Animosity to government disappears when disaster strikes close to home
“Everyone who receives the protection of society owes a return for the benefit.” — John Stuart Mill
Consistency, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
Tragedy, it seems, creates some pretty imaginative conservatives. At least temporarily.
You don’t hear much from them in times like these — those folks who wrap themselves in the flag, arm themselves to the hilt, call themselves patriots and want to drown government in the nearest bathtub or starve it to death.
Not when nearly 20,000 homes in 15 Colorado counties are damaged or destroyed, when nearly 12,000 people have been evacuated and there are several deaths, when hundreds more are still unaccounted for. And the final tallies aren’t in yet.
Unfortunate events, including a horrific fire season, flash flooding, now heavy rains that have wreaked havoc along the northern Front Range, all have made for difficult and sometimes inconsistent politics for many on the right side of the philosophical spectrum.
Members of Congress who not that long ago questioned budget appropriations for emergency response and preparedness are quick to support disaster relief for their districts in Colorado and elsewhere when the issue becomes real rather than philosophical. More than a dozen Colorado counties are now under the umbrella of the most recent federal disaster declaration.
Some who profess to believe “big gummint” should instead be playing small ball, including our current state senator and sheriff’s candidate, Steve King, see no inconsistency in advocating for establishment of a multimillion-dollar state air force to combat wildfires.
Our own avowedly conservative congressman, Scott Tipton, the one who insists on holding common-sense immigration legislation sought by agricultural and resort employers in his district hostage to demands to first spend billions more on border security, quickly assures us that he and other members of the congressional delegation will make certain tax-funded resources are available for recovery efforts and refers us to a government website for more information.
At least in those instances, there’s tacit acknowledgement that government plays an important and necessary role in our lives. It’s the way we band together as a society to accomplish collectively the things beyond each of our individual efforts.
Certainly, we ought to do that efficiently and selectively and not over reach. And those on the left too often demonstrate that inconsistency is not limited to the right.
But I can imagine at least some of those waiting anxiously to see what help is available might also be re-evaluating the “leave me alone and get government out of my life” philosophies in the light of tragic reality.
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Over the weekend, helicopters ferrying Gov. John Hickenlooper, Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, Rep. Cory Gardner and others on a reconnaissance flight over the Front Range flooding were diverted twice to pick up stranded residents and a couple of pets.
“That dog and cat and those seven people on those two helicopters didn’t ask us whether we were Democrats or Republicans,” Udall said while promising a bipartisan effort in Congress to seek federal aid for affected areas.
It’s too bad that sentiment isn’t shared every day, and more consistently, in our political discussions.
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I was late to the Club 20-hosted discussions of the Affordable Care Act and health care in general a couple of weekends ago. As I walked in to catch the final sessions, I was struck by the number of folks still around mid-afternoon and by the higher than usual attendance.
It was no accident, and shouldn’t be taken as a shift from recent conservative one-sidedness, that the day’s health care discussions seemed more balanced than usual. As you’ve read, Club 20 also passed, based on some questionable claims, a resolution opposing the educational funding question on November’s ballot.
The day-long health care program was one of the final steps in a laudable months-long effort, funded by the Colorado Trust. The grant likely necessitated a bit more inclusiveness and a markedly broader perspective than Club 20 has evidenced in recent years.
There may be a message there for Club 20, whose meetings in recent years have seen attendance and diversity of opinions decline: A bigger tent holds more people.