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Bennet and Romanoff – Again, or is it still?

December 16, 2009

It is two months now – the October 13 entry – since I wrote about the primary contest here in Colorado between Michael Bennet and Andrew Romanoff for the Democratic Party nomination for the US Senate.

The comments I got – and continue to get – about my thoughts continue to flow in, including several from friends tonight. There have been many others. It does suggest how seriously people take this primary contest. I do too 

Interesting that my friends active in the labor movement  remain cool-to-hostile to both. Same is true with those politically connected Black and Chicano acquaintances to whom I posed the question. Among these key Democratic constituencies, my informal sampling suggest something less than enthusiasm for either. Their opinions haven’t changed much since, nor have mine. Still there are some thoughts to add about the contest

Still, several people were disappointed that I didn’t give them `direction’, as one friend put it, coming out for one over the other; a number of others – including a former student who works in Bennet’s Washington DC off (or did until recently) – pleaded their case as to why Bennet shines over Romanoff in their opinion. The arguements are the same – that Michael Bennet is very bright (I don’t doubt this), he’s had a good position on healthcare supporting a public option and has separated himself from Romanoff on Middle East politics by essentially supporting Obama’s Cairo Speech of early June.

Others were impressed by Romanoff’s intelligence and the role that he played in the Colorado Legislature. A number of Western Slope friends of mine – very liberal and involved in peace activities – have thrown their support Romanoff’s way, as have a few of the better community organizers I know here in NW Denver, hotbed of liberal Dems. The Western Slopers tell me and are duly impressed with how he’s stood with them as they picketed against the war in Frisco and Copper Mountain, things I don’t recall him having done in Denver (although he might of I guess). Romanoff’s supporters also point to  Ken Gordon’s support for Romanoff. As Gordon is probably one of the more progressive legislators we’ve had in Colorado,  despite his support for dumb AIPAC  initiatives, they believe that this carries some weight.

I have been told – and I accept the fact – that I somewhat mischaracterized Bennet as coming from money and power. Perhaps his political background is not as `old money’ influenced as I thought, – his parents came as immigrants – but I do think that being the son of the president of Weslyean University in Connecticut does count for something as does the fact that his father was for awhile the president of  PBS.  So he doesn’t come from old money – just the newer variety of the stuff. As I pointed out, Bennet first came to Colorado and worked for Philip Anschutz – where he made a minor fortune – further re-inforcing his political connections.

In any event, I do want to admit that I am surprised how seriously people take my views and as such, do try to give these entries `my best effort’ intellectually and politically. Like many others, I also think that personally, both Bennet and Romanoff are, as I mentioned earlier, intelligent and a notch or two left of center, but like our president, perhaps easily swayed to move a notch or two back in the other direction. Hard to tell how either one will play out as a US Senator with all that pressure to raise money for their next campaign.

Add to that the fact that as it now stands, there is no serious candidate to the left of them – either among the Dems or put up by the Green Party – that has thrown their hats into the ring. Perhaps there will be, we still have 11 months till the election.

Still, long ago my approach to candidates, local, state and national – has been essentially this: where do they stand on the issues? and if they do have good politics, although I do hope that they will win, I really don’t care if they are eloquant or stutter, if they are handsome or less so, or if they shake alot of peoples’ hands or are more reclusive in nature. I’ll vote for them and have.

Besides, the left has more political power than it knows. Time to use it.  I’ve seen it enough times to believe it. No, we don’t have the money and political influence of mainstream politicans. But we vote. An example. Not that many weapons systems ago – maybe 10 years or so – there was a race for the US Senate in this state. Both candidates pretended to ignore the left, `the peace vote’. But in the last week before that election with the Democratic falling behind, swallowing his pride and who knows what else, he came to a number of us that he had long ignored, asking for support.

The funny thing was that none of the people he approached were political brokers who could in any way assure anyone would listen to us. Nor did we act in concert, only finding out about it later. But we all asked the same question… endorse you? what will you give us in return. What we wanted was simple – opposition to the US going to war against Iraq.

He refused and lost. Probably didn’t lose because of us by the way, but still, the example is instructive – the opinions of the left, the peace movement are taken far more seriously than we think. But we have to learn how to use that tool, first by making demands that represent our interests and then, when the demands are actually met to our surprise, supporting those candidates.

For the moment, for those who are interested in liberal or progressive politics, `the facts on the ground’ as they say are simple and clear: Romanoff or Bennet. And certainly in a certain way we could have far less attractive alternatives from which to choose.  True.  

For all the concerns of these friends and supporters, I must admit that I remain, two months on perfectly content not to support either of them. Not yet anyway, and perhaps not ever. The key question that I would pose to my friends is… beyond the personality factor what is it that each candidate offers us programmatically. Where do they stand on Obama’s troop increase to Afghanistan, where do they stand on single payer healthcare? on labor organizing rights? Do they stand up from the aggressive attacks from the right, or do they roll over and play dead?

This is what friends should be asking both of these candidates right now and listening carefully to their answers. The last Colorado Senatorial candidate whom I could (and did) support was one Mike Miles. Coloradoans who read this blog know him. I supported him because he was – and remains – the only Colorado politician (outside of Bob Kinsey of the Green Party) who supported the Geneva Accord as a possible framework for Israeli-Palestinian peace and who was strong on healthcare and getting us out of Iraq.

This is not a time, in my book, to rush to endorse. Of course the candidates want us to do just that, but then candidates are always in a hurry.

It is a time to build coalitions around the issues that are important to us, to get some solid political commitments, without which their probable election won’t mean that much anyhow. Friends need to remember how much political pressure is put on Bennet, Romanoff and virtually everyone else in politics from the right. We have to learn how to pressure politicans from the left, to get commitments from them and to get them to keep those commitments better than Barack Obama has, as president of the United States. And if they make and then break commitments, we need to learn how to – unceremoniously but  professionally – dump them.

I heard David Sirota, local commentator, give a speeech along these lines to a large labor union-based audience a few weeks back which I thought quite to the point and well done.  So what is it that either Bennet or Romanoff offer us today? What is the issue or what are the issues that concern you most and where do they stand. And if you get a straight answer and like it, then give your endorsement. And it just might be worth something.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Colin permalink
    January 4, 2010 12:35 am

    once again, i enjoyed reading your thoughts on this matter. thanks for writing.


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