Pragmatism v. principle

In my recent articles, I’ve taken the Colorado Democratic Party to task for “being full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Under the wet-noodle lead of Governor John Hickenlooper, it has become that which actress Tallulah Bankhead wryly commented about a farcical drama: “Less in it than meets the eye.”

In past columns, I’ve referenced Teddy Roosevelt’s “man in the arena” speech he delivered at the Sorbonne on April 23, 1910. It deserves repeating as a reminder about authentic political courage.

“It is not the critic,” he said, “who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Get-along types make better neighbors and fellow commuters than political leaders. While pragmatism and compromise are essential to the democratic process, to concede before a battle is joined, as Hickenlooper did with former governor Roy Romer’s charge to repeal TABOR, showed his lack of mettle to take on what he must know: TABOR has been death by 1,000 cuts for Colorado. Hickenlooper called an effort to repeal it—to de-Bruce Colorado—a “fool’s errand.”

So, call me a fool.

For his legacy, Hickenlooper won’t be remembered for being “marred by dust and sweat,” but, instead, for being a nice guy.

In defense of the Democratic Party, somewhat, it has become by default the adult party, charged with making sure the lights of government stay lit with the once grand Republican Party descending into the depths, having made a Faustian bargain with Mephistopheles’ political incarnation.

The Republican Party makes no bones about its disdain for government. It abhors the thought of government working for the common good despite the Preamble’s prompt “to promote the general welfare.” It sees its moral imperative as doing whatever it can to hamstring and sabotage government whenever possible so to, as Grover Norquist said, cut it “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

Consequently, it has fallen to Colorado Democrats to make government work despite having its arms tied in a Gordian knot with two constitutional amendments—TABOR and Gallagher—that have overthrown Colorado republicanism and instituted mobocracy in its stead.

On May 19th, our representative in the legislature, Majority Leader KC Becker, came on KYGT to discuss the legislative session. One of my primary points to Becker was that in its very understandable pursuit of social justice, the Democratic Party has lost sight of its economic fairness and justice message. I asked her that if neither TABOR nor Gallagher existed would Colorado be in the crumbling state it’s in. She agreed it wasn’t likely.

Over the years, I’ve called myself a pragmatic liberal, as I understand that a pragmatic willingness to compromise greases the wheels of a vibrant democracy. It’s imperative, though, to start from a basis of principle and work to the center. For if one begins negotiating from the center, he has no place to move but to one side, in this case, anti-government Republicans.

The same holds true for pragmatic Republicans who cave before the dewy-eyed Trumpists in their party. When will they, as Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) has, stand up for authentic conservative principles?

As we wrapped up, I gave Becker a symbolic token of my appreciation for coming up: a handful of matches. She laughed and asked if they were to start a fire. I replied, not exactly. More of a reminder to light a fire under members of her Democratic caucus.

Note: Link to the audio of my conversation with Majority Leader Becker: https://www.jerryfabyanic.com/thinking-liberally/

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