(Denver Post, Jan. 9) “Yesterday, upon the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today. I wish, I wish he’d go away.” The little poem from a century ago should haunt Colorado’s new governor and legislature as they climb the Capitol steps and set to work this week.
John Hickenlooper is shrewdly adding Republicans as well as fellow Democrats to his cabinet, but no one has been appointed from the Tea Party. Speaker Frank McNulty, reclaiming a GOP majority for the first time since 2004, will preside over a House of 33 R’s, 32 D’s, and no T’s. Senate President Brandon Shaffer enjoys an opposite and more comfortable margin of 20 D’s, 15 R’s, and again, zero T’s.
So what? This is our state’s two-party system in the same seesaw of power we’ve known since 1876 – politics as usual. These are politically unusual times, however. The men and women who aren’t there under the gold dome in 2011, but whom our elected leaders can’t afford to ignore, are the Tea Party insurgents of the past two years.
Fewer than half of Colorado’s eligible voters turned out last November. The half that stayed home were not all Tea Partiers, of course. T’s came out in large numbers to help Republicans take the state House, unseat two Democrats from Congress, and support Tom Tancredo or Dan Maes for governor. Yet the fact remains that as campaigning now gives way to governing, T’s have no formal seat at the table. So it’s insiders beware.
The late Bill Buckley allowed LBJ only about a week in office before announcing in his magazine: “National Review’s patience with the Johnson administration is exhausted.” The Tea Party, a movement of hard-working Americans fed up with over-spending and over-government, is THAT impatient with politicians of both parties. You can imagine them sending Valentines such as these to the power-brokers at 200 E. Colfax:
“Dear Gov. Hickenlooper: No doubt you’re a good guy to have a beer with, though the motor scooter is a bit effete. But for now, forget the image stuff, park your presidential ambitions, and get the economy roaring again. Go after the unions and the spenders like you were Chris Christie. We’re dying out here. Love, Adams County.”
“Dear President Shaffer: What’s with you proposing to make it harder for us to change the state constitution? The constitution belongs to us, not to you and the other suits. Try reading it on opening day, the way Congress did. Then try again on fixing PERA, before it bankrupts the state. Respectful but steamed, Grand Junction.”
“Dear Speaker McNulty: You must have been quoted wrong about not repealing Ritter’s car tax, that outrageous affront to TABOR. When one of your members said the revenue is needed, you woodshedded him, right? Can a couple hundred of us come see you in the Old Supreme Court some afternoon? Patriotically, Pueblo.”
“Dear Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp: Please fire up your caucus to fight harder than last year against the Obama transformation agenda on things like energy and health care. The GOP is Colorado’s best hope of not turning into California or Greece, but if you don’t show us more, a bunch of us are outta here. Worried in Widefield.”
“Dear House Minority Leader Sal Pace: Ouch, a few dozen votes in the Ramirez race and you could have been Speaker. For 2012, instead of lurching left with labor, why not become a fiscal hawk, a Dick Lamm-style Democrat? We can be had. Available in Arvada.”
Government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem. So said Reagan 30 years ago this month, and the Tea Party believes it is even truer today. If Colorado’s bipartisan establishment doesn’t pay heed, it will pay dearly.