A free spirit. That is how my mother always describes me; therefore, it is only fitting I would live in a state that is the embodiment of the free spirit in every possible way. Apparently, I am in good company in The Old Pueblo and as news unfolds in Arizona (as expected), it will be my pleasure to introduce to you those I am honored to stand with on the frontlines in The New American Revolution.
Arizona became a state on Valentine’s Day in 1912 after many tumultuous years surrounded by war and changing territorial claims. For three hundred years, Arizona was claimed by the Spanish who, in fact, named some of the earliest, most prominent regions – like Tucson. After Mexico declared its independence from Spain in 1822, they took along with them the region now known as Arizona for less than thirty years eventually losing most of the territory to the United States in 1848 after the Mexican-American War. It would be five years before the area of Arizona from the Gila River south would become part of the territory of New Mexico through the Gadsden Purchase, and it would be another decade before Arizona became an independent territory.
Native factions also had conflicts among themselves and with new settlers. To this day, reservations thrive in Arizona. Many Tohono O’odham, Apache, Navajo, Hopi – 21 tribes in all – are recognized by the federal government. According to the 2000 Census, Arizona is home to over 250,000 people from the various Indian tribes contributing to our incredibly rich, diverse and unique state. I have had the pleasure of teaching many children from the Tohono O’odham nation as the reservation is located in the Tucson area. The different tribal communities take their heritage very seriously and in some areas, they continue to have deep resentments with Mexico.
In recent years, Arizona has been the target of much inappropriate criticism. I am always fascinated with those accusing the state falsely as ‘backward’. The year Arizona was admitted into the Union, women were given the right to vote. That is, Arizona supported the women’s suffrage movement eight years before federal law extended voting rights to women. How backward!
In ninety-nine years, Arizona has not only become the state taking the lead on border and immigration issues, she has led in influencing American thought and politics. The Grand Canyon State holds the record in this country for electing the most female governors (four thus far) although one of those individuals is sure to give one cause for suspicion. We are also the first state in which one woman has served after another as governor, and we are one of two states (the other being Connecticut) who has elected women of both parties to hold the executive post.
Oddly enough, twenty-four states have never elected a female governor (pretty backward, I’m thinking). Among those are states who boast of their progressive attitude and staunch support of women. They are the following: California, New York, Illinois, Maine, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nevada, Rhode Island, Florida and Pennsylvania.
At this point, it should not be surprising to note the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court was also an Arizonan.
When Sandra Day O’Connor graduated from law school, she was unable to find work as a lawyer in California despite her impressive accolades as a law student. As a result, she entered public service as a Deputy County Attorney in San Mateo, California then a civilian attorney, and finally entered law practice in Phoenix, Arizona where she was later appointed to the state senate and re-elected twice. In 1972, O’Connor became the first female Republican majority leader in the Arizona state senate – the first woman in American history ever doing so.
Arizona has also contributed greatly to modern political thought. When we speak of an independent conservative, one cannot dismiss former presidential candidate and Senator Barry Goldwater.
In his ‘Conscience of a Conservative’ (1960), Goldwater provided a roadmap for conservatism. It was a discussion on what was at the heart of the nation, of man and an authentic conservative message. He even went so far as to point out the apologetic manner of the establishment of his day.
It was Barry Goldwater’s presidential run that also set the stage for an actor in California to enter the political arena. Outspoken in his opposition to communism (as Goldwater was), Ronald Reagan would carry the message of independent conservatism to the White House in 1980.
Today, Barry Goldwater’s influence is still evident. The Goldwater Institute is very active in policy matters beyond Arizona as it is within. Goldwater’s family is still here and known in various circles, and there is no doubting the influence Goldwater has had on the Arizonan’s independent nature in conservative and libertarian thought.
Much more could be written about the historical and social impact Arizona has had on this nation. So why has so much been devoted thus far? Because the times warrant such examination especially in light of the fact Arizona is leading the nation once again. Rather stunning that the wild, unruly southwestern desert territory that became the 48th state to enter the Union and last in the mainland would wind up being a first in so many areas.
It never dawned on me in June of 2006, when I made the journey from Chicago to Tucson with all my possessions in a van, something enormous was about to unfold in our nation and specifically, in Arizona. Just two and a half years later, I would be meeting people who were as energetic and passionate as I was about what was transpiring in this country, and there was a bond that formed almost immediately with people who would not be strangers for long.
We were drawn together in our disgust for the weak-kneed approach the GOP had taken to this nation’s problems for so long and were equally concerned and disgusted with the proposals coming from the new Obama administration. Not only did a rallying cry for a tea party begin, but so did the action and involvement of women across this nation thanks to the rise of Sarah Palin and emergence of Smart Girl Politics. In April of 2009, I met the Smart Girls of Tucson – the mothers, housewives, small business owners, professionals, veterans, students, daughters, sisters – who became leaders in tea party events, meet and greets with candidates, spokespeople, radio guests, writers, campaign volunteers and staff – and even candidates themselves! We teamed up with Tucson Tea Party during the spring, summer and fall of 2009 to protest Obamacare, Cap and Trade, the local town council tax increase proposals, held townhalls, candidate and educational forums on government healthcare with local leaders such as Dr. Jane Orient, who successfully led the fight against Hillarycare in 1994. It was a total grassroots movement that drew national attention and larger venues including the 2009 Independence Day Tea Party where Tammy delivered the keynote address and met the newbie candidates for 2010. These new candidates were ‘us’ and largely unsupported by the local and state GOP machines. Yet, it was the grassroots movement making it very difficult for the establishment in this state to be dismissive for long!
Part of why Arizona is so significant in this time is our willingness to take something on and not retreat. The fact we have a Sheriff Joe speaks volumes! Nothing displayed our perseverance more than the decisive action on the part of our state legislature and Gov. Jan Brewer on April 23, 2010 when SB1070 was signed into law. Despite the protests, media distortions, boycotts, threats, insults and multiple lawsuits by our own federal government, we did not back down. That is just one area where we lead, and there is more to come!
Those of us in Arizona – especially in the unruly southern portion – know we are on the frontline of a very real battle. Despite the differences many of us may have regarding candidates, party affiliations or policies, we are mindful of the grave situation we face and it’s a battle we face willingly because we know if we do not defeat it, then the leftist ‘virus’ spreads. We are also aware that it was not an accident that our paths crossed. We have work to do!
Many wonderful men and women have stepped up from all walks of life to speak up in Arizona, and I must firmly acknowledge it has been a work we have accomplished together. The enormous role of women in activism, campaigns and leadership in Arizona cannot be stressed enough whether through Smart Girl Politics or Winning With Women – or both! We operate very differently in our outreach to the public and in our approach with candidates. Though not all of our grassroots candidates won in 2010, we made unprecedented inroads in areas the GOP had long surrendered and the Democrats had long taken for granted.
Arizonans are an independent lot as indicated by the history and seen in vast open deserts and mountaintops outstretched toward the heavens. It is my hope to provide the people of Arizona with the voice they deserve and to provide perspective on pressing matters that not only affect our state, but impact this nation.
I am proud to call Arizona ‘home’ as it is a perfectly natural environment for this free spirit, and it is with great pride that I can support my very independent-minded governor and state legislature knowing that we do something in Arizona that few states do: we all communicate in some manner even if that means we sometimes sound like a dysfunctional family at Thanksgiving. Our governor and state legislature know we have their back – that’s why legislation such as SB1070 or the Ethnic Studies ban gets passed.
It is also why Arizona is leading the way and providing a blueprint for free spirits elsewhere in the country to find their part in this, The New American Revolution.