Sarah Garrecht Gassen: Arizona's politics of the pathetic

2014-06-05T00:00:00Z 2014-06-05T10:06:23Z Sarah Garrecht Gassen: Arizona's politics of the patheticSarah Garrecht Gassen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Now here’s an argument for voter education: Cesar Chavez.

No, not that César Chavez.

The Fake Chavez, or, as he’s been known for most of his life, his original name, Scott Fistler.

Not a particularly poetic name, kind of meh. Open to poking fun. Fistler. Having spent my childhood as “Sarah Carrot” — rhymes with Garrecht — it’s easy to sympathize with the unfortunately named.

But Fistler changed his name, and his political affiliation from Republican to Democrat, and is trying to fool voters in a heavily Latino part of Maricopa County. He’s running for Congress in District 7 for the seat of Ed Pastor, a Democrat who is retiring.

Fistler/Chavez ran, and lost, as a write-in candidate in 2010 against Pastor, and ran, and lost, for a seat on the Phoenix City Council last year. Both of those runs were done as a Republican.

Banking on the inattention of voters is rarely done so blatantly, but maybe he figures it’s worth a try.

Maybe it’s all a sad attempt for media attention or a joke or a manifestation of something else. Maybe it’s performance art, but I doubt it.

The attempt is desperate and bizarre enough to make one wonder. But there are some indisputable precedents that lend credence to this being a real attempt at a campaign:

Arizonans have quite a track record of embarrassing elected officials. It’s not like we don’t have a history of electing people who have dubious grasps of reality, sense of morality or basic fitness for office.

To wit: Gov. Ev Mecham (impeached and removed from office). Gov. Fife Symington (convicted in office of bank fraud and resigned). Attorney General Tom Horne (charged with a hit-and-run — he paid a fine to settle it— and ongoing multiple investigations of campaign finance wrongdoing). Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (multiple federal investigations into racial profiling by his officers).

All managed to get elected while in the midst of serious trouble, or cause it while in office — and get re-elected, run for re-election or try to mount a political comeback.

We’re not even talking about the garden-variety wacky legislators and school board members who keep our fine state on Comedy Central: people who say silly and offensive things, propose and sometimes even pass bizarre legislation about light bulbs, nuclear waste dumps, gun fetishizing, changing the definition of American citizen and trying to make Arizona immune from federal regulations.

The common thread here, between Fistler/Chavez and the more accomplished political characters, is that they all rely on voters’ ignorance and apathy. Enough of the ridiculousness and tuning out becomes a self-defense move for our own peace of mind.

Arizona has sunk to the politics of the pathetic.

Some find political season great sport — watching and participating. Driven by what I imagine to be the same thrill of conquering the high school cafeteria social structure, mutual needs are fulfilled as people who need followers strut and cluck with their sycophants in tow.

Of course, there’s more to public service than people fluffing their egos. It can be purposeful work, done with those who, yes, have the ego to step forward and say, “I have something to contribute, so elect me.”

It’s not fair to paint all politicians, or would-be politicians, with the same brush. But it’s difficult to maintain hope about our future when people like Fistler/Chavez and his more pedestrianly named brethren behave as if they’re a viable choice for voters.

It’s up to us, Arizona voters, to keep these kinds of clowns out of the public’s business.

Email Sarah Garrecht Gassen at sgassen@azstarnet.com and follow her on Facebook.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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