scott mcinnis

Freedom at the tipping point

(Denver Post, Apr. 18) “The British are coming,” Paul Revere’s alarm to the Massachusetts countryside on this day in 1775, conveys an urgency you don’t get from the equivalent warning of 2010, “The bankruptcy is coming.” Fact is, though, fiscal implosion threatens the aging United States of today as grimly as the redcoats threatened the newborn nation of 235 years ago. The question is whether Americans will come awake as the patriots did on that historic night, or sleepwalk into the abyss. I fear for our country, optimist that I am, because the answer is not clear. To stop blindly expanding entitlements we can’t fund and borrowing what we can’t repay, the country has to snap out of politics as usual. We need a brutally honest self-appraisal, AA-style. The Tea Party movement is doing that, but so far the old-line Democratic and Republican parties are not. America’s genius for self-correction has never been more needed.

We must save ourselves from a terminal case of debtor’s disease state by state, with Washington dragged in last. It will be Massachusetts setting a good example with Scott Brown after setting a bad one on subsidized health care. Illinois passing pension reform while California remains in denial. New Jersey’s Chris Christie stepping up as a budget-balancing governor as our own Bill Ritter whiffs.

In Colorado neither the legislative session nor the election campaign has yet risen above politics as usual. Democrats raised taxes rather than discipline spending. Republicans went for higher electric rates on dubious environmental grounds. Both settled for a bandaid on the PERA pension cancer. The House Speaker favors an ACORN election bill. Bipartisan senators plan another strike at petition rights.

Constitutional amendments initiated by the people, you see, are part of what ails Colorado in the view of some elected politicians. They want to make it twice as hard for you and me to revise our own charter of government. Such restraints on power as term limits in 1990 and tax limits in 1992 couldn’t be so readily imposed in the better future these visionaries offer us. No thanks.

In the US Senate race, meanwhile, Democratic momentum is with Andrew Romanoff, a friend of the big unions that worsen our fiscal and economic woes, and the Republican field is led by Jane Norton, who supported the easy-spending Referendum C back in 2005, sugar for Colorado’s budgetary diabetes. The Democrats’ likely nominee for governor, Mayor Hickenlooper, is an habitual taxer, yet his opponent Scott McInnis won’t sign a no-tax pledge. Come on, friends, pick it up a notch.

My colleague Richard Bishirjian of Yorktown University contends that part of the problem in Colorado is a “brain drain” due to term limits. The deficit I see isn’t brains but backbone – a spine decline. We’re in danger of being systemically corrupted as a whole people, as the Independence Institute’s Dennis Polhill put it.

Today’s imperative – sober up and man up, or the Chinese will own us – is less galvanizing than a midnight cry to wake up or King George will tyrannize us. But make no mistake, freedom is again at a tipping point. The ascent from bondage to faith to courage to liberty to abundance, traced by historian Alexander Tytler in the 1770s, tilts quickly from abundance to complacency to apathy to dependency, returning then to bondage. Ask yourself where we are on that scale.

The balance our Founders sought, wrote James Madison, was to “first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” Two centuries on, badly under Bush and still worse under Obama, Americans are getting little of the one and way too much of the other. We have to turn this around. Will 2010 be the year?

Long road to November

(Denver Post, Mar. 21) Political inexperience was the gold standard among 30 of my neighbors at a precinct caucus in Centennial last week. Fellow Republicans viewed the 2010 contenders for senator and governor with the hard eyes of swindle victims or jilted lovers. The less involved a candidate had been with our party’s time in state and national office over the past dozen years, the more acceptable he or she seemed for nomination this year. Caucus night in March was only the first step on a long road to election night in November, 225 days from now. But it dramatized the “once burned, twice shy” distrust of government that will shape the choices made by Colorado voters in GOP, Democratic, and independent ranks. Trust when broken is hard to restore. That’s the penalty box our whole political system is in right now. Unpredictable new forces are in play as this campaign unfolds. The Tuesday meeting at a school library near our house was older, white, and mostly men. Rainbow America we were not, but we gathered with a love for this land of liberty and a desire to make a difference. Before things started, there was laughter and applause when someone pointed to a presidential book display featuring Barack Obama and George Washington and quipped, “The goal is a government with less of him and more of HIM.”

In the precinct straw poll for a nominee to regain the US Senate seat from Democrats Michael Bennet or Andrew Romanoff, Sedalia businessman and former state Sen. Tom Wiens took 40%, followed by former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton with 37% and district attorney Ken Buck with 23%. In the trial heat for governor, Evergreen businessman and rookie candidate Dan Maes got a notable 44%, trailing former congressman Scott McInnis, the prohibitive favorite, who had 56%.

Our tiny sample largely tracked the statewide Republican tallies, though it was Ken Buck who ran close with Jane Norton in the overall count. More striking to me than the percentages was the mood in the room. A burly guy named Larry spoke for many with his warnings of the tax-and-spend taint attaching to an ex-congressman and an ex- lieutenant governor. Countering him with the case for McInnis and Norton was the more youthful and smooth-spoken Cole, but you could see many skeptical frowns.

I’m uncommitted in both races, and cast a secret ballot that night. Any of the GOP contenders, whatever their shortcomings or the party’s past lapses, would obviously work harder for limited government – the imperative right now, before our country goes bankrupt – than would a Sen. Bennet, a Sen. Romanoff, or a Gov. John Hickenlooper as liberal Democrats. That’s why my party must not self-immolate in the 2010 primary as we did in the 2006 gubernatorial bloodbath. The prize is November.

Dems actually face a tougher task with this year’s fed-up electorate than my side does. Their Colorado ticket will be a pair of entitlement-peddling, union-bought insiders by whatever names. Our nominees can definitely take outside position against that. Whether Republicans are ready to use power more responsibly this time, if trusted with it again, is another question. Bluntly acknowledging that question would be a good start; frontrunners take note.

Nothing can be taken for granted. Lent is a far piece from Halloween. What if an autumn house of horrors found America at war with Iran? The incumbent party might benefit decisively from a rally to the flag. Half a year is an eternity in politics, we’ve learned again and again.

“I’m giving the Republicans one more chance,” Doug told our caucus. Bitterly disillusioned by McCain after 2008, he’s back as a delegate this spring. As buyers’ remorse with Obama deepens, will voters similarly gamble and grant the GOP a do-over?

What Brown can do for you

Massachusetts voters sent Democrats a severe warning with Scott Brown's win for US Senator, says John Andrews in the January round of Head On TV debates. But Susan Barnes-Gelt chalks up the outcome to a poor campaign on the other side and generalized disgust with the in-crowd. John on the right, Susan on the left, also go at it this month over Hickenlooper for Governor, Obama's first year, Denver's next mayor, and Haiti relief. Head On has been a daily feature on Colorado Public Television since 1997. Here are all five scripts for January: 1. MASSACHUSETTS SHOOK UP 2010 POLITICS

John: Massachusetts voters sent a powerful message of discontent to Obama, Pelosi, and Reid by electing Republican Scott Brown to the Senate seat long held by liberal lion Ted Kennedy. Unemployment, terrorism, and the unpopular health care takeover add up to a bad political year for Democrats, Susan.

Susan: Martha Coakley made every mistake a candidate can make. She took a month off, refused to press the flesh and ran as an entitled incumbent. D's and R's can learn from her mistakes. Incumbents and uber-partisans are in trouble on both sides of the aisle.

John: You must be looking at different polls than the ones I see. Republicans are rebounding. Democrats are the ones in trouble, likely to lose big next fall in races for Senate, House, and Governor, Colorado possibly included. Radical overreach by Obama and his party has Americans massively turned off.

Susan: Government has Americans massively turned off. Scott Brown never called himself an R nor called in the big dogs to endorse him. Voters are angry at the status quo in Washington, joblessness, Wall Street and leadership's tin ear. The 2010's - the decade of the independent.


John: The so-called Colorado Promise, on which Democrats won the governorship, is gone as Bill Ritter makes an early exit. The budget, the economy, the energy market, and the labor climate are all in disarray. That puts two strikes against Democrat John Hickenlooper, and makes Republican Scott McInnis the clear favorite for governor.

Susan: Your list puts two strikes against the next governor of Colorado - regardless of who wins. The real question is "Who has a record of facing budget deficits, reforming bureaucracy and making strategic investments in job creation?” John Hickenlooper - a person who's actually governed.

John: John Hickenlooper is even more liberal than Diana DiGette, according to the congresswoman herself. McInnis is a sensible centrist. The Mayor is Mr. Denver, the opposite of home on the range. McInnis is pure Colorado. And he was balancing budgets when Hick was still selling microbrew. Advantage Scott.

Susan: You're whistling in the dark and the tune has been out of date for a decade. Hickenlooper is the poster boy for non-partisan, problem-solving centrist. His base includes pragmatists independents and business. And he didn't have to shave a mustache to be credible to the voters!


John: Susan, you’re the Denver political insider. I’m just a suburban spectator. But it seems to me the Hickenlooper era in Denver is over one way or the other. If hizonner doesn’t win governor this year, he’s damaged goods for a third term as mayor next year. What’s the early betting for 2011?

Susan: Too many chips on the table to place an early bet. However - the qualities the next mayor will need are clear: management experience, political moderation, an ability to get along with diverse interests, a strong backbone and a clear vision of the region's future.

John: Thanks for mentioning my imaginary hometown, Backbone. People up there, unlike the pansy progressives who fear competition, elect their mayor in a fair fight between Democrats and Republicans. Maybe Denver will do the same in 2011, and turn to a proven Republican leader like Joe Blake or Dan Ritchie.

Susan: You're spending too much time in the thin air of Backbone! The old boys club ceased running Denver in 1983- when Peña was elected. Denver's next mayor will be energetic, innovative and savvy. The next year will be a wild ride - and I don't mean the stock show!


Susan: The Haitian tragedy has ignited humanity’s finest instincts. Young people donating $10 via cell phones have generated more than $7 million in relief funds. Presidents Bush and Clinton together will ensure the long hard work of relief and rebuilding proceeds. Only the sub-human - Rush & Robertson demur.

John: The heartbreaking images out of Haiti remind us that life is harsh, mankind is all one family, and our simplest blessings cannot be taken for granted. The rescue response was warmly humanitarian, as you say. But it was also uniquely American, combining the very best of our country’s generosity, affluence, and military might.

Susan: You are right John. But the real test will come in time. Do the good people of this nation and others have the patience and resources to rescue a failed nation? How and who will build the civic, political and physical infrastructure necessary to truly save Haiti?

John: Nation-building is a noble dream, but nearly impossible in practice, as America has learned. Every nation, including shattered Haiti, must find its own way forward. We can still do our part individually, though. I’m going straight from the studio to Salvation Army online and donate again.


Susan: Obama promised change. And change unsettles. Overhauling health care, addressing financial collapse, sending troops to war, trying terrorists, epic unemployment. In 1982 pundits predicted Reagan wouldn't run for a second term, his early numbers were so bad. First terms aren't to be measured in 365 days.

John: Obama also promised hope. Twelve months ago even many of us who voted against him were willing to hope this gifted man would lead America wisely. But so far he has failed. Our enemies in Iran and Al Qaeda perceive us as weak. But business is afraid of Obama, worsening the recession. Bad show, Mr. President.

Susan: And business - banks, insurance companies, industry - have certainly demonstrated good judgment and wisdom in their collective decision-making. And the Republican alternative? Glen Beck and the tea bags? Sarah- don't confuse me with information -Palin? The only poll that counts is November 6, 2012.

John: Changing the subject doesn’t change the facts. Obama’s public support has fallen farther, faster, than any first-year president in history. Americans, including many of his previous supporters, are beginning to realize he’s in over his head. We can’t afford a failed presidency. Pull it together, Barack.