(Foothills Focus file photo)

Here in Arizona, conservatives find themselves at wit’s end.

As Republicans watched the 2022 Election degenerate into “2020, 2.0,” they developed enough doubt, disbelief and outright cynicism to fill a metaphorical Grand Canyon.

Joel Barry, managing editor of The Babylon Bee, may call Ohio home, but in temporarily abandoning satire to get serious, he earned the status of “Honorary Arizonan” by succinctly describing the current state of affairs in the 48th state.

“It’s not Republican messaging. It’s not low-quality candidates. It’s not Trump. It’s not abortion. It’s mass mail-in/drop box voting. It’s as simple as that.”

Previous editions of this column have warned of the ways in which early mail-in voting could easily be changed from an instrument of convenience into a tool of connivance.

In fact, a similar warning was issued a decade ago from a collaboration of interesting sources. “News 21” was a program funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Knight Foundation.

The program was headquartered at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and it also included collaboration with NBC News, through the network’s investigative blog, “Open Channel.”

The headline from a Sept. 25, 2012, article tells you all you need to know: “The real vote-fraud opportunity has arrived: casting your ballot by mail.”

It has not disappeared down a “memory hole” yet…though that could change.

What did change was the way in which the media reacted to vote-by-mail concerns about fraud when they were voiced again in the wake of COVID.

Simply stated, the press was not impressed. 

The 2022 campaign brought forth a former journalist, troubled by the dismissive coverage of concerns raised during the 2020 vote count in Arizona and the Orwellian newspeak that enshrined Democrat talking points as established facts.

Kari Lake spent more than two decades at the anchor desk on Channel 10, then walked away into the Republican race for governor.

Not only did she win the GOP primary in dramatic come-from-behind fashion, she also challenged her former colleagues in journalism to embrace objectivity in campaign coverage. 

When they continued to dance to the Democrat tune, Lake held press conferences during which she would offer on-the-spot refresher courses, and immediate critiques to a largely hostile and partisan press corps.

Those performances established Lake as a “rising star” in the Republican Party, and that star continued to rise, as did her pre-election poll numbers, when Democrat nominee Katie Hobbs refused to debate her. 

Lake had called for Hobbs to recuse herself from any involvement in overseeing the election, citing legitimate conflict of interest concerns that should supersede Katie’s role as secretary of state. Hobbs also said no to that request.

So, “with the fox guarding the henhouse,” most Republicans eschewed mail-in voting, opting instead to cast their votes in the traditional way on Election Day. They reasoned that their personal presence at the polls might help prevent a repeat of the curious 2020 results.

Then a not-so-funny-thing happened.  Thirty percent of the tabulation machines malfunctioned in the county with 60% of the total Arizona electorate. 

Whether through incompetence or intentional neglect, the Maricopa County mess resulted in voter suppression of Republicans. 

The refusal of a state judge to grant an emergency GOP request to extend voting hours to 10 p.m. helped seal the deal.

Next came six days of laborious vote counting “Kabuki Theatre,” culminating with the announcement of a narrow Hobbs victory.

Lake’s reaction was succinct: “Arizonans know BS when they see it.”

Look for a legal challenge ahead.

Meantime, The Babylon Bee has returned to satire. One of its recent headlines reads, “Katie Hobbs projected to win Arizona governor’s race with 108% of precincts reporting.”

There is truth in humor.