Barry Goldwater, John Rhodes, and The Rise of Arizona Republicans

My post-election analysis will have to be next post at earliest. As of writing, some states still haven’t finished counting and I want a final count of the states before I proceed so I can elucidate how truly off the polls were this year as well as the core takeaways. This being said, Biden has almost certainly won. Trump would have to win Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania to prevail, and it is unlikely in the extreme that if voter fraud happened in the latter state that it was enough to have made a difference. This would require around 24,000 ballots to have been for Trump and fraudulently switched to Biden. Voter fraud does exist, but to pull something off to that extent would be extraordinary, and as Carl Sagan has said, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. Arizona seems to have shifted, albeit slightly, to blue. For the first time since the Truman Administration, Democrats hold both Senate seats. It seems like Biden will win Arizona, the first time a Democrat has done so since 1996. This can be attributed at least in part to Arizona voters disliking Donald Trump for his disrespect to the now late Senator John McCain. Also, the increasing support for Democrats can be attributed to demographic changes, with Latinos (who overall tend to vote Democrat) rising in population in the state. If the state is on an inevitable path to being a blue state with this growth, it would actually be going back to what it used to be.

For Arizona’s first forty years the state was staunchly Democratic and quite the small rural state. A grand total of one time the state had elected a Republican, Ralph Cameron, to represent the state in the Senate and this was in the 1920 Republican landslide. Although the state voted for Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover the first time around, the state was following national trends and the vote for Coolidge was a plurality. Cameron’s election turns out to have been a fluke, as he was easily defeated in the 1926 midterms by the state’s first-ever Congressman, Carl Hayden, who would serve until 1969, when he was in his nineties.

Barry Goldwater - Wikipedia

Barry Goldwater, R-Arizona, 1953-1965, 1969-1987.

The Great Depression and FDR’s presidency delayed for twenty years potential movement from the Democratic to Republican Party among states. However, after 1936 the vote from Arizona was slowly but steadily moving to the Republicans. This manifested itself in a tremendous way when the Republicans not only won Arizona by almost 17 points in the 1952 presidential election, but Barry Goldwater also toppled Senate Majority Leader Ernest McFarland by 2.5 points. In the House, 16-year incumbent John Murdock was defeated for reelection by John Rhodes by 8 points. By stark contrast, in 1946 McFarland had won reelection by nearly 40 points while Murdock had in 1950 won reelection by over 20 points. The state was becoming suburban as opposed to rural, and at the time rural areas were still places in which Democrats, including New Deal Democrats, could still win. However, as more and more Republican voters moved into the state’s growing suburbs, the more conservative and Republican the state became. In the tough Republican year of 1958, Rhodes won reelection by nearly 20 points while Goldwater easily defeated McFarland in a rematch.
John Rhodes, R-Arizona, 1953-1983.

Goldwater would continue to win the approval of Arizonans, even in his ill-fated 1964 presidential run and would be returned to the Senate in the 1968 election, serving until 1987. Rhodes would serve as Minority Leader from 1973 to 1981 and was reelected until he retired in 1983. These two were the Arizona GOP’s fathers and pioneers and made the state a hotbed of conservative Republicanism: between 1952 and 2016, Arizona would only in 1996 vote for a Democrat for president, and this was a plurality.

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Today, it seems what helped the GOP in the 1950s appears to be harming them now…continued growth of the suburbs are, rather than producing Republican voters, producing more Democratic voters, likely of an overall center-left persuasion who are most turned off by conservative culture war politics. They may be turned off by radical left politics as well as bad for their wallets, but this doesn’t seem to be the perception these voters have of Arizona’s Democratic Party at the moment and in any case they view it as preferable to a staunchly conservative Republican Party.

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