9 May 2007: People Heard in Colorado

The people’s voice is being heard and will again ’08

One cannot help but feeling optimistic when looking over not only what the state legislature has accomplished this session but also the positive tone that emanated from the chamber—for the most part. Yes, there are old frumps and wet blankets whose passion is to deride anything civil that civilized folks do to make this a better place to be. Despite that, what the rest of us can do is to keep focused, understanding that what the common person deserves from its citizen-leaders is reasonable dialogue and, in the end, a resolution of problems that confront us: jobs with liveable wages, healthcare, renewable energy sources, quality educational opportunities, and affordable housing among them.

Colorado can serve as a model for the rest of our nation. Three years ago, Colorado voters, disgusted after enduring legislative sessions governed by passionate ideology, said to the governing majority, “Enough!” Despite the Bush victory in 2004, the Democrats were awarded their first governing majority in both houses since the First Coming.

To his credit, former Governor Bill Owens, rather than pretending the people hadn’t spoken, worked with the new majority to solve the biggest crisis facing Colorado: the fiscal collapse of the state. Collaboratively, the governor and the legislative leadership crafted Referendum C, to which the voters gave their solid approval.

Since then, Colorado elected Bill Ritter, rejecting Bob Beauprez who represented the old way of doing business: petty, ideological, fiscal insanity. For the first time since the extinction of the dinosaurs, Colorado elected Democrats to lead both branches of the state’s governance.

After getting off to a rocky start with Governor Ritter bowing to pressure from business interests that had supported his campaign and vetoing the fairness in labor bill, the Democrats got their act together. Bills focusing on renewable energy, education, ethics, healthcare were among those wending their ways to the governor’s desk. Even the big thud at the end with the Senate and the House voting overwhelmingly to override Ritter’s veto of portions of the funding bill, wasn’t enough to cast a pall on the session.

Republicans have begun, though, to realize that this Rocky Mountain High was not going to be good news for them in 2008. For if the voters will be feeling good about the state heading in a positive direction, why change course? Taking their cue from Dick Wadhams, Colorado’s Karl Rove, they have launched a frontal assault, for example, on Ritter’s idea to implement what Republicans proposed in 2004: freeze the level below which local taxes would decline. That was then and this is now, so to them now that is a tax increase, for what isn’t go down must be going up—the same logic as keeping troops in the midst of a religious and sectarian civil war means supporting them, allowing the top 1 percent control 19 percent of the wealth helps the working poor, and global warming is good for polar bears.

Returning to the tired old days of the sordid politics Wadhams is infamous for won’t wash with the citizens of Colorado. The people want their voice to be heard. Imagine how good it might have been had George Bush followed the lead of his old friend Bill Owens, and worked with Congress, now under Democratic control for the first time since the polar bear evolved. Imagine if he had taken up the offer to bring to an end the never-ending war he started in Iraq. Imagine if Bush had finally become a “uniter” he campaigned to be in 2000 rather than the divider, which will be his legacy. Even John Lennon might have crooned from the Great Beyond a tune for the old boy.

That wasn’t and is not about to be. Bush will go down swinging, never learning, as he has rarely done, the lessons life has offered him. In addition to being an obstructionist, Bush will continue to delude himself, believing in that John Wayne façade.

Like the polar bear, other Republicans face similar extinction should they continue with politics of attack, fear, and smear. They have cried wolf one too many, and the American people, as we in Colorado did three years ago, are saying, “Enough!”

Whether one likes either or not, the twentieth-century demigods of their respective parties Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan were optimists. For neither was the sky falling, simply populated with thunderclouds. Bush won’t ever get that because his whole sense of power and self-worth stems from insecurity, a manhood that was, and still is, overshadowed by his war-hero father. If the Republicans do not want to slide into a decades-long minority as they did after Herbert Hoover, they will abandon Bush, sack Wadhams, and begin to offer their own vision of hope for Colorado and America.

Question for Mr. Graeber: Isn’t “card-carrying libertarian” an oxymoron?

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