Two cheers for the two parties

(Denver Post, Nov. 7) Chastened. ///

The one–word opening paragraph was a Denver trademark for the late, great Gene Amole, columnist for a paper that is no more, classical DJ for a station that is no more. You missed something special if you weren’t around when he was writing for the Rocky and broadcasting for KVOD.

Old Gene would not have gotten too wound up about the raucuous 2010 campaign and the odd election that mercifully terminated it on Tuesday. Neither should we. In electing some honorable people to represent us, while leaving the big political parties chastened, we did a pretty good day’s work for self–government.

The improvement was incremental, but all durable improvements in a free society are. Americans know that in our bones. It’s one of the things that make us a conservative–leaning nation. We instinctively sense the advantages of divided government as a brake on official mischief. Hence the wave of ticket–splitting in Colorado last week.

The same voters who extended Democrats’ lease on the governor’s office and the US Senate seat, elevating John Hickenlooper and retaining Michael Bennet, crossed over to support Republican challengers for two congressional seats and two constitutional posts—favoring Cory Gardner over Betsy Markey, Scott Tipton over John Salazar, Walker Stapleton over Treasurer Cary Kennedy and Scott Gessler over Secretary of State Bernie Buescher.

Citizens wisely refuse to give more than two cheers for either the Republicans or the Democrats as a trustworthy political brand. Each has forfeited trust on too many occasions. The chastening effect upon both parties’ leadership is only an inference so far. But if they’re not doing some introspection after this tough election cycle, the denial is beyond incurable.

Dems had a governor, in Bill Ritter, so vulnerable they had to hustle him offstage. The GOP had two gubernatorial finalists, in Scott McInnis and Dan Maes, so flawed that a force of nature named Tom Tancredo swooshed into the vacuum. Speaker Terrance Carroll’s majority in Denver got a similar pink slip to that of Nancy Pelosi in Washington. Republicans put a weak appointed senator seemingly down for the count, but they couldn’t knock him out.

As the red and blue twin dinosaurs lumbered through their paces again this year, I think something encouraging began to happen in people’s attitude about the whole ritual. Too often, politics is like that king in the Book of Daniel who conditioned his subjects to kneel before the golden idol on a trumpet call. It’s a con game to distract us from self–reliance. A better politics happens when folks get up on their hind legs and take responsibility. And isn’t that what the Tea Party and the 912 groups are all about?

Within a month of Barack Obama’s inaugural address calling for “a new era of responsibility,” many people began to conclude that his transformative collectivist vision for America was actually the height of irresponsibility. Grassroots organizing took off, inspired by the patriots of 1773 and soaked with bipartisan skepticism for government insiders. Colorado’s cranky electorate with its mixed verdict on Nov. 2 is one result.

Personal responsibility is the price of individual liberty. Personal responsibility is the antithesis of paternalistic bureaucracy, paralytic regulation, PC thought control, and profligate fiscal follies. It underlies the “Send me” spirit of the Tea Party. The new political force preaching responsibility and repentance to both parties, envisaged in a series of columns here since mid–2007 (I called it Element R) is now upon us.

Obama’s policy indiscipline and blame habit have long since discredited his faux–responsible pose. Moving into 2011, Americans will insist on the real deal. The Republican–Democrat duopoly, resuming business with a plate–full of state and federal problems, is on notice from the responsibility movement to get serious. That, or face an even stiffer chastisement next time.

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