Lights Out on Democracy

Most of the news cycle yesterday was taken up with stories about the death of the Dear Leader of North Korea and his under-thirty son who now has a nuclear arsenal. One news story showed North Korea at night from space. While the rest of the world is bathed in light, North Korea is black because when the sun goes down, the light goes out.

That image could be an apt metaphor for what is happening to democracy in Mesa County. The lights have gone out for the local Democratic Party, or at the very least someone turned the dimmer way down. There is an election in 2012, with a crowded field of candidates for the two county commissioner open seats. Not one Democrat has thrown their hat into the ring. How can there be democracy if there is no choice? How can there be democracy if all of the candidates stick to party dictated talking points, as evidenced by the recent usage of the word “vindictive” by Republicans all across the state to describe the new political maps?

To be fair, there are two candidates who are running as independents in the county commissioner race. One, a woman, is working very hard to get elected. The other, a man, is rumored to be a former Democrat who decided he would have a better chance of winning if he ran as an independent. Given the demographics of this county, he may be right. There are more independents than Republicans on the voter rolls, and more Republicans than Democrats.

I got a call yesterday form one of the Co-Chairmen of the local party asking if I would attend a meeting at Colorado Mesa University. The purpose of the meeting was to provide county commissioner candidates with information and resources about water. In the arid west, water is an extremely important issue, so it was no surprise to see almost all of the candidates at this meeting. (Rose Pugliese was not there.)

What was surprising was the age of most of the candidates. I’ve been saying that I think it is time to turn over governance to a younger generation. Most of the people in the room made me look like a youngster. At least one couldn’t stay awake for the entire meeting. Something is seriously wrong with our democratic process when the only people running for office are about to experience lights out-they are barely fogging the mirror now. (Apologies to the two women in the race.)

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8 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Ralphie says:

    embellished it, and turned it into a diary?

    Why?  Did nobody see it the first time?

  2. what are you doing to fix the problem?

    Do you have a few friends that could help you?  Have you recruited them?  Now’s the time – caucuses are coming up, and you can make yourself part of the party by becoming a precinct captain.  Heck, if the party is as dead as you say, you might be able to volunteer for an open precinct position or even an officer’s slot without waiting for the caucuses.  And even if you can’t, you can contribute your ideas and energy to the party – become active and schedule recruiting events, for example.

    Anyone can do it.  DFA produced training guides on organizing the party and holding meet-ups – you can probably still get the latest version from DFA or perhaps the state party; I still have mine from 2004.

    Be the change you want to see in the world.

  3. ohwilleke says:

    At least this one has a contest and honestly, the county commissioner’s job isn’t a terribly partisan one, so its really quite democratic.  

    A non-partisan race with runoff elections if no candidate receives a majority, of the kind that the City and County of Denver has for its single district non-partisan council member races would probably make more sense.  (Colorado also still, irrationally, finds it necessary to conduct partisan elections for county coroners and county surveyors.)

    Unlike European political parties that genuinely try to integrate national, state and local political action in a single coherent platform, U.S. political parties only make the vaguest effort to turn local government issues into partisan ones.  The most partisan issues at the county level (law enforcement, criminal prosecutions and the conduct of elections) are handled by separately elected partisan officials anyway, and much of the county budget and the county’s responsibilities are mandated by state laws that provide only modest room for local discretion on policy matters.

    The non-partisan candidates are simply being rational, given the experience of Pete Hautzinger, who was trounced when he ran for state representative as a Democrat, but has been elected to be Mesa County’s DA more than once as a Republican.

    • Ralphie says:

      the county commissioner’s job isn’t a terribly partisan

      Certainly not in Mesa County.

    • dukeco1 says:

      elected officials to hand pick their successors in this county. It is a tried and true system.

      Front range Democrats could help immensely by remembering that public education, candidate development, and GOTV infrastructure all work best when well funded. The immense burden of educating such a conservative community and building a competitive local party need outside help to overcome the local disadvantage of being financially and demographically overpowered.

      Is the state party doing all it can to level the playing field in “red ” areas? I don’t know…do you?  

    • Konola says:

      I can’t say what the local party did prior to this year, but I can tell you that as an officer of the party, it has been my mission to try to find candidates for every open seat. The party sent out an E-mail to its membership informing them of a meeting designed to help people who were thinking about running for office. I’ve gone to union meetings trying to recruit candidates there. I’ve called friends and people who supported me in my candidacy. Unless you’ve lived in a place like Grand Junction it simply isn’t possible to understand how difficult finding people to run can be. I know that when I lived in Denver I never could have imagined the reality of this place.

      • ohwilleke says:

        going to the Democratic Party State Convention (in the same car as Bernie Buesher), serving as Treasurer for a Democratic candidate for County Commissioner (whose campaign imploded after suffering a serious personal injury suffered mid-race), and working on other campaigns, and I still keep my feelers out.

        Yes, it is hard.  But, ultimately, recruiting involves knowing all of the players in the area, affirmatively courting the likely individuals personally, and providing them seed money and a core of supporters from the handpicked lot of the party faithful.  This isn’t necessarily a recipe for a win, but it is what the business involves and is typically the titular job of the county chair for county office.  

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