Yesterday the Tea Party Patriots announced that they will be hosting a policy summit in Phoenix, Arizona, in February.
Newsweek's Ben Adler, no fan of the Tea Party movement, seized upon the occasion to smear the entire state of Arizona.
"The Tea Party Patriots call Phoenix 'the great southwestern city, born from the ruins of a former civilization, now the rebirth place of American culture. It will also be our opportunity to support the citizens of Arizona in their current political battles that carry so many national implications,'" Adler noted, before setting out on his attack of the state, first as ecologically and economically "unsustainable"...:
The fact that grassroots conservatives are so enamored with Phoenix says a lot about how human geography interacts with politics. To liberals, urban planners, and environmentalists, Phoenix and its growth are the epitome of everything that is unsustainable and unhealthy about recent American real-estate development. As a NEWSWEEK cover story from 1995 detailed, Phoenix sprawls across the flat desert landscape, requiring the consumption of ever-more gasoline to travel the ever-greater distances. Despite the low density, Phoenix suffers from the 16th-worst traffic congestion in the country. As befits a place settled in part by Californians fleeing in fear of diversity and crime, the suburbs of Phoenix are socioeconomically segregated.
Phoenix's rapid development is not built around major industry so much as the cheap land itself. People without jobs, such as retirees (or Bristol Palin), move there, and the economy built around construction and services follows. But this falls apart when the real-estate bubble bursts, which is why Arizona has the fourth-highest rate of foreclosures and is tied for 16th-highest unemployment rate among the states.
...as politically retrograde:
Liberals have also long found the political culture of Arizona objectionable. The 1964 Republican presidential nominee Sen. Barry Goldwater—the widely recognized forefather of modern Sun Belt conservatism, who opposed the Civil Rights Act—came from there. Antipathy to civil rights remained a defining feature of Arizona Republican politics for years to come. As Time reminded us on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, "three Arizona House Republicans, including current Senator and former presidential candidate John McCain, voted against the bill [to establish the holiday] in '83. The state did not vote in favor of recognizing the holiday until 1992, not only rejecting pleas from Reagan and then Arizona governor Evan Mecham but also losing the NFL's support when the league moved Super Bowl XXVII from Sun Devil Stadium, in Tempe, to California in protest." Last year Arizona found itself again offending the sensibilities of the professional sports business when it passed a law making it a crime not to carry immigration documents on your person and giving the police broad powers to interrogate and detain suspected illegal immigrants. In response, the Phoenix Suns of the NBA wore a jersey representing "Los Suns."
But a liberal's dusty, culturally banal, reactionary dystopia is a conservative's successful model of conservative ideals in practice.
...and finally as a cultural backwater and geriatric "playground":
The Tea Party Patriots write: "[Phoenix] retains the famous western landscape of mountains, deserts, cactus, and an occasional cowboy. Event participants will enjoy urban sophistication in downtown Phoenix, with world-class spas, stadiums, restaurants, and shopping—all within walking distance of the new Phoenix Convention Center, our location. You'll want to spend an extra afternoon visiting the Grand Canyon, or playing at a year-round golf course (that's right—it will be warm in February!)" [emphasis in original]. Of course, the legitimacy of those claims probably depends on your definition of "urban sophistication" and "world-class restaurants." (The 1995 NEWSWEEK story said Phoenix "has a downtown so exiguous that a pedestrian outside its biggest office building at 9 on a weekday morning is a phenomenon as singular as a cow in Times Square.") A place retaining its "cowboy" character, having vast open spaces, and constructing artificial old-person playgrounds for golfing is presumed to be self-evidently positive. Those affections say a lot about the cultural aspirations that motivate Tea Partiers.
This is certainly no way to expand the subscriber base for Newsweek in the Grand Canyon State.