Locals show how we can disagree without being disagreeable
You know you’re outnumbered when the second-most liberal person in your group is Reeves Brown. That’s how it’ll be tonight when I join Reeves, John Crouch and Kelly Sloan on the set of KKCO to offer post-election commentary. But it may also be an example of how we might be better served by a different style of political discussion than we’ve been subjected to during the 2010 campaign.
It’s no secret that I’ve had my differences with Reeves and Club 20. There’ve been times in the not-so-distant past when the organization he serves as president has not operated under quite as big a tent as likely envisioned by founders such as former Daily Sentinel Publisher Preston Walker. I was very vocal about that.
To his credit, the first call that came after that criticism was from Reeves, who wanted to talk. We did that and respectfully disagreed. Not too long afterward, I received another call from Reeves, asking me to participate in another project he was involved with, and I did that enthusiastically. Most recently, he asked this former member to moderate Club 20’s debate between candidates for Congress in the 3 Congressional District.
I was a pretty grumpy guy when John Crouch defeated my friend John Leane and joined Doralyn Genova and me on the Mesa County Board of Commissioners back in 1993. During the first days of Crouch’s term, I wasted a lot of time battling over our different political philosophies, including a non-family-friendly description of one of his arguments that appeared in a necessarily modified form on the pages of this very newspaper.
I came to respect John and learned much from him. Regularly outvoted by the two Democrats he served with, he never seemed to take that personally. After forcefully but politely making his points, he was usually the one who pointed out it wasn’t hard to count to two, he wasn’t going to win, and it was time for us to move on. When I finally became smart enough to quit battling over politics and began making my arguments in the economic terms John could appreciate, it was sometimes the two of us making up the majority on important issues.
My experience with Kelly Sloan is limited to our appearances as the odd political couple on the pages of the undersized newspaper across town and our joint appearance on KKCO the night of the primary election. Kelly’s conservatism is never in doubt and I enjoyed our back and forth. I especially appreciate the fact he was willing to step outside his comfort zone and oppose the “Ugly Three” measures on our ballots this year. Sometimes common sense still trumps philosophy.
No discussion of a more collegial political discourse than we’ve experienced this cycle is complete without mentioning Jim Baughman. Jim and I share the distinction, perhaps dubious in the eyes of some, of having been both Mesa County commissioners and Grand Junction City Council members. Sometimes Jim made John Crouch seem liberal.
One thing was certain when you were discussing issues with Jim Baughman. You’d better do your homework because you knew he’d do his. You might think his conclusions were suspect after he reviewed the same material you saw, but you would be tested well and hard. And, like John, there was no apparent rancor when things didn’t go Jim’s way.
Long ago and in very different parts of our lives, Mesa State College President Tim Foster was one of the two or three most powerful members of the Colorado Legislature and I chaired the Tax and Finance Committee of Colorado Counties, Inc. When lawmakers took the unusual step of appointing three “civilians” to a 1993 interim committee on tax policy, Tim ignored political differences and named me to represent local governments.
In retrospect, those interim committee meetings were “activity” rather than “progress,” but I was amused at the suprise of some legislators when Tim, at a meeting or two, insisted I sit beside him even though he knew we might not agree. We both appreciate a good argument and I hope we demonstrated that folks can vigorously disagree without being disagreeable.
Perhaps, when the dust settles, we can get back to that kind of discourse rather than the nastiness that’s been all too evident in this campaign cycle.