2013

25 September 2013: Recalls have larger implications

Recalls have larger implications

The recall of two state senators has and will continue to have implications on our democratic process for time to come.   Had they not been successful, we would be moving on; but they were, and as a result, there’s blood in the water.  Now, groups disenchanted with their public officials for whatever reason will be more confident about following the recall path.

Questions abound:

Will it be seen as a restoration of citizen power or an overreach, something the victors accused the Democrats of in the brouhaha?

Will the result be localized or have state and perhaps national implications?

Will it assert the primacy of the NRA as the most forceful of interest groups, willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish its goal, or will the organization be seen by the broader electorate as being led by single-minded fanatics and need to be brought back to size?

Will it impact the gubernatorial and legislative 2014 races?

The question for Clear Creek is whether the new game-on rules carry over and grow legs.  Seething resentment and even anger is palpable given inexplicable decisions made by the commissioners: reneging on promises to preserve open space atop Floyd Hill, cutting services at the animal shelter that now finds itself as a one-arm-tied-behind-its back-operation, and reducing staff in various departments and, thus, services to Clear Creek citizens, among them.

Time will tell, but in the interim it’s important to recognize the historical significance of the recall’s success, yet be careful not to read too much into it, for American history is replete with excesses that peter out or become subdued in their power.  After all, it’s usually outraged, passionate citizens that feel they’ve been ignored, wronged or, worse, lied to who vote in recalls.

Nevertheless, it’s a new day in Colorado politics.  Office holders are no longer assured continuity or longevity to the point of fulfilling their terms.  Incumbency, except in very safe districts, might not be as secure as it once was.  In the popular jargon: Game on.

The targets in this bloodletting, John Morse and Angela Giron, did what Edmund Burke, the godfather of modern conservatism, advised them to do.

“Your representative owes you, not his industry only,” wrote Burke in the late 18th century, “but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

They didn’t cave, and despite accusations to the contrary, they did listen.

That’s true courage.  They’re among the others in the legislature and the governor who dared greatly, who dared to stand up the NRA, to the insanity and say, “Stop!”

They are the ones in the arena Teddy Roosevelt described, whose faces are “marred by dust, sweat, and blood” and shall not be placed “with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

They withstood withering fire from crazies and are still walking tall.  As Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird teaches his son Jem, “Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It’s knowing you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

There is a distinct line between representative democracy, often an orderly, albeit occasionally-messy process, and popular democracy, which was intensely decried by our Founders.  In Colorado representative democracy—republicanism—was initially undercut by TABOR but has now taken on an added dimension with the recalls.

Removal from office traditionally has been reserved for heinous behavior: malfeasance and abuse of power.  Flip-flopping and even what some might consider lying have not been considered grounds to recall.  It is important then to note neither Morse nor Giron was accused of either, but instead of not listening, which prompts the question which is the more egregious, mortal of political sins.

Sometimes votes can be changed, like a referee’s call in football after further review.  That might be the case at the animal shelter.  Others though, like a bell that cannot be unrung, have lasting results.  That might be the case in the Snow Mountain atop Floyd Hill.

That’s the reason it’s critical to elect thoughtful leaders, not shoot-from-the-hip ones.  It’s as what an old prof always reminded us students: “You cannot just do one thing.”

And as Ben Franklin noted, “Glass, China, and Reputation are easily cracked, and never well mended.”

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