Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Who the hell is Blake Morlock, anyway?

In an op-ed published a couple of days ago on the Tucson Sentinel, Blake Morlock proclaims that he's going to tell you what the Devil won't. I really don't know what the hell Morlock was trying to convey by invoking the devil, but then again, his op-ed was also both (completely) factually inaccurate and incoherent.

Since Sentinel publisher Dylan Smith declined to publish this rebuttal, and since it's really too long for a simple comment to Morlock's screed, I have no choice but to post it here. My apologies to Smith, who I genuinely respect. But I'm most surprised that he would allow something so detached from reality to be published on his website. Without further ado.


Apparently, Blake Morlock (Redistricting win doesn’t mask how IRC failed in state races, June 29) was champing at the bit to burst the bubble of Arizona Democrats. At least for those who cheer the recent Supreme Court victory in Arizona Legislature v Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. But in his apparent thesis, that “The Arizona Legislature is in troubbbllle ... you just sued the people of the state of Arizona and lost. Oh man. This is going to get bad....” He makes nonsensical leaps outside of any logical or rational framework.

Morlock declared, “Wait. Wait. It won’t. It won’t and I will tell you why.” He says the AIRC “blew it. They gaffed it. They ganked it. They shanked it and hardly anyone has said a word about it.”

Morlock’s conclusion? “Giving Kyrsten Sinema a solid shot at a seat in Congress was done at the expense of actual competitive districts” for the state legislature. Was this guy even IN Arizona in 2011/2012?

Not one bit of Morlock’s fantastical, highly imaginative story has any connection to either the mission of the AIRC or the process as it took played out.

If he wanted to say he’s disappointed that the legislative district map ended up not being as competitive as he would like it, he could have done that. And I would have wholeheartedly agreed. But BLAMING the AIRC for woes of the Arizona Democratic Party can only be done if one didn’t observe the 2011 independent redistricting cycle.

In this case, one of the most important things that needs to be understood by Arizona voters is that the legislative district map was NOT dependent in ANY way on the final Congressional map. The two processes were conducted by the same people but were otherwise mutually exclusive. If Mr. Morlock doesn’t “get it” I’d be happy to meet over coffee to help him understand.

I can only wonder where Morlock was when I was observing the interaction of the commissioners, AIRC staff or of the public in any of the meetings. All map drawing took place fully in the open... in open meetings attended and observed by the public and by journalists. I was there. I documented the process extensively, writing well more than 400 blog posts directly on the subject from December 2010 until now. From when commissioner hopefuls were first screened to when the maps were approved by the AIRC, submitted to the Department of Justice for preclearance and then subjected to vitriolic court challenges.

His musings about whether “Mathis made a deal to work with commission Democrats on the House side and Republicans to lock in the Legislature...” are beyond absurd and at least borderline slanderous. Anyone who observed the process knows that there was no such back room dealings. Republicans on the commission have accused Mathis of making deals with the Democrats but nothing in the record of the proceedings or any reportage on it even comes close to the scenarios that flowed from Morlock’s imagination, especially regarding deals with Republicans.

Currently, the Arizona Democratic Party is rudderless. I’ll grant him that. But that’s not the case with the Maricopa County or Pima County Democrats. Sure, it’s frustrating for anyone who cares. But Morlock’s fiction exercise simply has no basis in reality. If he wants to prescribe solutions for the Arizona Democratic Party, go for it. But a hair on fire op-ed blaming the Independent Redistricting Commission for ADP’s problems is nowhere near the target, let alone the bull’s eye.

I’m all for using the kind of picturesque language Morlock used to communicate his perspective. If only he would have been talking about what actually took place.

To put Morlock’s screed in perspective, I’d compare journalist Gail Sheehy’s memoir Daring: My Passages to the highly hyped Last Magazine, written by the late Michael Hastings and published posthumously.

Sheehy’s prose brings ideas and events to life. In the 1990s, her Pathfinders provided inspiration to me as a budding writer. Hastings, killed in a fiery crash of his new, high-tech automobile, was also a daring journalist. Recklessly daring. His Last Magazine reflected that recklessness and detachment from reality.

One reader’s review of Hastings’ book provides an apt description. “Michael Hastings was a complicated man and a true gonzo reporter. Lurking on his desktop at the time of his tragic death was, apparently, this book. It should have stayed on the laptop. Perhaps with a great deal of shaping, it might have been a profane but insightful view of futile combat situations or a keen insider satire about the mix of politics, careerism, and status-seeking that has invaded big-time journalism. As it is, the book has no bite, just a lot of nasty pages of obscene ramblings and a nonsensical 'plot', long on stream-of-consciousness, short on revelations or even clear-minded critique. I would rather have rewound time and not read this book, and left my memory of Hastings’ estimable writing at a much better place.

The tone of that review fully reflects my observations about Morlock’s piece, except, thankfully, Morlock has not and hopefully will not meet with any tragedy like Hastings.

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