Premature for full-fledged back-slapping

Filed under: Hazlehurst |

For cinema buffs, there are no bad scenes in “Pulp Fiction,” just as there is no bad dialogue in “Casablanca.”
Remember the memorable exchange between the lawyer, Mr. Wolf (played by Harvey Keitel), and the two hit men, Vincent and Jules (John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson)? The Wolf, taking charge of an, er, extremely messy situation, reminds the feckless hit men that there’s still work to do.
“Gentlemen, let’s not start (metaphor unsuitable for a family business publication, loosely translatable as “congratulating ourselves”) quite yet …”
I thought of the Wolf, as the business community and its allies showered Gov. Bill Ritter with well-deserved praise after he vetoed HB 1072. And the praise wasn’t restricted to our apparently business-friendly governor.
Republican legislators praised themselves for mounting their weak-kneed little filibuster, which delayed the bill’s passage by a mind-boggling eight hours. Business lobbyists congratulated themselves for mounting a ferocious grass-roots effort which made the governor aware of business concerns.
And editorial writers across our great state congratulated the governor and predicted the dawn of a new era of good feelings under the golden dome.
Sorry, but maybe we’re a little ahead of ourselves. At least, that’s what my old pal, the Seasoned Political Observer told me last Saturday, as we sipped Chardonnay with the movers and shakers at the American Heart Association Heart Ball.
I’d barely said the word 1072 when SPO launched a fiery tirade.
“I saw where you said 1072 was meaningless — lemme tell you, every hotel in the state woulda been unionized in six months — why d’you think the unions wanted it so much? We dodged a bullet, but we’re still screwed — because they’re (the Democrats) baaaack! And they’re not going away. Eight years — that’s how long they’re gonna be in power. Ritter’s gonna throw us a bone every once in a while, but the rest of ’em hate us.”
So what should we do?
“You’re the columnist — figure it out. Just look at the underlying realities …”
So here they are.
Underlying Reality No.1: The Democrats are in control. Democratic governor, Democratic House, Democratic Senate. They’ve been out of power for more than 40 years. That’s a long time in the political wilderness. If you don’t think that there are some scores to settle, some bills to pay and some brutal takedowns in store, you’ve spent too much time in Sunday School.
Underlying Reality No. 2: Remember all the talk about the newly moderate Dems, no longer in thrall to the anti-business, pro-union left? Remember all the great buzz about House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, Senate President Joan Fitzgerald and the rest of the new Dems? Sensible, pragmatic, pro-business, right? Wrong. 1072 was whooped through the House and Senate on a straight party-line vote, with only three Dems in the overwhelmingly Democratic House crossing party lines to vote against it. Fitzgerald and Romanoff could have easily kept it from ever coming to the floor, if either of them had serious reservations about the bill.
Underlying Reality No. 3: The Democrats are in no mood to compromise — they smell blood. It would have been possible to amend 1072 in such a way that both business and labor could have lived, if grudgingly, with the outcome. For example, suppose that the bill, which eliminated the second, supermajority, secret ballot vote for the creation of a so-called “agency shop” had simply eliminated the first simple majority vote and eased the supermajority requirement from the present 75 percent to 66 percent? Fugeddaboutit — the bill sailed through as introduced — a baldly partisan nasty-gram with an unmistakable subtext: we’ll do what we want.
Underlying Reality No. 4: Read the governor’s veto message. He scarcely mentioned the bill’s content — only the process by which it reached his desk. And he reserved his harshest words for the bill’s opponents. “I know that members of my own party in the legislature stood firm in the face of outrageous, unprecedented and shameful partisan rhetoric done only for political sport.” Done only for political sport? The real content of the veto message is this: Republicans, you’d better get in line and take your medicine — because next time you won’t be so lucky.
Underlying Reality No. 5: Our two local elected Dems are, it appears, just as much old-fashioned lib’ruls as the longest-serving Boulder warhorses. Both John Morse and Mike Merrifield voted for 1072, despite the pleas of the Chamber of Commerce and other members of the business community. We can, I guess, give Morse a mulligan on his vote since he’s a rookie — but Mike should have known better.
And just a thought — I wonder how the chamber feels about the award that they gave to Merrifield at the annual dinner a couple of weeks ago … just curious.
So, as the Wolf said, we’ve got work to do. We need to become less reactive and better prepared to deal with future 1072’s while they’re still in the planning stage. And to do so, we need better intelligence, better sources of information and more pipelines into the legislature.
What do we, in the Colorado Springs business community, know about the Democrats who now run our state?
Let’s face it — we know less about the Democratic legislature than the Bush administration knows about North Korea’s nuclear program. And just as the Bushies look upon North Korea with contemptuous loathing, we can barely tolerate those crazed lib’ruls — an attitude perfectly expressed in a recent e-mail from one of our power people.
“Fence mending is best left to the unions and their Democrat allies that will certainly address the miscalculations and wrong assumptions regarding their game plan for modifying what has been decades of labor peace.”
Two suggestions: It’s the Democratic party, not the Democrat party. The latter phrase infuriates Dems — why make ’em mad for no reason? It’s safe to tease a Chihuahua (the Dems in 2002), but not a pit bull (the Dems in 2007). And yes, we need to do some serious fence mending, by building long-term personal relationships with the new sheriffs in town.
As the SPO remarked, as we exited the Heart Ball:
“We gotta make nice. Look at the Dems at the Capitol — they’re ACLU lawyers, schoolteachers, nonprofit do-gooders, housewives. They look at us and they think Ted Haggard, they think Doctor Dobson, they think the banker who won’t give ’em a loan. Republican businesspeople terrify ’em — don’t we have some housewives and do-gooders? Probably not — but it was a great party while it lasted, don’t you agree?”
Sure, I replied — and what a great band!
“I wasn’t talking about the Heart Ball.”
And with that, the SPO sauntered off into the cool February night.
John Hazlehurst can be reached at John.Hazlehurst@csbj.com or 227-5861.