Flawed Campaigns Leave Tragic Muddle

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What a sin that voters had to sit through this dispiriting campaign crossfire for so many months, with shots from the left and right — each candidate accusing their opponent of being un-American, committing immoral acts or having some grotesque character flaw.

And as Arizona’s budget sank deeper and deeper into a seemingly bottomless pit, candidates inflicted voters to a series of ill-defined solutions to the historic catastrophe now unfolding.

We’ll cut waste, they say. We’ll streamline government. Must be gobs of fat in there somewhere.

Alas, all the mudslinging and question dodging shed little light on the tough choices the winners must now make. Instead, candidates on both sides squandered the chance to level with the public and explore real solutions.

So we all lost out on the vital discourse they could have encouraged while on the campaign trail. Candidates, especially incumbents, could have trusted voters with the truth. Instead, newly elected officials will take office in January to figure out how to make good on their vague promises to cut taxes and the budget — all without crippling our schools. Good luck. Perhaps we’ll call in Houdini.

Interesting to note that national anger against the Democrats led to a Republican sweep in Congress. Not so in Arizona, where angry voters kept the same party in charge, often ousting the few, pragmatic moderates still seeking workable solutions.

Republicans, with big majorities in both chambers of the state Legislature plus every single statewide office now have a big mess to fix. No more pawning responsibility off on a long-gone Democratic governor. No more buildings to sell or quick fixes to postpone the painful.

We fear that education will take a huge hit as lawmakers balance the budget. However, we pray our leaders recognize that education holds the key to the economic recovery that remains our sole means of climbing out of this pit.

We hope they take note that the unemployment rate among the college educated remains just 4.4 percent — a fraction of the rate among those without a good grounding in the skills demanded by our evolving economy.

Gutting the universities would deal a crushing blow to Payson’s prospects for building an ASU campus here. But more importantly, it would cripple the state’s efforts to recover from this interminable downturn. Arizona cannot recover economically and compete with other states and regions and nations without a well-educated work force.

Of course, the universities must compete with many other state priorities — including the frayed social safety net. The state has one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates. We also now have one of the highest poverty rates in the nation.

Of course, all of those issues come back again to education. The only way out of poverty is a good education — but we also spend less money per student than almost any other state in the union. A coincidence? Not likely.

Tragically, the enormously expensive campaigns just concluded did little to educate the voters to the hard choices at hand. And so the winners must go into the swamp to wrestle the alligators, without a clear mandate from a confused and disillusioned public.

We wish them well — with all of our futures clamped now in the alligator’s jaw.

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