18 August 2010: Our Toxic Political System

Politics has become a contact sport

Don’t forget the second annual haz-mat recycling event sponsored by the Clear Creek Office of Emergency Management on Stanley Road in Dumont this coming Saturday, August 21. Hugely successful last year in processing thousands of pounds of otherwise evil stuff, the event has been well-publicized, including a summary column in last week’s Courant. So my task is easy: Encourage you to do the right thing by taking advantage of it.

This opportunity also can serve as a reminder of the Basel Action Network—BAN—that works towards “preventing disproportionate and unsustainable dumping of the world’s toxic waste and pollution on our global village’s poorest residents.” Awareness of the dire consequences of dumping items that contribute not only to environmental degradation but also threats to human and animal health will help us rise above “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. Nothing magically disappears, including that which we toss or flush.

While the event will help dispose of a variety of toxic items from paint and automotive fluids to batteries and electronics, organizers cannot accept others including explosives, tires, and radioactive materials, which, unfortunately, leaves out the American election financing system.

Andrew Romanoff was up front when he admitted to being an “imperfect messenger.” After all, in past campaigns he did accept Political Action Committee—PAC—money. And I have my suspicions had he been the incumbent whether the issue of PAC money would have been high, if at all, on his agenda. But such is the way of necessity.

With his defeat, though, the issue of campaign reform dies as well. Michael Bennet has spent his life resume building, from helping to keep Philip Anschutz from having to live under a bridge to fostering a reputation of being an educational reformer whose legacy in Denver Public Schools is flat-line growth. That’s hard work, but to do that, one needs to establish and work contacts. So, why one would expect him to bite hands that feed him? For Bennet, only reformation of Congress and public education rise to a level of urgency. The Cubs will win the World Series before he adopts campaign reform as a critical issue.

Here in Colorado, the latest information on the Clean Campaigns Colorado website is dated June 21, so it looks as if the organizers were unable to garner sufficient signatures to get Initiative 53 on the ballot. Even if they have, with the Supreme Court devoutly holding persons are not just created in the womb but also in corporate board rooms and greenbacks and speech are one and the same, it would be problematic for any measure controlling campaign financing to meet their criteria for constitutionality.

Two factors led to Romanoff’s defeat. Bennet crushed him as Jared Polis did Joan Fitz-Gerald: with oodles of cash.

Then there was Romanoff accusing Bennet of “looting” and making obscene amounts of money in the process of saving Regal Theaters for Anschutz. The obscenity, which is accurate, offends egalitarian sensibility, but so-called looters are rife in our system. We call them venture capitalists. That doesn’t make them evil, just great gamers, sort of like Rainman counting cards.

While I had argued Romanoff needed to give voters more of reason to vote against Bennet other than Bennet being a symbol of a corrupt system, the over-the-top name-calling was a major tactical mistake. The middle has grown weary of invectives as substitute for substantive debate. Worse, such tactics are outside of Andrew’s character, and voters sensed it being an act of desperation. Too bad. He had momentum, moving ahead in the polls, but the attack ads played into the hands of the Bennet campaign.

Locally, as noted here before, Tim Mauck and Dan Ebert were, on the other hand, models of civility and class. Invectives hurled came from neither, and Mauck’s comments praising Ebert along with the two letter-writers’ observations in last week’s Courant were right on.

Politics is a contact sport, which is as it should be; but when the system is gamed with mega-bucks, it prevents ordinary people, as correctly Romanoff argued, from stepping into the fray. It has lead to a toxic environment that causes one to go beyond frustration to tuning out.

The irony is that even though the haz-mat recycling event is unable to accept radioactive materials, there are places to store them. But on that thought, perhaps Yucca Mountain could take in our Big Money system and store it for, say, 10,000 years.

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