Welcome to Tom's 2012 political preview

There are election years that are set apart, like outcroppings of rock standing up stubbornly in a rushing stream with the flow of history bending around them.

Years like 1950, when Richard Nixon used Red-baiting tactics to beat Helen Gahagan Douglas for a U.S. Senate seat from California and usher in a decade of paranoia that probably helped forestall civil-rights progress in the process. Or 1968, where the misadventure in Vietnam brought about a premature end to the momentum of the Great Society experiment.

While some years (like 2008) produce momentous results, they are not automatically historic. The election of a black man was historic, but there was no way a Democrat was going to lose that race after the eight disastrous years of the Bush presidency, and the American economy that Bush's cronies had wrought began crumbling down around us.

It is quite likely that 2012 will be a crucial election year. Rarely are the elections that involve possible second terms for sitting presidents that big of a deal, but this election is different. Like all others, it pits us against us, although rarely has there been such a widespread urge to think in terms of us against them. It will define what Americans think their country is now, and will most certainly determine where the nation will go in the future.

In the meantime, there are other political battles brewing—both locally and statewide—that will have a serious impact on what it means to be a Tucsonan, and an Arizonan, and an American. For example, there's this: Tucson City Councilman Paul Cunningham wants to crack down on grocery-store plastic bags. It turns out that Cunningham has been driving down the streets of Tucson—you know, the ones with too few cops and too many potholes—and he has noticed plastic bags that are stuck to desert plants.

It's not a new idea; other municipalities have tried to squeeze some revenue out of the idea. San Francisco, which is way weirder than even right-wingers claim it to be, outlawed plastic bags altogether after California passed a law forbidding cities and towns from charging a fee for the bags. One would think that Tucson has more-important things with which to deal.

It's certainly a good idea to employ reusable bags (even I do, sometimes), but I hope that people remember that plastic bags (just like the Styrofoam hamburger containers that McDonald's started using way back when) were a reaction to concerns about deforestation. It's not as though some evil cabal decided to despoil our landscape with non-biodegradable crap. The plastic bags are functional; it's just that some of the people who use them are dysfunctional.

• Politicos and common folk in Marana, SaddleBrooke and Oro Valley have their butt cheeks clenched in response to the redistricting maps. Their complaint is that they are in a far-flung district that includes (and is perhaps anchored by) faraway Flagstaff. Anybody who understands math realizes that there would have to be at least one grotesque district under any plan. I guess they could have found the population center of the state and then just generated nine pie slices outward to the respective state lines (and the Mexico border), but then Maricopa County would have held sway in all nine districts.

The leaders' tears appear to be mostly of the crocodile variety, seeing as how the combined population of Oro Valley and Marana exceeds that of Flagstaff. Add in SaddleBrooke, and it's a mismatch. If handled right, Southern Arizona could have three representatives in the House.

What bothers me the most about the wailing and gnashing of teeth is that all three of the communities go out of their way to define and market themselves as, "We're NOT Tucson." You can't have it both ways.

• A longtime Arizona state legislator wants us to pass a constitutional amendment that allows freeloaders to send their kids to private school on the public dime. Jack Harper of Surprise (as in "Surprise! You actually thought I was a Republican!") wants to provide vouchers to people who want to send their kids to private schools. There's just that small problem of the courts having found such nonsense to be unconstitutional, oh, every single time it has come up.

One of the owners in the National Football League (where all of the franchises share revenues equally) once said of himself and his fellow owners, "We're (all) Republicans who vote socialist." That defines voucher people perfectly.

Here's how it is supposed to work: You pay to send your kid to private school. If you can't afford it, get a job. If you still can't afford it, get another job. If you still can't afford it, have your kids work really hard at public school, so that when they become parents, they can afford to send their kids to private school.

Come on, Fake-Ass Conservatives. It kinda sucks when you can't even get your own dogma right.

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