Yard sign at the polling station in South Phoenix. Photo credit: Peter Costantini. PHOENIX, Arizona, Jan. 12 (IPS) – The Valley of the Sun is a vast, flat stretch of the Sonoran Desert etched by arroyos and dotted with small, jagged peaks. It stretches 50 miles from west to east and 40 miles from north to south in south-central Arizona (the state bordering southern California to the east). After traveling south on one of the highways that cross the expanse, we can take it another 161 kilometers southeast to Tucson over the same harsh landscape and only gradually gain altitude. The saguaro cacti grow denser, but the higher cordillera keep a discreet distance for most of the way.
Along Interstate 10, irrigated fields of alfalfa and cotton still roll green cord to the horizon. However, if we could drive through the last half-century’s time-lapse photography, farms and desert would inexorably be replaced by shopping malls with oversized parking lots fed by seven-lane arteries.
Earth-colored subdivisions of dirt-paved single-story ranch houses or paved courtyards would sprout in abundance, and their driveways would be crowded with one-tonne pickups with two rear wheels and shiny chrome grills. For better or worse, kilometer-long warehouses and car dealerships would spread out over the thorny drought, jumping out of sagebrush and gravel over vacant areas.
Over the years, the water currents in the irrigation canals that lead them to fields, homes, and golf courses would dwindle as the Colorado River and its tributaries were diverted into growing populations and agricultural valleys in the Southwest and California.
If we could observe the occupants of these houses for over fifty years, we could see an increase in older snowbirds retreating south to a warm place. More recently, refugees would emerge from California real estate prices. All along, we saw a growing number of families who looked like they had come from the south of the border – including some whose ancestors were here before the border. (If we could go back a few centuries, of course, almost all of the residents would look very much like them.)
Many of them went out in the morning to weed and harvest the green fields, build the houses, clean the hotel rooms, and do the other chores that turn the valley’s trading wheels. If the time-lapse visuals had a soundtrack, their accents could wander from sizzling Norteño to Spanglish to Arizona Twang. And in recent years, more of their children have attended the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, or community college.
The Valley of the Sun is still undeniably a warm place – that hasn’t changed. Phoenix, at its center, is the hottest city in the United States by some standards. From mid-May to mid-October, the daily maximum temperatures averaged over 37.8 degrees Celsius. Last summer, the mercury peaked at 118 degrees (47.8 degrees Celsius) and had previously reached 122 degrees (50 degrees Celsius). From the air, slot canyons look like deep cracks in the earth, through which you can almost see the glow of the infernal sulfur below.
Politics is also hot enough to fry an egg. And it’s controversial enough that the egg would likely get mixed up.
View of downtown Phoenix across South Phoenix. Photo credit: Peter Costantini. Cowboy Conservatism: Heading for the Sunset?
That year, Arizona moved from Republican to Democrat in President and Senate races, and the Valley of the Sun led the way. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden squealed 0.3 percent, around 10,500 votes, from Republican President Donald Trump to win Arizona’s eleven electoral votes. Trump had defeated Hillary Clinton by 3.5 percentage points in 2016, so the vote shifted almost 4 points to the Democrats in 2020. This turnaround was due in part to a nearly 10 percent increase in voter turnout from 2016, a significant portion of it in Hispanic communities.
(Note: The US President is not elected by a referendum, but by an electoral college. Each state is assigned a number of votes that is roughly proportional to its population. The candidate wins the most popular votes cast in a state, Regardless of the margin, the state wins all votes except two states. In 2016 and 2000, the Republican candidate won the most votes at the national level and thus the presidency, but the Democratic candidate won the national referendum.)
In the competition for a seat in the US Senate, the Democrat Mark Kelly defeated the incumbent Republican Martha McSally comfortably by about 2.3 percentage points. In 2018, Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema won the other US Senate seat in Arizona, also against McSally.
Prior to that, Arizona had two US Republican Senators since 1994. This year, in another drift to the left, with libertarian undertones, state voters legalized recreational marijuana by 60 to 40 percent. And by 3.5 percentage points, they approved a high income tax surcharge to finance education sponsored by the Democrats and teachers unions.
A major factor in this shift in political fault lines was the mobilization of the state’s growing Hispanic population and other color communities through grassroots organizations led by mostly young local organizers.
A time-lapse sequence of politics here would show Arizona crossing the electoral line to the left this year, the culmination of a gradual move away from cowboy conservatism towards political and ethnic diversity.
Prior to 2020, a Democratic presidential candidate had only promoted the state once since 1948. In 1964, Arizona offered Senator Barry Goldwater, an imprisoned and charged Cold Warrior to the right of most of his party, as a Republican presidential candidate. His campaign was buried in a Democratic landslide by incumbent President Texan Lyndon Baines Johnson.
The rocky law of ancient Arizona projected its hegemony into this century and often merged with racist immigration policies. In 2010, Arizona passed Senate Draft 1070 known as “Show Me Your Paper Act”. The local police force had to strictly enforce immigration laws, even though immigration enforcement in the United States is a federal function.
Polls showed the law was popular with conservatives and five other states passed similar laws. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in racial profiling and harassment of those who appeared as “Mexicans,” and 100,000 undocumented immigrants reportedly left Arizona.
Longtime Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio went on to become a national Conservative celebrity by encouraging his MPs to molest anyone they suspect of being immigrants. He also locked inmates in tents at 100 degrees Celsius, forced male prisoners to wear pink underwear, and made some of them work on chain gangs. “He was our Trump before Trump came,” one Arizonan told me. After Arpaio was convicted in 2017 of criminal contempt for ignoring a court order to end racial profiling of immigrants, Donald Trump granted the former sheriff his first presidential pardon.
In the past decade, Hispanic groups have grown dramatically by opposing the free-range bigotry and nativism of the state’s Republican establishment. They began with sit-in strikes in the state capital against SB 1070 and eventually litigation by civil rights groups that reached the US Supreme Court, reversed or restricted most of the law.
On the polling arena, their organizers carried out the recall of state lawmaker Russell Pearce, the law’s main sponsor. Lawyers and community victims repeatedly sued Arpaio, making him an expensive political responsibility for the county, and ultimately sealed his election defeat in 2016. These groups have also worked to protect asylum seekers, dreamers and undocumented immigrants against deportations and the many others Abuses to defend the Trump administration.
With each election, community organizations have sent growing brigades of high-energy, bilingual schoolchildren and students into their own residential and shopping districts to mobilize voters. They’ve also come up with creative ways to reach potential voters online: for example, the nonprofit Arizona Center for Empowerment runs a website called Votería AZ that uses images and names based on the popular Mexican game Lotería, much like registering bingo voters and vote.
“One of our biggest programs is voter registration – it’s been the focus since SB 1070,” said Fred Oaxaca, data manager for One Arizona, a coalition of these groups. “So far, every year has been the largest voter registration we’ve done.” When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, he told me on a video call that they all wanted to protect their people so suddenly their operations had to switch from “everyone in the field to phones, texts and online”.
Pandemic restrictions harm their fieldwork, he admits, but he still believes their efforts are successful. He scans a monitor and says there were a total of 617,000 registered Latinx voters in 2018, with 294,000 voting, around 47 percent. That year, 802,000 Latinx voters were registered – an increase of 30 percent – and 375,000 had only voted by postal vote when we talked. When the final balance sheet is released in February, including face-to-face and polls, he expects a sharp spike in Latinx’s overall turnout.
A lawsuit filed by several community and civil rights groups has won a decision obliging the state to postpone the deadline for registering voters from October 5th to October 15th. During that 10-day extension period, these groups registered an additional 35,000 voters to Eduardo Sainz of Mi Familia Vota (My Family Voices), a national non-governmental organization based in Arizona. If those votes had been reduced to the Democratic ratio of about two to one of the national Hispanic votes, they would have provided an advantage of about ten thousand votes, about the margin of Biden’s win in Arizona.
During the campaign, coalitions of community groups rang 1.15 million doorbells and made 8 million phone calls to mobilize color voters across Arizona. The turnout of Latinx, Black and Native American voters has increased significantly this year compared to 2016, a coalition spokesman told Rafael Carranza of the Republic of Arizona.
Alejandra Gomez of Living United for Change in Arizona, a member of the coalition, summed it up: “All of this, in my opinion, was the perfect storm for our communities to come together and begin to center all of our communities that were really left out Trial, especially in Arizona. ”
Promise Arizona’s polling station Phoenix. Photo credit: Peter Costantini. Purple Wave Driver
Driving these political shifts from deep red to bluish purple are broader demographic transformations. Hispanics are the second largest racial or ethnic group in the United States after non-Hispanic whites, making up 18.5 percent of the national population in 2019. With an increase of nearly a fifth since 2010, they are the second fastest growing race or ethnicity after Asian Americans.
Of the 7.38 million residents of Arizona in 2019, 31.7 percent – nearly a third – were of Hispanic descent. Approximately 84 percent of the Hispanic population in the state were of Mexican origin. Hispanic voters now make up around 24 percent of the state’s electorate, up from 15 percent in 2000. The important role they played in this year’s election changes was reflected in the polls: Arizona Hispanic voters cast 19 percent of the vote and gave Biden a 61 to 37 percent advantage over Trump and Kelly a 65 to 35 percent margin over McSally.
“The community of Mexican descent gave Joe Biden the victory in Arizona. And now comes the bill, ”commentator Jorge Santibáñez told the Los Angeles Times. Many of the community’s needs have been neglected for years, he wrote. Joe Biden must not repeat the mistake of Obama who promised immigration reform in his campaign but never proposed it. Biden won over Arizona because of this fellowship, and he has to remember that. ”
Ironically, some of the growth in the Hispanic electorate over the past few decades has been due to mounting restrictions on migration. When Oaxaca’s parents emigrated from Mexico, they never expected to stay here. “Their main goal was to come here, make money, buy back land in Mexico, go back, build a house, live their lives.” Walking back and forth was the norm for Mexican migrants at the time.
However, this changed after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent crackdown on the border protection authorities. September 11th placed a wall on the revolving door that formed the border. It created a barrier to the jump, making it far more dangerous to travel here, go in and out. So people stayed. And they wanted to keep building to provide for their families who were still there. That was a key factor for my family too. ”
Some of these immigrants were able to become naturalized citizens and voters. Many of their children are now 18 years old and have registered to vote. Quite a few, like Oaxaca, have become organizers and managers. After college in California, he returned to Arizona to do movement work. “I grew up with a lot of these people,” he said. “Politics is local: it starts with families. If you can’t change your home, why go anywhere else? ”
“Ultimately,” Oaxaca said, “the goal here was to eradicate the hateful politics of 10 years ago.” It was a ten year plan and we are at 10 years. I look forward to proposing guidelines rather than preventing them. “For him, it’s about making direct changes in people’s lives to make them safer.” So people don’t have to worry about whether or not they’ll be able to pick up their child from school. “It’s a very big fear that people talk about, but it’s often a very simple thing. ”
These days, One Arizona is looking beyond its Latinx base. “Over the past 4 years,” Oaxaca said, “we have made a very concerted effort to expand our coalition.” We have brought in Native American groups, Asia Pacific islander groups, and organizations in the black community.
Indians make up over 5 percent of the population of Arizona, one of the highest proportions of any state. “The tribal areas, particularly the Navaho Nation, fell out much more often, and we can clearly see that there was more buzz and energy there. Learning from them is really exciting, how we do this work better and how we involve the community. ”
“One of the things that make us stand out here in Arizona is the makeup of the people who do the work and the leadership,” Oaxaca told me. “Many of our employees are colorful and there are many younger managers.
There’s a broad mix that embodies a lot of what our communities are like. You keep this ship running and bring others to the fold. I started when I was 17, now I’m 25 and I’m in these rooms too. It gets people to get involved sooner and these people will be the next round of leaders driving new policies that are important to them. ”
According to one estimate, this population tectonics will create a beautiful new political landscape by 2027: a majority minority in Arizona – with more colored people than whites – by 2027. For the entire USA, the change is visible on the event horizon, perhaps two or three decades later. This milestone is allegedly a bugbear of Trump’s immigration consiglieri and ignites the tiki torches of ignorant armies of white supremacists.
Other changes in Arizona have put a wind on the sails of the Democrats, including a fast-growing and increasingly progressive youth election, largely Spanish, and increased support among suburban women. Another common local factor is the arrival of former Californians fleeing prohibitive rents and mortgage payments in the Golden State. Newcomers from other states also keep coming, often looking for sun all year round. Some conservative talk show hosts fear the newcomers are wearing a lot of Rad-Lib tendencies on the west coast.
Even so, old Arizona isn’t going away anytime soon. Republicans clung to narrow margins in both houses of the state assembly, and Republican governorship was not on the ballot this year. The democratic shift of nationwide races did not take place in many local competitions.
How much of the presidential election was against Trump, more than for Biden, remains an open question. Preliminary figures showed that Trump may even have gained a few percentage points among Hispanic men. Biden was helped by a backing from Cindy McCain, the widow of John McCain – a former Republican Senator from Arizona and presidential candidate – who often clashed with Trump. And the new Democratic US Senator, Mark Kelly, was temperate and already personally popular as a former astronaut and husband of another distinguished politician.
“Yes, I think the population will continue to grow,” said Oaxaca. “But demographic change does not define the fate of the political sphere. The Latinx community is not a monolith. There is a difference between me as the first generation and a third-generation Arizona citizen who has been here a long time.
On the political side, there is a degree of maturity in the community, but also in the way they are viewed given their growing potential and political power. “Maturity, he said, means moving their agenda forward no matter who is in the White House:” Don’t let them take you for granted, blame them. “Political machines are beginning to take notice, he said, and this time” Republicans have tried to do a lot more to move forward because they understood that it wasn’t one size fits all. ”
Polling station volunteer handing out water to voters, Phoenix. Photo credit: Peter Costantini. Showdown in the AZ corral
The old political Arizona lives on in small groups of “Latinos for Trump” at polling stations in the city. And in front of the polling station in downtown Phoenix, where votes were counted, hundreds of Trump supporters demonstrated for days. A week after election day, they still occupied a parking lot there.
Large banners depicting Trump as Rambo with a grenade launcher were unfurled alongside groups of American flags, and a variety of Make American Great Again and other Trump-themed merch were put up for sale. Alex Jones, the prominent conspiracy theorist, had shown up and his truck was parked nearby. The sheriff’s MPs kept the trial off the streets.
Mingled with the crowd were small groups of solid types in tactical equipment, open, powerful, military-looking weapons. I asked a stocky man with a Van Dyke beard in disguise what he was afraid of if Biden would become president. He covered his head and howled “The world is going to end” then he smiled and said he was just kidding.
Taxes would go up, he believed: “I don’t want to pay more taxes. I don’t want to have to pay a fine if I don’t have health insurance. And I don’t give up my guns, I don’t care what they say. I’m not an illegal person, I’m not breaking the law. ”
He pointed to his long gun and said, “Americans, this is us.” If Trump won, he said, “I would like to see some changes in the immigration service. I would like a lot of funding for the police forces and an enormous amount of training. That could lead us to better police selection.
Like a Navy Seal – you don’t just go out there and become a Navy Seal after 286 hours of training. That’s years. There are many freedoms that politicians have taken from us Americans over time. And it needs to be secured. Great government is not good for any country. ”
Most of his concerns seemed to have resided in the Republican mainstream of the past half century, asking why anyone would feel the need to carry arms to express them. I asked him what he was packing. He smiled, “As defined by the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Department, this is an AR-15 pistol.” However, the AR-15 is often classified as a semi-automatic rifle. It has been reportedly used in several mass murders and is a hot button in gun control debates.
The pro-Trump demonstration was mostly white, but two of the speakers were a young woman and a teen-looking boy, both of whom could have been Hispanic or American descent. The young woman said she had worked in Phoenix city ministries, was very concerned about the choice of school and was a victim of human trafficking. The boy pumped his fist and shouted, “This is for future generations! This is for the USA! We can choose our future! And we vote for Trump! “to loud applause.
On a corner across the street, a few dozen Biden and immigration supporters, many of whom appeared to be Latinx, held a counter-demonstration with a Biden Harris sign and a Mexican flag. Small groups of pro-Trump people crossed the street to attack them at one point and a few cloaked open porters shaded them.
A MAGA supporter wearing a black motorcycle helmet brought a megaphone and spoke to the opposing demonstrators at full volume. Several other Trump supporters also appeared to be trying to intimidate the pro-Biden protesters. But most of them discussed civilly, if heatedly, with people on the other side. The sheriff’s MPs watched but did not intervene.
At other times, the actions of Trump supporters were reportedly more threatening. At an earlier demonstration there, a television journalist said that she and her photographer had been threatened by Trump supporters and would be filing a police report. A month after Election Day, the Republican Party of Arizona reportedly asked on Twitter if its members were willing to die to discard the result. And Katie Howe, the Arizona Secretary of State who presided over the elections, announced that she had received “escalating threats of violence” from Trumpists who believed the president’s false claims of electoral fraud. They went on strike home and sang, “We’re watching you!” Howe, a Democrat, has been widely praised for holding flawless elections despite the pandemic.
Believe in South Phoenix
Just a few miles from the political circus at the polling station, the new Arizona is flourishing in the predominantly Hispanic area of southern Phoenix. To get there, we will drive down South Central Avenue, a north-south main street that currently houses construction workers and orange barriers along parts of the median. A light rail line from the city center will cross the heart of a very car-oriented community. A proposed big box store could also emerge, which raises concerns among the neighborhood’s small businesses.
Along the avenue, a billboard sells payday loans from “Tio Rico Te Ayuda” (“Rich uncle helps you”). Dollar stores are rubbing their elbows with Mexican restaurants and churches. Between Llantera Hispana, a tire store, and Annette Mayorga American Family Insurance, the Promise Arizona store office greeted its community in October with a large sign in English and Spanish asking people to vote. The acronym PAZ means “peace” in Spanish.
The Promise Arizona website describes the philosophy, “We believe that building political power among immigrants and Latinos is key to bringing hope, dignity and progress to our communities.” To achieve this goal, it has evolved into a hybrid organization: community development group, cultural center, immigration justice advocate, Latinx lobby and voter mobilizer. Much of the group’s political effectiveness seems to have come from being embedded in the community and culture with deep, intergenerational ties. Instead of a political party outsider knocking on your door, it could be a friend’s son or daughter, and the group may have helped a relative get a green card. Basically, it’s community members who work with community members to take care of their common needs.
If you walk into the main meeting room on a particular day, you might encounter an English class, a citizenship form filling workshop, students learning how to use technology, a prayer vigil, or a voter registration bank. Many of his meetings are in Spanish. You may be greeted warmly by Petra Falcon, the residence’s founder, manager and wise woman. She used to be the organizer of the United Farm Workers Union. In addition to her work as a matriarch for five children and six of her own grandchildren, she has now supported and looked after a new generation of aspiring managers.
PAZ and other sections of the Arizona Immigration Justice Movement were born out of a 103-day sit-in in the state capital of Arizona against the repressive Senate Bill 1070. The group was also active in the coalition that successfully recalled the legislature who sponsored the bill and the string of efforts that kicked out racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Many of Falcon’s alumni have organized themselves and made political careers.
A young man with a soft voice and an ASU cap showed me through the PAZ office. Alexis Rodriguez, 20, is PAZ Field Director and Junior at Arizona State University. He was recruited into activism by a young senator, Tony Navarrete, who had been deputy director of the PAZ. Lawmakers and their team came to Rodriguez’s mostly white high school – “it was a lot of Brown people, people like me, Latinos.”
They exchanged ideas with the students about possible solutions to reduce gun violence, which piqued Rodriguez’s curiosity. In the end, he did an internship at Navarretes Campaign, registered people to vote and collected signatures for petitions. The student learned from lawmakers how he works for his community: “Build the economy in our district and create more opportunities for our families. And now, with COVID, he was able to bring in so many drive-through inspection stations. ”
While still in high school, the young organizer was inspired by a strike and strike by teachers in 2018. Thousands of teachers from across the state marched on the capital in a sea of red T-shirts. Their movement was called “Red for Ed”. Rodriguez agreed with the teachers that the public education he was grateful for was woefully underfunded.
He organized some friends and classmates to go to the capital and show support. “In the end I packed my truck with about 7 seats, another friend took her car with 5, another car with another 4. When we found her, our teachers started clapping and cheering. And I ask myself, “What is that?” We should clap and cheer for you. “Sie gehen dieses große Risiko ein, um positive Veränderungen vorzunehmen.”
Die Forderung der Lehrer nach einer besseren Schulfinanzierung war in diesem Jahr endlich erfolgreich, als die Wähler eine Initiative zur Erhöhung der staatlichen Einkommensteuer auf hohe Einkommen und zur Verwendung des Erlöses für Bildung verabschiedeten.
Navarrete stellte Rodriguez Falcon vor, der ihn als Praktikanten anstellte. Die PAZ führte eine durchgangsorientierte Entwicklungsarbeit durch, um die Gemeinde über die Auswirkungen der kommenden Stadtbahnlinie zu informieren, und Rodriguez sammelte zunächst Bewertungen von Gemeindemitgliedern im Durchgangskorridor.
In einer Ecke des Besprechungsraums zeigte mir Rodriguez einen traditionellen mexikanischen Altar für Día de Muertos (Tag der Toten), der kurz vor dem Wahltag fiel. „Wir haben eine Ofrenda ins Leben gerufen und unsere verstorbenen Verwandten eingeladen, ihr Leben mit uns zu feiern.
Und wir versorgten sie mit Tequila, mit dem, was sie gerne aßen, mit Pan de Muertos (Brot der Toten). Wir haben Bilder von Familienmitgliedern und Ringelblumen (eine traditionelle Blume für Ofrendas). “ PAZ-Leute zündeten Kerzen an und sagten Rosarios für ihre Toten.
Neben der Ofrenda befand sich ein Mosaik von La Virgen de Guadalupe, Mexikos Schutzpatronin. PAZ-Mitglieder beten oft dazu, sagte Rodriguez. Auf der anderen Seite des Raumes befand sich eine weitere Jungfrau, eine kleine Statue. PAZ-Delegationen haben sie auf Reisen nach Washington, DC und Texas mitgenommen. “Überall im Land”, erinnerte er sich, “hat sie so viel mit uns durchgemacht und all die Kämpfe unserer Familie und all unsere Siege und Verluste gesehen.”
PAZ, sagte Rodriguez, ist „eine auf Glauben basierende Organisation. Wir konzentrieren uns sehr auf das Gebet und auf die Kultur der Dinge. “ Es ist nicht offiziell mit einer bestimmten Kirche verbunden, aber “viele unserer spanischsprachigen Gemeinschaften sind katholisch”. Die Gruppe hat Verbindungen zu verschiedenen Kirchen in der Umgebung von Phoenix, die Informationen bereitstellen und für sie Einwanderungskliniken einrichten.
Auf einer Stoffwand im Versammlungssaal steht: „PAZ – Promise Arizona. Vertrauen. Hoffnung. Abstimmung.” Die PAZ ist seit SB 1070 stark in die Wahl- und politische Arbeit involviert. „In den letzten 10 Jahren war jede Wahl wichtig: Wir engagieren uns in allen“, sagte Rodriguez. Die PAZ registriert, organisiert und mobilisiert die Community zu sozialen Themen und spezifischen Wahlkampagnen. Und diese Organisation hat sich auch auf seine eigene Familie ausgewirkt.
“Meine Mutter, sie ist jetzt eine Bewohnerin, aber sie ist aus Guanajuato, Mexiko, ausgewandert”, sagte Rodriguez zu mir. “Sie ist der Grund, warum ich hier bin und warum ich so viele Möglichkeiten habe und warum ich das Wahlrecht habe.” Seit 35 Jahren, sagte er, habe sie hart gearbeitet, jetzt als Haushälterin für Hilton und Hausmeisterin bei Walmart.
„Jedes Mal, wenn sie mich in den Nachrichten sieht, freut sie sich über ihre Freunde in der Kirche. Sie ist so glücklich, dass ich auch für sie und unsere Einwanderergemeinschaft kämpfe. Sie ist sehr, sehr stolz. ” Von ihren 6 Kindern geht er als erster aufs College. „Sie hatte noch nie zuvor den Raum, über Politik zu sprechen, mein Vater auch. Jetzt verbinden wir uns so: Wir sprechen über Politik und Gesetze. Es ist ein ganz neues Gespräch. ”
Die Dynamik kluger junger Organisatoren ist das Herzstück des neuen Arizona. Sie verarbeiten Daten, organisieren Textbanken, reiten auf Herden in sozialen Medien und schulen ihre Außendienstmitarbeiter in der Verwendung von Online-Werbe-Apps.
Ihre Bewegung basiert aber auch auf altmodischen politischen Taktiken der Füße auf der Straße, obwohl die Pandemie diese Arbeit verlangsamt hat. PAZ hat einen Kampagnen-Pickup, eine weiße halbe Tonne, die mit Flaggen und Schildern geschmückt ist und die Leute zur Abstimmung auffordert. Es begleitet Werber in Nachbarschaften und Einkaufszentren und sendet Musik und Nachrichten. Manuel Gutierrez, a volunteer, proudly lent his camioneta to la causa and decorated it as a get-out-the-vote-mobile.
Voters entering polling place in South Phoenix. Credit: Peter Costantini.Hope in Maricopa
PAZ’s electoral efforts focus on the South Phoenix area. It’s one of the main concentrations of Hispanic people, who make up 43 percent of the city’s population – although their percentage of the electorate lags. With 1.70 million inhabitants, Phoenix is the nation’s fifth largest city. It’s also the capital of the state and the county, and is home to more than a third of the county’s population.
Maricopa County, with 4.57 million inhabitants, contains 62 percent of the state’s population. Encompassing most of the urban and suburban areas in the Valley of the Sun, it dominates the politics and economy of Arizona. The state, county and city populations and economies are all growing at healthy rates. Hispanics make up 31.4 percent of the population, slightly lower than the statewide figure. But in the county, according to the Morrison Institute for Public Policy, “more than two thousand Latinos turn 18 every month and become eligible to vote.”
In 2020, Maricopa flipped from Republican to Democratic in the presidential vote. Since 1952, it had voted Republican each year, except for Bill Clinton in 1996. Biden carried the county by 2.2 percentage points, a swing of 5 points from Trump’s 2.8 point margin in 2016. The victory was powered by an increase of 300 thousand Democratic voters. County turnout was a record 80 percent, a level unmatched in the past century. (National turnout in U.S. presidential elections usually runs 50 to 60 percent; this year it was 66.7 percent, and Arizona’s was 65.9 percent).
Some of the increased turnout may have been suburban and rural Republicans turning out for Trump. And several mainly middle-class White areas of the city and suburbs flipped from Republican to Democratic. But a decisive part of the Democratic turnout growth seems to have been newly motivated Hispanic and young voters in the city, notably those fired up by the efforts of community groups.
An under-reported geographical trend, Fred Oaxaca observed, was the strong Democratic advance in Pima County, the state’s second largest, and its seat, Tucson, the second largest and most Democratic city. Tucson’s population, like Phoenix’s, is about 43 percent Hispanic, and many of the Hispanic community groups have branches there. “Pima saw a considerable consolidation of the vote,” he said. Biden won Pima by 18.7 percentage points, a margin of 97 thousand votes compared to Hillary Clinton’s 57 thousand vote margin in 2016.
Saddling up for the future
As it catches its breath after the electoral sprint, PAZ is beginning to think about the next ten years.
At the national level, Rodriguez said, the top priority is immigration reform. “Hopefully, Biden invites us to the table and is like, how can we provide immigration reform? And how can we provide a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and their parents, our immigrant community.”
In South Phoenix, he said, “we’re really invested in developing affordable housing” with local partners. “We’ve done assessments here in the South Central Corridor, so we know people’s annual incomes and how much they pay for rent.” PAZ is particularly focused on providing housing for mixed-immigration status families, “where they can pay the rent, but maybe also provide some savings, so all the paycheck doesn’t just go for rent and utilities.” For PAZ, affordable housing is key to preventing gentrification due to development around the light-rail line and the proposed big box store.
During the pandemic, PAZ has helped people deal with unemployment, access emergency funds, and avoid utility shutoffs. The organizing around these issues that have been so critical in mobilizing the community, he said, will not slow down.
Away from the political hurly-burly and the sprawl, the original Arizona persists in the dry wash of the Salt River just south of downtown Phoenix. There, creosote and mesquite, ponds full of turtles, monarch butterflies and birdsong go on weaving tenacious webs of life. On Piestewa Peak, within the city limits, palos verdes still thrust taproots deep into the fractured ferruginous quartzite.
If we could do time-lapse imaging of the coming decade, odds are it would show, in the strip malls and the cul-de-sacs, rich social ferment continuing to fertilize new Arizonas on the Sonoran hardpan of the Valley of the Sun.