex.

Just let your mind hang with the theory for a bit and I suspect you’ll find  instances in your own experience that support the theory.

For me, I look at all of the GOP obsession with regulation of  private sexual behavior — or even thinking or writing about it. Whether its how Gay couples go about the business of their own sexuality or, more recently, trying to regulate sex via eliminating contraceptives, an inordinate amount of Republican time is filled with sex talk. Money, on the other hand, gets little attention other than their routine efforts to enrich the already wealthy and reward those who have climbed fairly high on the economic food chain. The “job creators” is how they sometimes describe it.

By the way, that whole “job creators” thing betrays a basic misunderstanding of how our economy works and what the “free enterprise” system really looks like. Without going into a very boring recitation of why “trickle down” economics is just foolish, let’s focus on how things really work. First, the only way to create more jobs is through increased demand for products and services. Free enterprise, right?

That’s where the Republicans go off the rails and spew this nonsense about how those at the top create jobs. Not so. When jobs are created it is because there are people out there with enough cash to buy things they need. Too few people with cash in their pockets, no jobs being created.  And that’s what has been happening in the country: a growing number of people who do not have enough money to buy things. In economic-speak that means “demand” is low.

Now, to be clear, that does not mean folks don’t want to buy that new car, they do, but their household income is stretched to the max just paying the bills of everyday life. So, what’s a country to do? Well, the answer is to get more cash in the hands of those real job creators so that they can afford to buy the new car. When that happens the car people start selling more cars and hiring people to build the cars in order to meet the increased demand.

Democrats, by comparison, are relatively comfortable with sex and have no issues including groups that have some sexual component in their multi-layered coalition. From the LGBT community to Pro-Choice, Democrats by and large don’t have a problem with how people decide to live out their sexual lives. And they fiercely oppose Republican efforts to invade America’s bedrooms.

On the other hand, Democrats fret about money. A lot. Having rejected “trickle down” economics for an actual free enterprise model of how things work, Democrats devote their time to trying to get more cash into the hands of the middle class, or what’s left of it, and poor people because they will spend the cash and that gets more money into circulation. That gets the economy growing again so that demand increases and jobs are created to help companies fill the demand. By contrast, Republicans keep trying to push money to the wealthiest Americans who alread have enough cash to live on so they will tend to stash the cash away some place. And that prevents the money from getting into circulation so that jobs can be created.

At a minimum, Democrats, are focused on maintaining the so-called “safety net” that keeps millions of Americans spending, Social Security being the best single example. But its more than that. Democrats argue, correctly, that when the “market” is not generating enough funded demand, it is the government’s obligation to step in and jump start the economy.

I am constantly impressed with how stupid opponents of “government” are when it comes to spending tax dollars in order to boost he economy. (Of course they managed to gulp down government bail outs of the major financial institutions which then took the government money and sat on it instead of making loans to help get cash into circulation.) My favorite is when Republicans oppose “wasteful government spending” on things like public works projects. The reality is that “government” isn’t out there building roads, bridges, or buildings; all of those things are being built by private sector companies that have won projects based on their bids: competition at its best.Think about that the next time you’re driving past a construction project and see those “your tax dollars at work” signs. Thats what government can and should do to help get things moving again. But on a much larger scale.

What is missed during the Republican and Democratic bickering, I believe, are Democrats and other progressives are not holding up their end of the debate. And, to some extent, it makes sense: Sex sells and basic economics does not.

At least it hasn’t until Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren stepped onto the national scene. Sanders, an independent screams bloody murder about our upside down economy with fierce determination. Warren, relatively new to the game, has become the person that most progressives wish could or would run for president. Her calm, simple explanation of how things really work has become a rallying point when others are still bullshitting.

As I’ve said before, Hillary Clinton may have my head, but Elizabeth Warren has my heart.

So, after this long meandering diatribe, I submit to you, dear reader, that the more Republicans busy themselves with their sex obsession, the more opportunity there is for the progressive side to capture the “jobs” flag. While “sex” does sell, just ask the advertising folks making millions selling fast cars or perfume, folks still need cash in their pockets to make the purchases.



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“What’s the downside of running unopposed?”

Dear Dr. Bob,
It looks like I won’t have any serious opposition during my primary election. That’s obviously good because it is one less thing to worry about and suck money away from the general election. But it also seems to be not so good because the other side has a huge field of candidates and looks like that’s about all the media seems interested in. I’m afraid that my campaign will just be ignored. Should I be concerned?
What can I do?
Being Ignored

Dear Ignored,
I never advocate concern…it is more a way of losing sleep than getting anything accomplished. So chill out and lets consider what you can do about the situation.
First off, having the other side bash each other is a gift. If you don’t believe me…although you should…just ask David Axelrod or, better yet, Mitt Romney. With any luck your eventual opponent will emerge from his/her primary beaten up pretty well after being clobbered by all manner of opposition research material. Assuming you are part of the great middle-left, your opponent will have had to swing way-the-frack over to the extreme right to make nice-nice with the “tea party” faction of their side. This is a good thing.

Secondly, you do not want to interrupt their circular firing squad with a big target on your back over something real or imagined or made-up. So chasing after press just to stay in the game makes no sense. That said, staying top of mind…at least in contrast to the looney tune crowd on the right does make some sense. But it must be done with near 100% accuracy — the last thing you want to do is give the boys on the right something around which they can unite — as in you.

So I recommend focusing on a few sure thing targets that you know will get bipartisan popular support. My favorite is the “Minimum Wage”. In 2006 a progressive coalition even ran the Minimum Wage as a ballot initiative and clobbered the McOpposition with bi-partisan support. This issue tests off the charts with support from Democrats, Republicans and Independents. In other words, it’s pretty much a no brainer. Given Arizona’s step forward in 2006, going back to the well for another round of minimum wage increases should be tested to see if it still holds up. But its also worth testing some new messaging like “A Living Minimum Wage.” My bet is that it tests in the 60-70% range.

But the real beauty is that the “tea party” folks hate it — fear of their cheeseburgers costing a nickel more —  and the GOP candidates are pretty much doing whatever their vocal far right minority tells them to do if they plan on winning their primary election. Which puts them squarely on the wrong side of the issue.

But minimum wage is just one of several “economic populist” ideas worth considering to keep in the news cycle but, more critically, to be the centrist, not crazy alternative to whatever the Republicans are doing.

Consider this: capping how much interest can be charged to people by their credit card company(s). A run has been made attacking the “payday loan” racket and there’s been some level of success — you may have noticed how “Title Loan” places have popped up to replace “Payday Loan” shops. But the core of the problem is that there is no limit on how much interest Joe and Jane are going to be charged on their credit card balance.

But there used to be! Its called the “usury” law and it was repealed during the Camelot years under Gov. Fife “Bill Clinton pardoned me” Symington. And for a specific reason: attracting all those great credit card call center jobs! Yeah, right.

That lasted a few years and then, poof! all gone.

But Arizona was left with no protection against interest rates so high that just thinking of them gives me a nose bleed and they continue through to today.

Like all matters of “economic populism” the folks making a killing charging those disgusting interest rates, like banks, are going to scream bloody murder and you probably won’t be able to count on them to show at your University Club fundraiser. But they weren’t going to show anyway. So no great loss.

Setting a cap on consumer interest rates at, say, the prime rate plus 3% seems like a good starting point to me.

Here’s another: The cost of higher education and student loan burdens. This one is a home run if it is handled properly.

You know the stories about how college students are being handed a debt of $25,000 or more along with their diplomas. This one is tricky when you’re dealing with state government. At the federal level they have a lot of tools available ranging from lowering interest rates on student loans to forgiving loans when graduating students do civic work for two years including the military.

At the state level you have to be a bit more restrained…but not silenced. Proposals have been floated to allow Arizona’s community colleges to offer 4 year degrees. Seems to make sense since they are teaching oriented, not carrying the heavy lifts of big-time research universities. After all, just how many nuclear physicists does Arizona need?

The freshman year at most community colleges is already functioning as a 13th year of school…adding 3 more seems to make sense. Of course, as with everything else, there will be opponents. Of course there will. But voters who can’t afford to send their kids to college or students who would prefer having an actual professor in the classroom as opposed to a grad assistant would be giddy.

And you can always point to the Arizona Constitution that says public schools — including colleges and universities– should be as free as possible. That one will fry the “constitutionalists” who hang out with the “tea party” types.

So…there are things that your campaign can do and say while the opponents are trying to make nice-nice with their far right. Just be sure to time your announcement of a proposal to fill in a time warp when the Republicans are busy licking their wounds and getting ready for their next food fight.

One final thought: If you don’t have a home run, as with economic populism, just keep traveling around meeting folks and not getting shot. There will be a temptation to shoot at whatever insanity is coming from the GOP primary, but resist. The idea is to be sane alternative. not another crazy player.

Good luck!




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HB2305 – What part of “permanent” do you not understand?

Dear Readers,

I hate to say this, but I have become used to Arizona weirdness. Now, that’s not an endorsement, just a personal statement.

I can handle Arizona’s attractiveness to The Daily Show producers. They’re in show business and we are a hotbed of comic relief — at least to those who don’t live here.

Then there are moments that defy humor. As when voter suppression becomes a social norm. Such as is happening right now.

HB 2305 is the latest effort to suppress the votes of Democrats and minority voters. In other words, everyone but Republicans. And the worst part of it, at least to this Doc, has to do with the PERMANENT  early voter file. Pay close attention to that word “PERMANENT.”

The PERMANENT early voter list was designed and intended to enable voters to cast their ballots from home using the USPS. And it was intended to be PERMANENT. As in don’t mess around with it.

But some, including at least one Arizona Republic columnist, seem to have it in their heads that PERMANENT means something less than “forever and ever.” From what I can tell, they must believe that “PERMANENT” means something like painting your house with watercolors: it looks okay when its fresh, but with the first rain you’re SOL.

As many of you know — I’ve written about this before — watching AZTV is the best political show in town. And I can remember watching as this deal was going down. Now I have to admit that nobody testified that the purpose behind tanking the PERMANENT early voter list was intended to suppress the vote. No…instead there was a parade of “elections supervisors” from the 15 county clerks’ offices. With Maricopa County elections bureaucrats in the lead, they said that having so many people on the PERMANENT early voter list caused them some kind of extra work or hardship. Boo hoo.

Never wanting to miss a trick, the GOP committee members must have been moved by their plight and said that people on the PERMANENT early voter list could be removed if they had not voted recently. That caused committee member state Senator Steve Gallardo (D-Common Sense) to go completely batshit.

And with good reason.

The entire purpose of the PERMANENT early voting list was to increase voter participation, not squash it. And, sure enough, as more and more people started using that voting option, a growing number of “minority” voters began using it. Getting people on the PERMANENT early voting list has become a staple of various voter registration drives. And that, in turn, has been causing Republican officials heartburn as they see their advantages slipping away while their white guy numbers continue to head downward as a percentage of the population. Boo hoo.

So around the country, including Arizona, they’ve been dreaming up schemes to keep a voter participation edge. Photo ID’s to vote, kicking people off the PERMANENT early voter list, gerrymandering legislative districts to ensure House and Senate majorities, photo ID’s to prevent voter fraud (despite the fact that there are more people getting caught at expired parking meters than committing voter fraud), etc.

Not ready to lay down and be willingly trampled on, an unlikely coalition of Democrats, Libertarians,  Greens, Latino groups, organized labor and others popped up to block enforcement of HB2305 by running a petition drive to put the measure on the ballot in 2014. And unless there is monkey business during the signature certification process that is conducted by the 15 county clerks offices (yeah, you read that right), they’re going to be successful. The proposed law will be blocked pending that 2014 vote when, one would hope, the majority of voters, including those on the PERMANENT early voter list will tank this grotesque assault on voting rights.

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Dr. Bob: “When should I start my campaign?”

Dear Dr. Bob,

I’m going to run for the state legislature, but I’m not yet ready to make a formal announcement since I don’t have much money and no campaign materials. When should I start my campaign?”

Thinking About It

Dear Thinker:


Seriously, it makes more sense to go the other direction: announce now and then continue to announce as long as people show up.

With state legislative races, the reality is that you’re not going to get much news interest or coverage — this is particularly true in the major metro areas, less so in rural Arizona.

So get yourself in front of every group you can think of and tell them that you’re “proud to be here today to tell you that I am running for the state legislature…” That doesn’t require much more than your time and, as it turns out, is a good way of getting known, raising money and collecting petition signatures.

What is more important, by the way, is making dead certain that you know what your campaign is going to be before starting. You need to be able to explain exactly how you are going to win in a brief summary. This should be tried out on your spouse or BFF before jumping off the cliff.

Think of it this way, a campaign has a destination called “winning the election.”

The sole purpose of a campaign is to get the candidate from a starting point to the destination. Period. That’s why its often referred to as the “campaign trail.” The best candidates can close their eyes and see the trail with great clarity. The worst can’t seem to see past that day’s events — which usually involve begging for money.

So, when you should start your campaign is a bit more complicated, isn’t it. If you’re hung up on when to start, you’re already behind because a better candidate has already figured out a roadmap to get from here to there. But that’s okay. Rookies always make mistakes. Just make then early enough to be fixed. A former business partner of mine used to say that a campaign can make “three mistakes” before its time to turn out the lights.

So close your eyes and try to see how you are going to move along the trail, taking into account the likelihood that mistakes will happen and your plan is going to have to change now and then. Everyone can envision being sworn into office. So be one of the smart ones and start thinking at that point and then go backwards, if you like, laying down each and every step that your campaign will need to make to account for having arrived.

A word of caution: There is an endless supply of political tradesmen out there these days. Many are newbies who were along for the ride when a frontrunner amazed everyone by winning. But there are some who’ve fought the hard battles and won. Those are the folks you want to check out. There’s nothing like hitting the campaign trail with someone who’s been there.

Good luck!

Dr. Bob

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Dr: Bob: “Oh please, please, please run for Governor”

Dear Dr. Bob,

I just read in the paper that former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas (R-disbarred) is running for Arizona governor.

Is this a good thing or bad thing for Democrats?


Dear Puzzled,

Sorry it has taken a while to write a response, but I couldn’t stop laughing. Yes! It is a very good thing for Democrats and, if what we’re seeing from Mark Sanford’s campaign is any indication,  the news media which is hunkering down for something to justify acknowledging that there’s even going to be an election.

But it is also a good thing for thinking Republicans in the state who are fed up with their party having been taken over by the Taliban wing. This gives them an opportunity to say, “are you kidding us?” while hoping that they can get enough moderate Republicans to vote in their primary election so that there is actual change. Ok, perhaps not moderate Republicans..maybe just non-medicated Republicans or those who should be. Can you say “psychotic?”

But, as it is said, “hope is not a method.”

So, assuming that the Republican primary for governor turns into a classic GOP circular firing squad with the Taliban types supplying the ammo, it is unlikely that the moderates will even show their heads.

But I digress. So far the GOP field is shaping up to be a competition between the extreme right and the further extreme right that don’t seem like they are. And appearances count for a great deal in Arizona politics — I’m reminded of Jon Kyl’s TV spots in which he’s driving around in an old pick-up truck and Jon McCain’s “build the dang fence” spot. (As the third highest ranking Republican in the Senate, it is more likely that Kyl was being chauffeured around Washington in a black Lincoln not an old pick-up truck.)

So if Thomas’ handlers can clean him up and make everyone who isn’t an extremist appear to be part of a mindless attack machine out to destroy this ‘honorable public servant who was just fighting against the bad guys,’ then the dude might actually have a chance to squeak through a crowded GOP field. He certainly has name-ID, you know, and most likely the support of “Sheriff Joe.”

And that, I suspect is going to be very good news for the Democratic primary winner’s appeal to the majority of Arizona voters who are center-left or center-center. Now, who that is going to be is currently up for grabs, but will most likely boil down to Fred DuVal who has already announced and Chad Campbell who is still “exploring.” Those explorations, I suspect, are going to be a considerably more fruitful than finding the Lost Dutchman’s Mine. That’ll create a  two-person race between two superior and well-funded candidates, either one of which should be able to turn the GOP nominee into horse meat assuming no major screw-ups.

Possible Democratic screw-ups include:

1. Over reliance on consultants who rarely step outside of the Washington Beltway with little knowledge of our strange little state and don’t fight the Taliban very often. We’ve long since seen the domination of Arizona elections by out-of-state consultants, but having a few Arizona-based folks around makes sense.

2. Getting trapped into supporting something that most Arizona voters don’t like –this is the “Eddie Basha” error, god bless him, in which he was trapped into saying he’d support Gay marriage. Eddie was way ahead of the curve that is now seeing Gay marriage becoming a new centrist issue, by the way.

3. Failing to go on the attack early and often. This is often difficult for Democrats because we’re, well, nice. But failure to do that is akin to waiting for someone to knock you out and then trying to hit back while your head is spinning. There is a  tendency, by the way, to divide up positive and negative campaigns between the candidate’s campaign and so-called “independent expenditure” campaigns. Let the candidate be positive and the outsiders do the negative lifting. This an error, I believe. Voters, particularly in Arizona, want to see a candidate who can toss a right hook when warranted.

4. Wasting money. Oy…if I had a dime for every time a dollar was misspent I’d be as wealthy as the Republicans. There are only three things that are worth spending money: Media, votes and more money. If proposed spending doesn’t directly connect to one of those things, don’t spend it.

Finally, if you see that old pickup truck from wherever Republican props are kept between elections, get a horse.

Dr. Bob

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Dr. Bob: ACTV – Must see TV.

Dear folks…

I’ve have a cold for a few days and I couldn’t stand watching another episode of “House Hunters.” So I cranked up the ‘ole laptop and tuned into ACTV – Arizona Capitol Television. (You get to it via

It’s a hoot and a half. You know all those whack-jobs that Laurie Roberts over at the Republic tried to warn us about? There they are in living color in committee meetings and even during floor sessions.

Today’s episode comes to us during the Senate Government Committee from Sen. Judy Burges R-Wackville. Ms. Burges is pushing  SB 1403 like she’s Paul Revere riding through the streets of Phoenix screaming “The Commies are coming! The Commies are coming!” All of this has to do with something that just happens to be the title of Glen Becks latest acid-induced head trip that’s come out in book form. It’s called “Agenda21.” (Already marked down from the publisher’s suggested retail price and available at Amazon for only $15.35 if you feel the need to keep up on events in Wackville.)

Ms.Burges, and what appears to be an endless stream of other Wackville residents, are convinced that the United Nations is up to no good and wants to take over the United States. Several, by the way, seem to be suggesting that they already have. The vehicle for this treason is the UN Rio accords designed to help keep the friggen planet alive before we’ve completely destroyed it. Things like water conservation, cutting down on fossil fuel dependency, etc. You get the idea: Science.

In any event, its been a great show!


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Dr. Bob: “Time for radical campaign finance reform.”

Buckle your seat belts my dear progressive friends. I believe it is time for a truly radical change in Arizona’s campaign finance laws.

No. Not more regulations or burdensome limits that make no difference in the quality of our campaigns. It is time, I believe, to simply do away with limits on campaign contributions.

The intent of limiting contributions was, to the extent possible, help keep money out of politics…or at least minimize the impact. But it just hasn’t worked.

Instead of cleaner more transparent elections where somebody is held accountable for virtually everything, we have a political free for all. Money is still influencing our elections, of course. Big money. Money that is getting bigger and bigger all the time with less and less accountability.

And that was even before the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates to a torrent of cash being poured into our campaigns. In fact, we still don’t know for certain who was behind the big time cash that sank two ballot measures in 2012. Oh, we have a pretty good idea, but the invisible deep pocket donors weren’t held accountable when it really mattered: during the election. To add to this campaign circus, we had to rely on state officials in California to get even a vague idea of where the money came from.

But we do know this: The money hasn’t disappeared. It has just drifted farther and farther away from control by our political candidates. Limit contributions to candidates = contributions go to outside groups.

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce, it was reported, is pitching for higher campaign contribution limits for state and local candidate campaigns. They are being short-sighted and, to be blunt, a bit naive.

The problem isn’t that there is too much money in our campaigns and elections. The problem is that our convoluted campaign finance laws are designed, inadvertently, to create criminals or at least criminal schemes to get around them.

We now have a ‘system’ that encourages subterfuge with campaign contributions flowing from one invisible group to another before finally coming out the other end as either direct candidate contributions or so-called “independent expenditures.”

These IE’s are supposed to operate without “coordination” with a candidate’s campaign. Ha. Folks operating these groups don’t need to sit down and lay out a strategic plan for how their cash is to be used after someone has become a candidate. They do it before a candidacy is established, at the very least. More often, however, the person running the IE is so close to the candidate that they simply know what needs to be done to win. And, typically, that means dirtying up the opponent.

I propose a new campaign finance system based on the Virginia model. Here’s how they describe their campaign finance rules:

There are no contribution limits in Virginia. A committee can accept contributions from any individual,
corporation, union, association or partnership. It is required that all contributions received by the
committee, and that all required information identifying the contributor, be reported on the committee’s
campaign finance reports.

That, coupled with some pretty stiff requirements regarding immediate reporting of contributions, has served the people of Virginia pretty well…at least with no more or more significant scandals than we have in Arizona.

I suspect that looking at Arizona’s campaign finance and election laws from this new and different perspective will cause some headaches. Take a few Advil. After spending a good chuck of my life in and around political campaigns I can tell you this: without taking a new, dramatically different approach to running our elections, we’ll just see more and more futile efforts to control the flow of money into politics.






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Dr. Bob : “Mental Health First Aid”

Dear Friends,

I usually write things that are tongue-in-cheek or just failed efforts at humor.

But not this time.

In addition to my political work, my colleague Dennis Hart and I founded the Center for Public Media to help non-profit organizations and activists better use the media.

Our first project has been underway for nearly 9 months now: A public awareness campaign for Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). MHFA is to mental illness what CPR or Red Cross First Aid is to physical issues.

It works.

And it has been quietly used nationally to train thousands of people and thousands of trainers. But it is a well kept secret. Too well kept for one of the best hopes to get treatment for the mentally ill, quoting our film’s title, “Before It Is Too Late.”

Lately, however, our little crusade has been picking up steam. We’ve been meeting with community leaders both in and out of the behavioral health arena. Their reception has been remarkable and we’ve been touched by their encouragement.

So, “thank you” to everyone who has been supportive. It looks as if we may get funding for our films, commercials and web-based delivery system to buil awareness that MHFA even exists. If you’d like to make a small contribution or see the film preview we can still use the help. Just go to the Center for Public Media. Thanks.



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