Elections, not shutdowns, are the proper way to bring change
As this latest federal government shutdown circus plays out and I watch all the partisan posturing, I can’t help but recall working with former Mesa County Commissioner John Crouch.
I haven’t talked with Crouch lately, certainly not about the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, or whatever you might call it given your individual political inclinations.
But I have wondered how Crouch might feel about the antics on both sides of the shutdown divide.
Crouch and I were the odd couple on the Mesa County Board of Commissioners from 1993-1995. He was the unabashed conservative and a fierce Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights advocate, something like our local version of TABOR godfather Douglas Bruce.
I was perceived as the opposite — a liberal — despite wielding a pretty sharp pencil in county budget deliberations (just ask my high school classmate, former Sheriff Riecke Claussen, as well as former County Assessor Ron Teck) and periodically fending off suggestions from then-Mesa County GOP chairman John Whiting that I change parties.
I might have been the cause of Crouch becoming a county commissioner.
After being accosted in the parking lot of a local department store by an out-of-town petition gatherer telling me why actions of local county commissioners exemplified the need for TABOR, I marched into John’s Mesa Music store, then located at Mesa Mall, and said something like this: “If we’re doing such a bad job, if this looks so easy, why the hell don’t you run for county commissioner?”
Damned if he didn’t do just that — and win, defeating my good friend John Leane in Leane’s 1992 re-election bid.
The first two or three months of 1993 were pretty rocky, with Commissioner Doralyn Genova caught in the middle of some fiery philosophical battles between her two fellow commissioners.
It was so bad that at one point this very newspaper printed a slightly sanitized quote from yours truly telling Crouch, in one commissioners’ session, whatever position he’d taken at the time on some long-forgotten issue was “just b…s….” Then, somehow, the light bulb went on and I let Crouch teach me a couple of important lessons.
I realized that making political philosophies the foundation of issue arguments wasn’t getting me anywhere.
When I became smart enough to base my arguments on the things Crouch valued, dollars and cents and long-term economics, we often voted together on things like land-use matters, though our individual philosophies still ruled in other areas.
The second lesson is the one that I think might be most applicable in the ongoing debate over health care.
Back in the day, when the commissioners would have their work sessions prior to the formal board meetings, we would often be asked to give direction to the county staff on pending matters. Mark Eckert, the county administrator at the time, would have us individually sign off on those decisions, a bit of administrative CYA that created a formal record if memories should fade.
Then, as now, most decisions were unanimous, but not always. Some, like one I recall about creating and furnishing new office space for the county’s Department of Human Services, were often heated.
Crouch would be firm in making his points, but also realistic. When it was obvious discussion was complete, he’d say something akin to this:
“OK, I can count. Pass the paper around. Let’s move on.”
As mentioned earlier, I wouldn’t presume to guess how Crouch feels about the ongoing health care battle or the current federal shutdown it’s prompted.
Perhaps he’ll read this and we’ll have a chance to talk about it.
I do know the minority of congressmen and women constituting what one conservative columnist calls “the suicide caucus” can count. That’s why the House won’t vote on a “clean” Senate budget bill.
Wouldn’t opponents of the Affordable Care Act — and the rest of us — be better served if they’d acknowledge it’s been through all the hoops, legislative and judicial and administrative, envisioned in the Constitution and that they ought to just move on?
There’ll be another election, just like the one I may have badgered John Crouch into back in 1992, and a chance to change anything we don’t like by electing a different cast of characters in 2014.
“Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; argument is an exchange of ignorance.” — Robert Quillen.