('76 Editor) Listening to Ken Buck, the Weld County DA and 2010 GOP Senate nominee, make the case at CCU yesterday for a constitutional stopper on deficit spending, I kept thinking of the Tytler Thesis. Whether not the authorship of this famous warning is accurately cited, its ring of truth is convincing and - amidst our present circumstances - chilling.
What is the warning? About the time our original thirteen states adopted their new constitution in 1787, Alexander Tytler, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh, is supposed to have made these trenchant observations about the fall of the Athenian Republic some 2,000 years earlier:
A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always vote for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, those nations always progressed through the following sequence:
1. from bondage to spiritual faith;2. from spiritual faith to great courage;3. from courage to liberty;4. from liberty to abundance;5. from abundance to complacency;6 from complacency to apathy;7. from apathy to dependence;8. From dependence back into bondage.
Where do you think America is today, on that ladder from the top to the bottom and back?
(Denver Post, Sept. 5) “McInnis: A Jobs Governor,” say the bus benches and billboards that were to give the former GOP congressman a lift toward November after he won in August; only he lost. Still you see the slogan everywhere, as sad as a Christmas tree in spring, a reminder of how strange politics can be. (And stranger yet if the Dan Maes candidacy also ends, a possibility when I wrote this.)
Meanwhile the finalists for senator forge into fall with their own bizarre blemishes left over from summer – Democrat Michael Bennet alleged to have been a corporate looter, Republican Ken Buck scolded for joking that “I don’t wear high heels.” (Has declining to cross-dress ever before been deemed politically insensitive?)
If such malefactors at the top of both tickets weren’t enough to make nonvoters of us all, my fellow Republicans have the opportunity to lose sleep over the shockingly moderate coloration of Tambor Williams, Maes’ designee for lieutenant governor.
Becoming Light Guv is usually a disappearance sufficient to one’s face on a milk carton. But suddenly Ms. Williams, unlikely ever to take office and powerless if she did, was held up as my party’s bogeywoman of the center, sinister as Hillary Clinton. Come on.
Overall, it’s painfully evident that in 2010, even more than in most election years, few of us are going to get what we want. But can we at least get, as the self-help guru Mick Jagger once promised, what we need? I think so.
Suppose the campaign was a supermarket. You could breeze in for a Lotto ticket, a six-pack, and a gossip magazine – resulting tomorrow in the lottery not paying off, a hangover, and Brangelina as remote as before. This is the dreamy wish-fulfillment approach to elections that too many Americans, left and right, indulge in. Embarrassingly juvenile, really.
As grownups, though, you and I know better. We’re going to the store with a list, smart shoppers ready to turn last week’s earnings into next week’s eating. We’ll go easy on the junk food, heavy on the healthy stuff, and if the menu in coming days isn’t quite the banquet of our dreams, at least we’ve kept our self-reliance and our self-respect. We’re not chumps for anyone’s ad pitch.
Election Day will bring less frustration and more satisfaction (apologies to the Rolling Stones again), no matter where you’re located on the political spectrum, if you use Labor Day to make up your campaign shopping list in this fashion. The eight intervening weeks will also be less of an ordeal, because you’ll have a calm, cool sense of seeing through all the flimflam.
The aisles to avoid are the ones with entitlements, benefit goodies, borrowing from our kids, laws that play favorites, victimhood, appeasing aggressor, inflammatory wedge issues, hero-worship of my guys, demonizing the other guys, future scenarios with utopian fantasies or dystopian horrors. That stuff is junk no matter which party peddles it, and both sometimes do. It will only make a sick body politic sicker. Don’t even feed it to your dog.
Seeing through the flimflam isn’t the same as preventing it, of course. Some candidates and ballot issues perpetrating the above will win. Some opposed to it will lose. But your shopping list is good into 2011 and beyond, as a guide for holding all those darned politicians accountable. Do it!
And if your list includes the healthy restraints of divided government in Denver as well as Washington; the rebirth of competing media voices in our state; some soul-searching by Colorado Republicans and Democrats alike, after a sloppy show this year; a state Supreme Court chastened by voter vigilance; and a return to reality-based politics following the Obama euphoria of 2008 – well then, I can practically guarantee you a delicious, nutritious midnight supper on Nov. 2.
(Denver Post, May 30) An Alaska mayor shocks the governor in a primary, then humbles an ex-governor in the general election, then electrifies the nation as John McCain’s running mate. A legislator from the laughing-stock Massachusetts Republicans upsets the attorney general to capture a perennially Democratic Senate seat. A lowly Pennsylvania congressman ignores the president’s support for a party-switching senator and retires him in a primary, Obama endorsement and all.You know their names. In ousting Arlen Specter, Joe Sestak (corrupt job offer notwithstanding) followed a pattern set by Scott Brown and Sarah Palin. Voters in both parties are turning to conviction candidates and giving resume’ candidates the boot. Palin’s rollicking speech at DU last weekend, hours after the state Republican convention, got me wondering whether the same pattern fits Colorado.Laughing that it was fun to do politics at an ice rink, the Wasilla hockey mom skated in to forecheck the Messiah himself. Her deft indictment of Mr. Obama’s policies delighted the crowd of several thousand, about half of them Tea Partiers by a show of hands. With her peroration on Reagan as a model of the “lifeguard leadership” America needs, you could hear Sarah asking herself: “Should I run in 2012?”Time will tell. Right now there is 2010 to deal with, and on a Saturday that had seen conventional wisdom toppled among both Democrats and Republicans, something else you could hear was our state’s previously favored hopefuls for senator and governor frantically recalculating their chances.Jane Norton and Ken Buck, Senate rivals in the August GOP primary, both attended the Palin event. Once the underdog, he was riding a 77% delegate majority and positive media buzz. She was coming off several days of rough press and party grumbling over her decision to bypass the convention and file petitions. Listening in on their thoughts that night would have been fascinating. Though still formidable in likability, endorsements, and funding, the former lieutenant governor now clearly has a race on her hands. For all that Norton was recently lauded by Gov. Palin as a “pink elephant,” a conservative woman to watch, the pit bull of the hour seems to be Buck.The same dramatic reversal of fortune, like something out of the movies, has befallen Michael Bennet and Andrew Romanoff, Senate rivals on the Democratic side. Romanoff, feisty and buoyant, radiates conviction. Bennet has the resume’, but he plods. The incumbent’s war chest and White House backing may prove no more decisive for him than they were for poor Arlen Specter.It was in the race for governor, though, that May 22 invited the craziest speculation on who might become Colorado’s Sarah Palin. Evergreen businessman Dan Maes, authentic and fearless but politically unknown, announced in early 2009 against Gov. Bill Ritter. Fat chance. Like most Republicans, I shrugged and awaited the serious contenders. First came former congressman Scott McInnis, then state Sen. Josh Penry, then (very briefly) former presidential candidate Tom Tancredo. But suddenly last November, Penry and Tancredo were out. This January, Ritter too was out. And now as June begins, McInnis sits SECOND on the ballot behind, of all people, Dan Maes.Is it another case of conviction trumping resume’? If latecomer Joe Gschwendtner gains traction, does a three-way primary (like Palin’s in 2006) help Maes? Could Dauntless Dan, if nominated by the GOP, beat the media’s darling, John Hickenlooper? There is precedent. Back in 1962, the untried John Love took out Democrat Gov. Steve McNichols. Things are at a boil, and as Samuel Adams of Boston Tea Party fame observed, “It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds.” Americans and Coloradans, fired up about over-government, have made this a year of surprises already. My hunch is we haven’t seen anything yet.