Local Republicans battle each other while Democrats don’t even suit up
“Any well-established village in New England or the northern Middle West could afford a town drunkard, a town atheist, and a few Democrats.” — D.W. Brogan.
Add to that geography, as Charles Ashby outlined in Monday’s Daily Sentinel, a certain outlier red county in what’s turning into a consistently blue state.
You know, the county that sends a sullied Republican to the state House of Representatives in the absence of an alternative Democrat on the ballot — in a race that likely would have had the same outcome had the good Lord, Gandhi, Buddha or the Virgin Mary returned to run with a D after their name. And it would have ended up the same if the GOP candidate opposing any of the four was Satan himself.
Reading Ashby’s article Monday morning, I couldn’t help but remember a conversation with a Republican friend earlier this year as we were waiting in line for Mitt Romney’s appearance at Central High School. A friend since our high school days, he’s both a prominent local businessman and has been a frequent contributor to GOP candidates (and, truth be told, to the first campaign of a certain former Democratic county commissioner).
Let me paraphrase our conversation.
“When is your side going to get organized and change things around here?” he asked.
“Not gonna happen with 25 percent of the registered voters,” I replied. “It’ll only happen when people like you get up on your hind feet and take back your own party.”
That would be the Mesa County GOP that refused to elect Jamie Hamilton as its treasurer as the conservative wing flexed its muscles a few years ago against so-called “country club Republicans.” Those would be the sort of prominent businesspeople, education activists, mothers of local former legislators who brought some balance to the conservative group-think over the years.
Also subject to a later gut punch were such prominent Republicans as Peg Foster and Martha Romer, whose white Chrysler always festooned with bumper stickers might have been the single most consistent GOP billboard here in Happy Valley. Their mortal sin? Crossing the line to support Bernie Buescher for state representative, an act that resulted in threats to pull their “credentials” as precinct leaders.
Once upon a time, the local GOP presented us with candidates like Gayle Berry, Tillie Bishop, Matt Smith, Jim Robb, Chet Enstrom, Maxine Albers, Dick Pond and others whose shoes the folks we’re currently saddled with can only dream of filling.
But let’s not absolve local Dems of their share of the blame. (Yours truly once served as one of the vice-chairs of the Mesa County Democrats, just before the chairmanship of one Pete Hautsinger, who was among the first to acknowledge emerging political realities when he changed parties prior to his first campaign for district attorney.)
It’s been a long fall from the days when Democrats like Dan Prinster, Bernie Buescher and Paul Brown, lawmakers seen as leaders in the state Legislature rather than backbenchers, represented us. It’s been a long time since three Democrats served together as Mesa County commissioners.
The hard landing can’t be attributed only to lopsided voter registrations. Can anyone remember the last time the local party offered a full slate of contenders on the ballot?
I’ve been in rooms when local Democratic Party leaders were making their lists, and they usually needed a reminder to include folks who’ve demonstrated success without wearing the scarlet “D,” who hold non-partisan offices or serve on local and state boards and commissions, are active in non-profits, who lead successful businesses.
And perhaps they should say “no” to the likes of folks I’ve shared ballots with in the past — the legislative candidate whose campaign tactic was an attempt to demonize Tillie Bishop rather than advance ideas; the would-be sheriff who pandered to gun activists, saying we all ought to be able to own MIG-21s; the two county commissioner candidates who bailed during their campaigns.
Bottom line? There’s no win, lose or draw if you don’t suit up. That applies both to Democrats and my friend and his fellow moderate Republicans.
“Democrats ... are the party that says government can make you richer, smarter, taller and get the chickweed out of your lawn. Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work, then get elected to prove it.” — P.J. O’Rourke