Last Saturday evening I attended the El Paso County Democratic Party’s “Everybody Welcome” bash. My spouse and I networked for an hour or so, greeting old friends and former colleagues, business associates, people without nametags whose names escaped me (as the old saying goes, I can never remember a name, but I always forget a face!) and making a few new acquaintances. It promised to be the start of an amiable evening, as we sat down for dinner and the speeches began.
Party Chairwoman Electra Johnson set the tone with a fiery 25-minute welcome speech that sounded every key on the partisan piano. As an aggressively moderate person whose best friends are geezed-out Republican guys who have toyed with politics and business and done well in both endeavors, I found one of her remarks disturbing.
“Patriarchy is entitlement, and entitlement is patriarchy!” she said, and there’s some truth in that — but how do you decide which males are patriarchal and entitled? I guess that it’s in the eye of the beholder — you start with Donald Trump, and proceed from there. At that moment, I felt alienated, unwelcome and vaguely guilty for still being a registered Republican, although a proud RINO (Republican in name only).
As the evening wore on, the partisan speechifying continued until two special guests were introduced: Parkland survivor Brooke Harrison and her mother Denise. Both gave moving speeches that focused the audience’s attention upon the tragic and almost uniquely American phenomenon of mass school shootings. The audience was silent, respectful and supportive, giving both standing ovations.
We left soon after. We’d been sitting since 7 p.m. and it was after 9 — my aging butt couldn’t take it any more. Besides, I hadn’t felt quite so unexpectedly out of place for more than two years, when my boss and Business Journal Publisher Amy Sweet and I covered President-to-be Trump’s speech at UCCS.
I remember being surprised at the size of the crowd, and enjoyed wandering around talking to the many folks that I knew before Trump arrived. Then the warm-up speeches began and we were herded into a fenced-off media pen, which we endured fretfully until Trump appeared.
His speech was tiresome, boring, self-referential and full of lies and exaggerations. The audience ate it up, especially when he went after the media. Boos and catcalls rained down on us, and suddenly we were strangers in a strange land. I’d always thought of myself as a good ol’ boy, a Colorado Springs native with deep roots in the community, blessed with friends of every political persuasion — but suddenly I was the other, a member of the hated media.
When the event was over, Amy and I removed our media badges and left quickly. Neither of us wanted to get into an angry altercation with rabid Trump supporters, so we faded into the crowd.
Two years after the 2016 election, it’s easy to imagine what the political climate would be had Hillary Clinton been elected. It’d be the obverse of today’s, with Republicans ranting about the alleged misdeeds and missteps of the Commander-in-Chief, threatening impeachment, exaggerating her faults and minimizing her achievements, seizing upon leaks from anonymous sources “close to the oval office” and hoping for solid majorities in the midterm elections.
Can we get rid of this perpetual angry partisanship? Can the perhaps nonexistent moderate majority of voters find their voices and elect folks who will turn down the volume, focus on problem-solving and stop making news?
In Colorado, we’ve been fortunate. We’ve elected admirably nonpartisan legislators like Wayne Aspinall, the Western Slope congressman who created the transmountain diversions that provided water to the Eastern Slope. Then there was Roy Romer, a successful businessman and three-time governor who served from 1986-1998 and created the template for future governors Bill Owens, Bill Ritter and John Hickenlooper. Thanks in part to Romer’s example, we’ve been blessed by smart, non-ideological, competent and pro-business leadership for 32 years. Assuming Trump runs again, can’t the Dems find someone as boring, smart, competent and electable as Roy Romer to run in 2020?
I think I know the answer…