Wanted: Congressmen who listen

(Denver Post, Sept. 19) “It is essential to liberty,” wrote Madison in Federalist No. 52, “that the government should have a common interest with the people; an immediate dependence on, and an intimate sympathy with the people.” And what did he say is the only way to secure that? “Frequent elections, unquestionably.”

We saw a perfect example of Madison’s point, and a beautiful thing it was, the other day when Sen. Michael Bennet and Reps. Betsy Markey and John Salazar, Democrats all, dived off the Obama bandwagon on his ill-conceived $50 billion Son of Stimulus plan to limit damage in the upcoming midterms.

The president’s erstwhile congressional allies Colorado obviously see the plan as a source of damage. Even before the voters speak through their ballots in November, they’ve begun to murmur through townhalls and polls in September – and Markey, Salazar, and Bennet, big stimulus fans last year, are now all ears. “Immediate dependence on the people” strikes again. The system works (sort of).

We’d really know the system was working if Democratic Reps. Ed Perlmutter, Jared Polis, and Diana DeGette also expressed sudden distaste for the dangerous deficit and the obscenity of uncontrolled spending. It won’t happen with Polis and DeGette because they’re comfy in safe districts, cruising (they believe) toward another term. It still might happen with Perlmutter, who is polling dead even with GOP challenger Ryan Frazier; but as yet the suburbanite must feel less threatened by the Republican tide than his rural colleagues Markey out east and Salazar out west.

I’m acquainted with some libertarians and curmudgeons (often the same thing) who growl, “Don’t vote, it only encourages the SOB’s.” The present case refutes that attitude. Were it not for Cory Gardner running to oust Betsy Markey, Scott Tipton surging in his rematch with John Salazar, and Ken Buck putting the fear in Michael Bennet, with millions of voters at the ready, the Dems could continue supporting Obama’s leftist agenda to their hearts’ content.

Seems to me that more voting, not less, is what the doctor ordered for America right now. From Brown in Massachusetts to O’Donnell in Delaware, each week’s by-elections and primaries in 2010 have brought proof that we the people are wide awake, marshalling our votes to either make senators and representatives listen or replace them with unknown upstarts who will.

Thus the “emergency situation” for Diana DeGette this fall might turn out to be not a judge’s ban on tax dollars for destroying human embryos, about which she was fulminating on Tuesday, but an ER doctor’s candidacy to ban her and help repeal Obamacare. Is Republican Mike Fallon a longshot in Democratic Denver? Yes. Is DeGette a lock? No – not in this year of the Tea Party and Beck’s half-million on the Mall.

Election night won’t just see a massive wipeout of vulnerable House Democrats, predicts Karl Rove. It will also bring the upset of several congressmen whom no one thought vulnerable at all. Even Boulder’s Jared Polis, the epitome of urban cool and made of money, may not be out of reach for veteran, businessman, and family man Stephen Bailey, the GOP nominee in CD-2. Our won’t-listen Congress has stirred an anything’s-possible backlash.

The CD-7 seat that Perlmutter holds was expressly drawn for him by a friendly judge when Ed and I were state senators in 2002. How ironic if Frazier were to sweep him out of it now, just when demographics were supposed to be making the district loss-proof.

Which reminds me, Colorado has a won’t-listen Democratic legislature that may likewise go Republican in one or both houses on Nov. 2. My party is bent on that, with Hickenlooper leading for governor and redistricting coming up. As Madison also knew, maps matter mightily.

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