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Down on the Ground with the Purple Ripple

By George Sibley

The eternal election that was looming last month still looms this month. Mercifully, it will be behind us by next month – although we will then live with the consequences for what, in the worst case, could be a long time, setting up a possible Putinesque “White Palace” coup, unopposed by a docile Republican Congress, that we will live with for a generation or more, depending on whether Americans ever again find the gumption and basic sense of decency to again attempt a functional representative democracy by, for and of the people.

Does anyone still really believe in a “blue wave?” A great Blue Party victory everywhere that will flip at least one, maybe both houses of Congress to a Blue majority, restoring some semblance of the checks and balances that have kept power-madness under control in the past? And what is it the Blue Party stands for? Well, the opposite of the Red Party.

I am having ominous feelings about that wave. For one thing, if the polling is to be believed at all, every critical race is going to be decided well within the margin of error for polling. One or two percent this way or that will not be a great victory for anyone. Very small margins could lead to big disappointments – remember Wisconsin and Michigan in 2016 – and the Republicans go into the election with the deck stacked by the gerrymandering and poor-voter suppression efforts in the state legislatures they dominate.

My forlorn hope at this point is a purple ripple of Democrats winning one-percent victories sufficient to give Democrats a majority in at least one side of Congress. That might result in some bad things not happening – another plutocratic tax bill, or a successful assault on Social Security to pay for the last plutocratic tax bill. I am not setting myself up for disappointment at not seeing anything very good happen, like us taking action to address our monstrous carbon footprint, or creating an intelligent and compassionate immigration policy. My prayer is that you will all be able to laugh at me for my pessimism on Nov. 7.

Last month I asked you all to vote for Democrats at the national level, any Democrats, just to restore the checks and balances to what is otherwise a lockstep march toward authoritarian governance. I will say now I was a little embarrassed to ask voters to do that because it suggests that I am a fervent and enthusiastic Democrat, which I am not. Anyone who reads this column regularly will peg me, fairly accurately, as a pinko progressive bleeding-heart socialist libtard, and it is true that I find my votes more often on the Democrat side of the ballot than on the Republican side, but my political party does not yet exist.

A couple decades ago, the cognitive scientist and social critic Noam Chomsky said that we no longer have two political parties; instead we have the Democrat and Republican wings of a Business Party. I would call it the Corporate Party, or maybe the Corporate Military Industrial Party – and we might as well call the two wings the Blues and the Reds rather than further de-dignifying “Democrat” and “Republican,” names that used to mean something. Now the Blues and Reds differ only on social issues, where the Blues are vapid and the Reds are toxic, but on economic issues both are subservient to the permanent legislature – the 12,000 registered lobbyists who write the thousand-page unreadable bills with the built-in exemptions, who make up what CC’s founder Ed Quillen called “The Committee That Really Runs America.” They will take in hand whoever we – and their corporate sponsors – send to Washington, and will gradually break them to harness.

I wish I saw real Democrats – or Republicans – in this election, or even out on the horizon, who seemed capable of constructing a rational and coherent party vision that might actually work in defenestrating the Corporate Military Industrial Party and its permanent legislature. But what I am hearing from the Democrats running for congressional or senatorial seats is not impressive – just daily email soap operas: today so-and-so is up one percent, send money! Or, today so-and-so is down one percent, send money! Or, Trump is coming to help so-and-so’s opponent, send money! Et cetera. What is so-and-so’s vision? What does so-and-so want to do? Democrats are basically running against Trump and the Trumpist consensus; trying to minimize or eliminate that consensus is the best we will be able to do this election. And it is mostly up to women and others of the “minorities” majority who decide to vote and try to run the gauntlet of Republican voter obstacles.

So, what am I going to vote for with any measure of enthusiasm? On the Colorado ballot, I will vote with great enthusiasm for the Amendment Y and Z initiatives, to create independent commissions for redistricting the state for both congressional elections (Y) and state legislature elections (Z). I encourage everyone who believes in honest and open elections to vote for those two. This task has always has a bipartisan sheen but has in reality been dominated by whichever party is dominant in the state’s legislature. Getting redistricting out of the hands of the political parties is really important.

I discussed the Amendment 73 initiative last month, to create an education fund through an actual progressive tax measure that will focus on the wealthiest citizens, and that nibbles away at the TABOR and Gallagher Amendments. I encourage your vote for this.

I also discussed the sweet-smelling but toxic Amendment 74 initiative last month – but will say again: don’t vote for this if you want your local and state governments to continue being able to apply your tax money to real problems (assuming they usually try to). Your private property is already protected against “takings” in the state and federal constitutions. Allowing your governments to be sued for any real or imagined lowering of an ever-changing and undefined ephemera like “fair market value” will divert a big portion of your tax dollars into defense against lawsuits over land use and zoning regulations you probably support, if you love your environment, water supply and community character. Oregon tried this, and had to pass a new amendment to reverse it a couple years later; learn from their bad experience.

Amendment 75 – the millionaire candidate dilemma – makes no sense to me; you don’t fight fire (ridiculous campaign expenditures) by throwing fuel on the fire with more ridiculous campaign expenditures.

Proposition 112 for a mandatory 2,500-foot setback (basically half a mile) for all oil and gas drilling is being opposed by most of the “water community” because it may reduce revenues from the severance tax for implementing the water plan. And environmental groups are concerned that it will push oil and gas development back into public lands they would rather see left undeveloped. Those are legitimate concerns, but so are the concerns of communities experiencing a lack of empathy from the industry. It is also a climate-related issue: When are we going to get serious about cutting back on fossil fuel development? I like the way it is giving the oil and gas industry conniption fits, and may start driving up the price of gas enough to make us all think more.

Which brings me to transportation, where, if climate change is a concern, we ought to be saying, let’s start shutting down some of these roads, replacing them with rails … But that is not the American way. And it is also very American to say, let’s pass bonds today for some “damn road projects,” and worry about how to pay for them tomorrow. That’s Proposition 109, Fix Our Damn Roads. And with that American logic, it is leading in the polls against the more responsible Proposition 110, that wants us to tax ourselves today for the road projects we will enjoy tomorrow. Please vote responsibly – and try to elect a legislature that can work such things out the right way.

In Gunnison County, we will be voting on a 1.5 mill property tax increase to initiate a modest but steady stream of funding for affordable housing in the Upper Gunnison. This may be our valley’s most serious problem, and from what I hear it, is also a problem in much of the rest of Central Colorado as well. But it is rough to ask taxpayers to support two tax increases in one election, even if they both make sense.

And there we are. Wherever we are. In a state with more unaffiliateds than either Democrats or Republicans, I am feeling a vague responsibility to start trying to figure out what our political party would look like. I will probably be wasting your time and mine here in that pursuit before the 2020 election, which I think starts Nov. 7. If we actually have a 2020 election, that is, which may not have to happen if the Trumpist Consensus prevails Nov. 6. Like the guy said in the lifeboat, grabbing an oar, “Pull for the horizon; it’s better than nothing.”

George Sibley votes, writes and thinks too much in Gunnison.