Astute--and no-so-astute--readers of this newspaper could guess that our southside offices were full of a bunch of seriously depressed people on Wednesday, Nov. 3. A terrible president had just been re-elected; Proposition 200, one of the most awful ballot propositions (on several different levels) in recent memory had just passed; and Proposition 102, which seemed like a no-brainer win-win to many, was vanquished.
It was a sad, sad day for most of us.
And we Weekly folks weren't alone. Across the country--and, well, the world--many people who support equal rights for all and who dislike divisiveness were crushed by the election results. (This is not to say that all those who voted for Bush dislike equal rights and like divisiveness. A lot of good, intelligent people voted for Bush, as well as Proposition 200. But I don't understand how or why. Any insights are welcome.) We were left without an answer to the question: Now what?
Well, after a week of reflection, here's my answer.
1. We'll watch our elected officials--Democrat, Republican and otherwise--as diligently as ever. Arizona has a long, not-so-proud history of electing some really awful people to positions of power--as well as some great men and women. For almost 21 years now, the Weekly has reported on both politicians' follies and achievements. We'll keep on doing this. And when someone violates the public's trust, we won't let them get away with it. This starts now, as we and our alternative newspaper brethren across the country look into claims of voting irregularities and other issues.
2. We'll extend our watch all the way to the top. We pride ourselves on our local emphasis, and this will not change. While local elected officials and politics will remain our primary focus, we'll keep our eyes on our federal elected officials as well--including the president himself. While the exact details haven't been determined yet, we're talking about launching some sort of regular "Bush Watch" feature in January, in which we'll examine the president's activities, analyze them--good, bad or indifferent--and show how they directly affect Pima County.
3. We'll make an effort to understand and reach out to people with differing viewpoints. As long as I have been around, the Weekly has been open to those with viewpoints and stances that don't mesh with the left-leaning Usual Gang of Idiots around here--but we almost never hear from these folks, aside from the occasional letter to the editor. While we have a large amount of Republican and conservative readers, we have very few such folks as contributors. I'd like this to change. I will make an effort to recruit a wider variety of viewpoints for Weekly features such as Guest Commentary and TQ&A. This doesn't mean we'll drop our irreverence and our critiques of those we disagree with; it just means we want a wider variety of voices.
Having said all that, it's worth noting that in terms of this election, all was not lost. Pima County and Tucson had more Kerry voters than Bush voters, and most of us said no to Proposition 200 and yes to 102. A comparatively large number of people got involved and voted this year--many for the first time.
Much of this credit goes to those behind a number of new activist organizations--another positive of this election year. Special mention goes to the Tucson Suffragettes, who made voting cool and sexy; these women (and men, too) worked hard for months to organize events and garner coverage, while doing so in a nonpartisan, fair manner. If George W. Bush wants lessons on being a uniter and not a divider, he should give the Suffragettes a call. (My only complaint about the Suffragettes was that I heard the Virgin Voter Ball was amazing--and I was unable to go, since I was stuck in the office on Election Night.)
The Billionaires for Bush also deserve special recognition for--in a very partisan manner--having fun by satirically "protesting" Kerry supporters while "supporting" the president's policies that give an advantage to the rich. My favorite Billionaires for Bush antic: A call for members to send the newly re-elected president congratulatory bags of pretzels.
Finally, all the groups--liberal, conservative, moderate and nonpartisan--who encouraged people to register to vote, in an honest and upfront manner, deserve kudos. I saw a lot of folks--outside of grocery stores, outside of public buildings and even inside bars--who volunteered their time to register people. They deserve our thanks.
The moral of all this? We're going to fight for truth and justice--as hokey as that sounds--more vigorously than ever before. I invite you to join us.