Election shopping list: What’s off, what’s on

(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.

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