PHOENIX - With the election mere days away, the Democrats are moving to woo Arizona away from its traditional choice, the Republicans. Following an onslaught of campaign ads costing $1.2 million, Hillary Clinton came to Arizona herself to address a crowd of mostly young people, women and Hispanics, the demographics the Democratic candidate hopes to win over in this conservative state.
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At rallies around America, Clinton has positioned herself as the more optimistic candidate. Her slogan, “Stronger Together,” delivers a much more buoyant message than Donald Trump’s “Build the Wall.” What kind of America do you want? One that works together, or one where we are frightened of one another? she asked again at Wednesday’s rally. “We know that America is big-hearted, not small-minded. We want to lift people up, not tear each other down,” she said.
Yet to turn the red state blue, Clinton too was prepared to change direction and sow some fear and panic. The purpose of her Arizona speech was to drive home to every American watching why voting matters, and the personal price they could pay if they don’t. “Imagine Trump taking an oath of office, and it is him making the decisions that are affecting all of you,” she said. “A president that promised to have a huge deportation force... The only way it could be done is sending law enforcement door-to-door, school-to-school, business-to-business.”
More than just addressing her supporters, Clinton was aiming her words at the Latino community, where voting rates have historically been low.
While the crowd mulled the image Clinton was painting – each, with his own associations, imagining Gestapo soldiers, priests of the Inquisition or just secret police stealing up the staircases in their homes – Clinton explained that the man Donald Trump means to tap to handle immigrant expulsions is a man thoroughly familiar to Arizonans: one Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County. The crowd erupted in boos.
Sheriff Arpaio made a name for himself for his brutal treatment of immigrants and prisoners. In 2011 a federal inquiry found that Arpaio had a penchant for illegally arresting Latinos. Some of his deeds were uncovered by the Arizona East Valley Tribune, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for its reporting on the case. In October this year, federal prosecutors charged him with criminal contempt of court for defying a court order to stop targeting Latinos.
Some of his actions were pursuant to a deliberate policy of persecution, including setting up a “Tent City Jail” for illegal immigrants that he referred to as a “concentration camp,” and reviving chain gang labor, a practice that was abandoned in America in the 1950s. The sheriff even took pride in forcing the prisoners to wear pink underwear, which became his trademark.
And who is Trump’s senior adviser on immigration affairs? Joe Arpaio, Clinton noted at the rally, adding, “Imagine if he were appointed Secretary of Homeland Security.”
Even without the specter of Arpaio as immigration chief, Hispanics in Arizona have good reason to vote for the Democrats. In 2010, Arizona approved a law sponsored by the Republicans that made “reasonable doubt” of being an illegal immigrant grounds for arrest. People can be taken into custody for speaking Spanish or not “looking American.” Let’s show the Republicans that this state has turned blue, she exhorted the crowd.
Arizona voted red even after that law was enacted, but Trump’s rhetoric and the threat of Arpaio have breathed fresh hope into Clinton’s advisers, as has the registration of new Latino voters. The statistics aren’t categorically against her, either. A man named Bill Clinton won Arizona in 1996, becoming the only Democrat to turn the state blue since 1948.