IN COLORADO, THE HEAT IS ON THE POLITICIANS
by Ted Manna
American Reporter Correspondent
Castle Rock, Colo.
PUEBLO, Colo. -- At the State Fair here in suburban Douglas County, Colo., close to the geographic center of the nation, politics is as hot a topic as the 95-plus-degree heat. Politicians better listen up. The people say they want leadership, not partisanship.
If any candidate from any party is going to have a chance, he or she will have to answer to the people, tune into their concerns and be strong enough to affect change, opined fairgoers and others throughout the state.
"People are starting to realize the desperate state the country is in," said Tom VonReyn, co-captain of a Castle Rock, Colo., Democratic precinct. "This has been a Republican area for so long and they have a real good organization."
VonReyn believes that party affiliations are changing, though. "Some parts of the county are now 50 percent Democratic," he said. "What we need to do now is get enough people involved" to get the message across that Colorado Democrats can kick-start a movement.
"There are a lot of closet Democrats [here] in Douglas County," VonReyn claimed. "In 2006, we ran someone for almost every public office," he said. In past years, he said, Democrats didn't bother to run for most elective offices in this 80-percent Republican county.
A motivational movie at a recent meeting focused on "persuadable voters" and "individual citizenship, not celebrity status" as party goals. He estimated that the partisan make-up up of the county is now 50 percent Republican, 30 percent unaffiliated and 20 percent Democratic.
The annual Colorado State Fair in Pueblo usually sees every form of extreme weather that Colorado can dish out in its 11-day run. Lightning, hail, torrential downpours and temperatures over 100 degrees are commonplace, along with some balmy, sunny days. Fairgoers are a happy bunch. The heat does not dampen their spirits. Easy-going, friendly, hard (hard!)-working, honest, these people bristle at the notion that somebody in Washington, or Denver for that matter, really cares about them.
Taking the time to talk under a brilliant blue sky, a rancher from rural Campo, Colo., summed it up. "We have to figure out a way," Greg Eden said, "to get the deal up to where everybody can make money." He hopes holding the Democratic National Convention in Denver brings attention to the problems of the people living in this parched land, like immigration, water, fuel and fuel prices.
"We can't take care of everybody," countered David Dynes, a restaurant manager from Colorado Springs. "At some point people have to take care of themselves."
Tolerance and strong opinions reside in an easy truce here among the most highly prized livestock in the state. Watching the young people, polite, respectful, full of themselves, you cannot help but want to make sure the world is safe for them.
Asked would they vote for a black American or a women for President, most shrugged. They agreed that the fact the Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama have a shot at the most powerful post in the world is proof that the country is ripe for change.
"We are the only party that would go there," said Diane Bailey, a Douglas County Public Trustee and one of the people responsible for the resurgence of Democratic support in the county. "You would not see this from the Republicans. That is one of the major differences between the parties."
Another difference, according to Bailey, is the absence of concerted attacks from Democrats against Democrats. "At the local level, we warn our candidates, 'Don't attack. You will only harm yourself.'
"There is no finger-pointing, just polite controversy," she said. "The Republicans can get pretty nasty toward each other."
The Public Trustee, appointed by the Governor, "sees first-hand the results of the prevailing Republican attitude," Bailry said. Her office handles property foreclosures, the biggest dark cloud on the economic horizon in a long time. Bailey said she has seen the "tried and true homeowner, just dealing with a run of bad luck like loss of job or health, or a bad mortgage." She has also seen investors "losing their shirts.
"They are not able to rent, and adjustable-rate mortgages are putting them in a bind," she said. She agreed that the so-called "free-money mortgages" are often to blame, yet she thinks the current Administration had a hand in the crisis.
"It's the lack of focus on the economy in general that contributed to the problem," she said. "It's the thinking that the [Dow Jones Index] measures everything, although now the market is jittery because of the foreclosures.
"This sums up the Republican attitude," she said, noting a comment by a prominent county GOP member she heard at a meeting. "This guy actually got up and said "no higher taxes for education.' I asked about posterity and he said, 'my children can fend for themselves'.
"That's about as Republican as you can get," she said. "I don't see Republicans taking any action to solve the foreclosure dilemma."
Noting that the foreclosure rates in the county have flattened, Bailey said the rate is still higher than last year. "From everyone I've talked to, the feeling is that we will not see a turnaround for another year." Democrats are trying to help, she said.
This is what we are doing," as the new guys in town, she said. "We started the Douglas County Housing Partnership Foreclosure Mediation Program, and I ask that the media let people know they can call us at 303-784-7856. We are doing everything we can to help people in need."
Republicans also see the need to be responsive. Mary Smith, Chairman of the Denver County Republican Party, says on her website "We are in a time of real change and growth here in Denver and this challenge is one we must face together.
"We are actively targeting precincts for grassroots representation and are reaching out to friends and neighbors for their ideas and action!" Smith wrote. But the party leadership has failed to return repeated phone messages from The American Reporter.
Helping, listening, doing. Those are actions people want to see. In response, at the Democratic National Convention Committee's "countdown kick-off" event, DNCC Chairman Howard Dean announced plans to host "a series of community forums in Denver and throughout the Rocky Mountain West in the months leading up to the 2008 Convention.
The series - "Convention Conversations: A Traveling Forum," sponsored by the DNCC - "will provide local residents with an opportunity for direct communication with top convention organizers and a venue to ask questions, share ideas and find out how they can get involved," Dean said.
"Let's see how they do," said Russ Herndon, a Monument, Colo., art dealer and Korean War veteran. He liked the idea of someone new.
"Something has to change," he said. "Whoever is elected should be able to get things done."
People believe that leadership will bring back American confidence. Setbacks under previous administrations like the capture of the USS Pueblo by North Korea, or bombings in Lebanon and Yemen, or blunders like Somalia were met with the belief that we took a hit but we will persevere.
Now, the Iraq war, Katrina, 9/11, and the U.S. faltering economy have shaken that confidence. The country is ripe for strong leadership from any party. Could Senator Clinton be that leader?
"She has been in the White House," said one fairgoer.