Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Time for the post-mortems to start. First up - The local daily

I've been feeling a little burned out after last week's elections and haven't been writing much (and before certain folks accuse me of being a sore loser, I went through the same thing in 2006 and 2008, which were much more Dem-friendly years). 

So, with the author's permission, I am publishing the following piece written by friend and inspiration Lauren Kuby, chair of the LD17 Democratic Party and super-volunteer and organizer.

Besides being those things and more, she's also one of the best at channelling outrage into the written word.

The formative roots of the piece, as explained in it, are based in the period immediately following the Rep's endorsement of David Schweikert.  The Rep asked Lauren to write a response to their endorsement, then refused to publish it.

The piece, and an email she wrote after it became clear that they had backed off from publishing the original piece or even a shortened one -
To The Arizona Republic Editorial Board:
After a lengthy discussion with Phil Boas over your Board’s endorsement of Schweikert over Mitchell some weeks ago, Phil asked me to pen a 500-word reaction piece. Although in the midst of organizing Tempe Democrats, I jumped at the opportunity and submitted a My Turn piece the very next day, October 16th.

Days went by without acknowledgement. I decided to bowdlerize the piece, removing the Gannett references, which I assumed (rightly or wrongly) might have given Phil second thoughts about his offer. I called Phil when I still didn’t hear back, and he demurred that he ever asked me to write about the Schweikert endorsement, but was suggesting I lend my voice to political/environmental issues in the future (although why he would ask me to write up 500 words over the weekend is anyone's guess). Phil also said that publishing my reaction piece would open the floodgates for responses from Schweikert said and that there wasn’t room in the Op-Ed page. His suggestion was to condense it to 200 words for a Letter to the Editor. Needless to say, the condensed version never made it into the paper either.

The experience left me feeling that my time was wasted and that The Republic didn't want to air a sharp counterpoints to its endorsements (although the McCain/Kyl attack on Gabby Giffords saw much ink that week!)

I want you all to read the unpublished piece Phil asked me to write but declined to publish. Perhaps you will better understand the sense of betrayal that many of your former subscribers (22 years for me) felt upon reading the paper that morning. I know there was great disagreement among Board members on the Schweikert endorsement, but it strikes me that you often take your orders from the Big Boys (Gannett, McCain, Kyl) and aim to predict the winners (Quayle, Brewer, Burns & Pierce) rather than base your endorsements on your editorial-board priorities.

I don't expect your Board to use my ballot as its guide to endorsements, as Phil argued on the phone, but I was greatly disappointed to discover that you do not walk your own talk.


Lauren Kuby


October 16, 2010

To the Arizona Republic Editorial Board:

I am sure I was not alone in my shock and disappointment to see that a newspaper that supports education, high-tech innovation, and renewable energy would turn its back on Congressman Harry Mitchell, who has championed those issues in Congress. Contrast this with David Schweikert’s radical proposal to eliminate the Department of Education, removing a billion dollars from K-12 education, Pell Grants, and student loans in Arizona. To top it off, Schweikerts’s energy plan is to drill in ANWR—not a comprehensive solution to our energy challenges.

Congressman Mitchell is a teacher who co-authored the new GI Bill for our veterans. As a result, over 1000 students at ASU (300,000 nationally) are bettering their lives and improving our economy. David Schweikert envisions an education system where the only way you can get to home plate is if you’re born on third base. A district that is home to an entrepreneurial university—not to mention an outsized portion of Arizona’s high-tech manufacturing base—deserves far better.

And you cannot logically argue that Harry Mitchell is not an advocate for the business community. The US Chamber of Commerce endorsed him for his pro-business record, and he wants to extend the Bush tax cuts! As a progressive, I may disagree, but I trust his decision making and the integrity he brings to his role as my representative.

Harry has a centrist voting record and is a moderate. He truly reflects his district, one more or less equally divided among Democrats, Independents, and Republicans. He is a genuine Arizona statesman along the lines of Mo Udall and Barry Goldwater.

The editorial board’s betrayal of Mitchell, who they endorsed previously, was also odd in light of your tortured rationales in support of extremely partisan incumbent lawmakers. You argued, for example, that Jeff Flake and Trent Franks fit the character of their overwhelmingly Republican districts, even though they completely reject the paper’s editorial priorities. Yet Harry doesn’t complement his moderate-leaning district? Ridiculous.

David Schweikert caters to a narrow, radical segment of his party. If he ever dared reach across the aisle to work towards a bipartisan solution—as Harry does with every issue he’s tackled—his far-right base would show him the door.

I thought the Republic understood these dynamics when they endorsed moderate Susan Bitter Smith in the GOP primary. But now this surprising about-face, and all because Mitchell supported decades-in-the-waiting reform of our broken healthcare system?

I have a few questions for the editorial board.

Where is your empathy for people who have been cast adrift by insurance companies and bankrupted simply because they got sick?

When you were judging Harry Mitchell, did you think about your Republic colleagues that were downsized by Gannett, thrown into unemployment and uncertainty? Which of you will be next?

Will you be able to keep health insurance for yourself or your family? Will you be able to get another policy if you’ve been sick and have a pre-existing condition?

Not if David Schweikert has anything to with it.

Lauren Kuby
Chair, District 17 Democrats (Tempe/South Scottsdale)
The Arizona Republic, like most newspapers, has experienced a sharp decline in readership and ad revenue over the last few years, and it doesn't seem as if the bottom is in sight. 

Much of their support for Republicans this year (and in years past), even really *bad* Republicans (Quayle, Ducey, Schweikert, etc.), can be attributed to the Rs' promises of a return to "Business As Usual."

Could one of the members of the Rep's editorial board please explain to me, in uncomplicated concepts and short words (appropriate for a simple blogger)?

How does assisting the Rs in their quest to turn Arizona into a political, economic and social wasteland, with the resultant exodus of residents to other states with a healthier societal infrastructure, does ANYTHING to increase the circulation of their publication?

Comments are open, and my email address is on the sidebar.


Thane Eichenauer said...

Harry Mitchell disappointed many people when he hopped on board the health insurance reform bus.

I am curious about David Schweikert catering to a narrow, radical segment of the Republican Party. Does this segment have a name or describable attribute? I presume that Schweikert wants to appeal to independent voters just as Mitchell hoped to.

I do realize that as a Democrat activist Kuby can't write a piece without including a scare word or labelling Mitchell a moderate.

Seething Mom said...

I about fell out of my chair the morning I opened my AZ Republic paper and saw their endorsement for David Schweikert. My husband is also furious and dead set on canceling our subscription, but this time I will not stand in his way. This endorsement was the straw that broke the camel's back.

We have three children, all of whom have graduated top of their classes and received generous scholarships to private out-of-state universities as well as full rides to our three in-state universities. The writing was on the wall for each of them and they got out while the gettin was good. None of them is expressing any desire to return to this state. Do we really want to see this brain drain continue?

Other than my mother, there is nothing keeping my husband and me here. As soon as we can sell our home without taking a bath, we will pack up my mom and ourselves and leave. This state has become too over-the-top crazy for us...

cpmaz said...

S. Mom,

Trust me, I know where you are coming from. The day after the election, I was so angry that all I could think about was leaving AZ to stew in its own bile.

However, I grew up in a small town in MA that in many ways is a lot like AZ - it's run by the "I got mine, everybody else can buzz off" crew, and like many people my age (back then), I couldn't wait to get out.

As such, almost everybody I went to high school with is someplace else. We are spread out all over the country (though I am probably the one who move the furthest west).

And the town is still in a steep dive - working class town with no work; used to be dominated by a single large employer that failed to adapt to a changing economy and the town's "leaders" are still looking for a single "white knight" to save it. That white knight doesn't exist.

Maybe it's due to maturity, or just plain orneriness, but while I am deeply frustrated with Arizona, I'm not giving up and walking away this time.

Please consider staying here an fighting for a viable future here.

Of course, even if you stay, there's no requirement to subscribe to the daily. :)

Thane, there's nothing "independent" about Schweikert. Never has been, never will be.

tempe turley said...

I certainly understand the disappointment in some of the AZ Republic's picks, but personally, I'm not giving up on the paper. I really count on and appreciate the paper's reporting on issues local to Arizona. And there's really nothing else around (plenty of bloggers, but its simply not the same thing).

I really doubt the Republic's endorsement of Schweikert was the turning point. It seems to me the vote was a mixture of the Republican wave, anger over the economy and the health care vote.

Personally, I think Democrats did not near a good enough job defending, explaining and passionately running on the most important piece of legislation passed in recent memory. And to me, it seems the Republicans ultimately won the narrative - even though they have absolutely no viable alternatives to Obama's health care bill.

This American Life does a really good job explaining the Democratic party's problem in this regard (in the second half of the episode).

Its really a tragedy to me, actually, how poorly Obama's health care plan was defended.

Thane Eichenauer said...

"If we loose this election, I'm moving to Canada."