As the 2020 elections loom ominously on the horizon, maybe we should pay less attention to the Trump vs. (Candidate to be nominated in Milwaukee July 13-16) and more to the political parties.
Yeah, I know. My Dem friends think that the country will be doomed if The Donald remains in office, while my GOPster pals believe that Elizabeth Warren will create a new nation — call it the People’s Republic of North America. Whatever, guys! But let’s assume that Trump won’t be as bad as he often appears to be, and that the Democratic nominee will not seek to destroy the American economy. It’ll be business as usual, both parties will focus on the future, and that will be young people.
Even if both presidential candidates are septuagenarians (Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren), both parties will need more young candidates. Nationally and locally, they’ll need to boot out the geezers and entitled incumbents. Voters are restless, distracted and discontented, and might like a reset.
The Donksters have eaten the GOP’s lunch nationally so far, as dynamic young women like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have pushed aside their elders and taken their place on the national stage. In Colorado, Candi CdeBaca (Denver City Council) and Jena Griswold (secretary of state) are among the leaders of a dramatic gender/generational switch.
CdeBaca, a fifth-generation Denver native who grew up poor on the city’s northeast side, defeated incumbent Albus Brooks for a council seat.
“Denver is very liberal, but we had many people on the right who supported us,” she told Westword after her victory. “I think fear-mongering is trickling down from the federal level, and it’s really not necessary. I think people in our city, whether they’re liberal or conservative, can see that whatever revenue we’re generating is not being used for the needs we have, and that we need to be more fiscally responsible. I believe form follows function, and if I do a good job in a nonpartisan role, people will be satisfied. … I think we really brought in a lot of first-time voters or people who’d stopped voting because they stopped believing in the process or the candidate.”
She brought new energy to her party, as did Griswold, who knocked off Republican incumbent Wayne Williams last November.
But in El Paso County and Colorado Springs, successful candidates tend to be aging white males, legacy politicians, fierce partisans — or all three. Republicans twice passed on 30-something candidate Calandra Vargas, who almost knocked Doug Lamborn off the ballot at the 5th Congressional District Assembly in April 2016, and was defeated in the 2018 primary for a seat on the El Paso County Commission by Holly Williams. Meanwhile, Wayne Williams quickly recovered from Griswold’s trouncing and was easily elected to an at-large city council seat.
Vargas, described by the CSBJ’s sister publication, the Colorado Springs Independent, as a “Christian missionary, legislative aide, equestrienne, organic gardener, animal rights defender and 32-year-old military brat,” was extraordinarily prescient.
“Republicans have shot themselves in the foot in the sense that they limited themselves,” she told the Indy in mid-2016. “We can wave our liberty flags all day, but if people aren’t voting for us, game over. We failed as a party; we failed to communicate these values. And if our whole goal is to get into office, to get a majority, so we can support this platform, if people aren’t voting for us, what’s the point? I mean Colorado is a blue-leaning state, people are moving here in the tens of thousands in their 20s and 30s. Are we ready to face those changing demographics?”
Apparently not, at least here in the Pikes Peak region. Of the 10 elected officials in the city of Colorado Springs, two are women (Councilors Yolanda Avila and Jill Gaebler). Commissioners Amy Bremer and Williams are the only women among 12 El Paso County elected officials. We’re not just an island of red on a sea of blue — we’re gray and balding, the last Colorado stop on the White Male Express.
Fellow geezers, I feel your pain. We’ve pretty much run things in this playground for decades, but we need to step aside and make room for gender, racial and age diversity. We need to give up our seats on the Express because — “The steel rails still ain’t heard the news. This train’s got the disappearing railroad blues.”