This may tick off a few folks of all political persuasions, but that which ails Arizona society in general and politics/government in particular, isn't the voters/candidates in the Democratic Party (though one may find a few "problem children" who happen to be registered as Democrats), or the voters/candidates in the Republican Party (though one may find more than a few "problem children" who happen to be registered as Republicans), or even Independents.
Nope, it's what are euphemistically referred to as "low information" voters.
Those are the people who are too "busy" or have too many "more important" things to do to pay attention to politics. They look at politics, politicians, and people who are politically active with unconcealed disdain.
Those are the people who can't name their representatives in Congress or the legislature, but can tell you "important stuff" like the names and complete life histories of the contestants on The Bachelor/The Bachelorette/Survivor/some stupid cooking show/etc.
Well, as Plato said,
Those are the people who pay no attention to what is going on in government until it directly affects them, who can't be bothered to participate beyond casting a ballot in ignorance every four years or so, and who whine when someone in an elected office does something that they don't like (or as is often the case in AZ, does something completely embarrassing).
As a result, we end up with "leading lights" like Russell Pearce (who blamed the victims of Friday's mass shooting in Aurora for the death and destruction there; he has since apologized...more or less). Lori Klein (who aimed a pistol at a journalist in the lounge area of the AZ Senate building, just to show off the "purty l'il laser sight" on her pink pistol) and Sylvia Allen (of "strip mining Uranium is OK because the Earth is 6000 years old and doing just fine" fame).
And they're just the tip of the iceberg.
Perhaps the biggest reason that AZ politics (and national politics, for that matter) is so dysfunctional is that so many people, many of whom are "voters", don't pay attention to politics, or say that elected officials and candidates are aloof and unapproachable.
Yet that just isn't the way it is.
Some people are trying to changes things in their own small way - Columnist Laurie Roberts of the AZ Republic has her "De-kook the Capitol" campaign going and one of the ballot questions going before the voters this fall is a "top two" primary question that is supposed to reduce partisanship at the Capitol.
However, neither effort will address the underlying issue of voter apathy; the efforts are like trying to save the Titanic by rearranging the deck chairs.
Without trying too hard, in the two weeks between July 4 and July 18, I met -
Five Congressional candidates
Four legislators and nine legislative candidates
One Corporation Commissioner
One mayor and one city council member in Tempe
At least four school board members, and two more school board candidates
One former city council member, mayor, state senator, Congressman, and teacher, all rolled into one (yes, Harry Mitchell, and happy belated birthday to him, too)
A number of likely future candidates and office holders, and a whole lot of friends
And one Arizona blues legend, Big Pete Pearson (not politics, just seriously cool).
It didn't require going to any government meetings, or paid campaign fundraisers, or insider, "invitation-only" sort of events. Everything was open to the public and was free (except for the fireworks in Tempe, but that was about a lot more than seeing public officials and candidates for office).
Some pics -
Big Pete Pearson (Tempe fireworks)
Corporation Commissioner Paul Newman helping a young voter (Tempe fireworks)
David Schapira, current AZ state senator and candidate for Congress, with the boss of the operation (Tempe Fireworks)
Kyrsten Sinema, former state legislator and current candidate for Congress (LD18 Democrats meeting, July 9)
Corey Harris, candidate for state house in LD18 (July 9)
Darin Fisher, candidate for state house in LD18 (July 9)
Janie Hydrick, candidate for state senate in LD18 (July 9)
Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell (LD26 meeting, July 10)
Kolby Granville, the newest member of the Tempe City Council (July 10)
Andrew Sherwood and Juan Mendez, candidates for state house in LD26 (July 10)
Alexis Tameron, campaign manager for US Senate candidate Richard Carmona, and probably a future candidate for office herself (at least, a lot of people think she should be) (July 10)
Tempe icon Harry Mitchell greeting friends at the beginning of the meeting (July 10)
Rebecca DeWitt (CD7) and Andrei Cherny (CD9), candidates for Congress (LD24 Democrats meeting, July 12)
Congressional candidates David Schapira, Kyrsten Sinema, Andrei Cherny, along with moderator John D'Anna at a forum at the Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe (July 17)
It was a *very* packed house at Changing Hands, full of people who want to make informed choices when they cast their ballots (yes, I know that was as subtle as a jackhammer :) )
In other words, it's easy to get to know public officials, candidates, and other curious people. You just have to show up and pay a little attention, maybe ask a few questions, and get to know them as *people*, not as *them*.