Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Who will Rise UP? It is time to renew George Hunt's legacy for Arizona.

America and Arizona are at a crossroads. America is fully in the 2016 election season. Arizona, as a result of the election of leaders with questionable judgment, is only beginning to feel the harsh ramifications of austerity. In the early 1990s, corruption was starkly confronted with AZSCAM. Citizens, voters, in our state began enacting reforms.

Since then, plutocratic interests have steadily chipped away at some of the most important of the reforms. Clean Elections. Independent Redistricting. No links for that statement. I've written plenty about those two things already.

Having just finished reading David Berman's political biography of Arizona's first governor, George W. P. Hunt, I've developed an even deeper respect for the history of our great state. George Hunt, an imperfect man, was a warrior for egalitarian society in Arizona. He accomplished much. He constantly opposed the plutocratic interests of Big Business and mining. He didn't win every battle. But he fought for what he believed from the time he arrived until the day he died.

From George Hunt, Arizona's Crusading Seven-Term Governor, by David R. Berman,
He rejected the idea that the "better elements" should rule society in favor of the idea of rule by the people.
With Hunt at the helm, Arizona was in the mainstream of Progressive reform from 1910 to 1916... he worked for the triumph of what he called "militant Progressive Democracy." This meant, in part, "that this country, its institutions, its resources and its rewards for industry belong to the people whose labor makes them possible." 
Of Hunt's political personality, Berman wrote,
They [elected officials like Hunt] see themselves in a hostile environment waging a battle against powerful and determined foes. Rather than compromise with their opponents, they engage in a series of unsuccessful attempts to wrest power from them... Under the right conditions, they may accomplish much, but under the wrong ones the may suffer major defeats.
Hunt wasn't a radical seeking to destroy a capitalist system but he was,
...stricken by the injustices and inequities capitalism brought, and he sought to make ameliorative reforms.
George Hunt served in the Territorial Legislature, was president of the Constitutional Convention in 1910, served as the first governor upon Arizona being granted statehood, and was re-elected six times. Not all of the terms were consecutive.

Largely as a result of Hunt's determined advocacy, the state constitution as originally adopted was a forward thinking document with notable Progressive and populist provisions.

We can thank the legacy of George Hunt for galvanizing events like the people of Arizona effectively vetoing HB2305. Then, in 2014, the people's SB1062 uprising brought national attention and culminating when Governor Brewer vetoed that Dominionist bill.

About the Constitutional Convention, and Hunt's role leading up to it, Berman writes,
He was in constant contact with prominent campaigners from the Progressive side... These Progressive Democrats chose to make direct democracy their central rallying cry and sought candidates for the seats as delegates to the constitutional convention who "were friends of the initiative, referendum and recall..." They were committed to the idea of creating a people's constitution and felt direct democracy was essential to safeguard against corporate control of the new state.
The bottom line, really, is that if you want to understand the political history of Arizona, you have to understand George Hunt. David Berman did a great favor for those of us who want to understand and then rise up to reclaim the great legacy of direct democracy that Hunt and his contemporaries built into our state government. I enthusiastically and wholeheartedly recommend obtaining, reading and digesting the rich history in George Hunt, Arizona's Crusading Seven-Term Governor. It's available from Local First Arizona member Changing Hands Bookstore (in Tempe and Phoenix) or from Amazon.com (links to both provided above).

The Arizona Constitution still provides the structure to allow us to energize a Progressive state. Progressive policy implementation will bring wide-spread prosperity. The current direction at the Arizona Capitol, austerity, must be halted. The time is ripe.

Some in our state declare the Arizona Democratic Party to be completely ineffectual. And from the outside, it certainly looks it. But activists in legislative district clubs and similar groups are making a difference in some places.

Recently, a Tempe Republican posted on Facebook about her frustration over the 2014 election of new members to the Tempe City Council. She claimed the local Democratic Party "machine" injected partisanship into nonpartisan council races. Well, there really is no "political machine," as it is popularly defined, among Tempe and west Mesa Democrats. But there are and were very good candidates (Lauren Kuby and David Schapira) and energized concerned citizens who organized to support those candidates. The Tempe City Council is making good things happen.

The national political temperature is rising for the same movement. The not-so-unlikely candidacy of Bernie Sanders for President, contrary to the expectation of corporate media pundits, is drawing far more enthusiasm than many people expected. Anybody and everybody who pays attention to current affairs in America knows distrust for the current plutocracy (thanks, ALEC) is at a fever pitch.

It is time for a revolution. Concerned citizens from all points on the political spectrum are finding common ground and realizing that Bernie Sanders speaks frankly and gets to the heart of every single issue.

Now, what will YOU do? Will you Rise UP?
Rebellion is a stage in the development of revolution but it is not revolution. It is an important stage because it represents the standing up of the oppressed. Rebellions break the threads that have been holding the system together and throw into question its legitimacy and the supposed permanence of existing institutions. A rebellion disrupts the society but it does not provide what is necessary to make a revolution and establish a new social order. To make a revolution, people must not only struggle against existing institutions. They must make a philosophical/spiritual leap and become more human human beings. In order to change/transform the world, they must change/transform themselves. -- Living for Change, by Grace Lee Boggs
Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and make it survive, you haven't done a thing. You are just talking. -- Wangari Maathai, Kenyan activist and founder of the Green Belt Movement, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.
Get back to where you once belonged, Arizona!

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