Arizona will be a referendum on civility


Arizona. (Wikimedia Commons)

As Lafayette’s resident liberal Arizonan, I’m proud to see my home state creeping its way into the “battleground” column of election forecasts. A Democratic victory initially seemed like a long shot. Then Donald Trump’s campaign devolved into a toxic garbage fire – the kind with tires and gasoline on the side of a derelict highway – and becoming a swing state is suddenly in reach. That’s not to say that Secretary Hillary Clinton doesn’t face an uphill battle. The final two weeks of this election will be a test for progressive organizing in Arizona.

However, this election stands for something bigger than which candidate will secure Arizona’s 11 electoral votes. Just look to Maricopa County’s sheriff election.

Incumbent Joe Arpaio, a controversial sheriff behind arguably some of the harshest immigration enforcement in the country, is up for reelection. Arpaio was an early Trump supporter, and it’s not hard to see why. He is the architect behind the infamous prison, “Tent City,” which he described as his own “concentration camp.” There, inmates endure brutal conditions in the Arizona heat. His office has been criticized for failing to properly investigate sex crimes. Arpaio also forced male inmates to wear pink underwear. Most recently, the sheriff has been charged with criminal contempt by a federal judge.

Those skeptical of just how bad a Trump presidency would be need look no further than Arpaio’s Maricopa County, where the xenophobic, racist and sexist policies Trump promotes have been put into practice.

Arizona has the unique opportunity to provide a referendum on the bullying and intolerance that have come to characterize American politics. Candidates like Trump don’t simply appear. They are created by leaders like Arpaio, by the voters swayed by racism and fearmongering and the countless voices that normalize intolerance and incivility. For Arizonans, this election isn’t Clinton versus Trump. It’s about a simple choice between opting for the system that built Trump or hope for a form of governing that is more respectful and committed to our democratic values. This isn’t just an Arizona concern. Arizona matters this year because it is a test on whether we will continue supporting the radical, xenophobic politicians who set a precedent for Trump’s candidacy.