Long fall from our lofty political perch

Filed under: Hazlehurst |

Remember the old Roadrunner cartoons that entertained generations of kids before video games and the Internet?
Remember when the Coyote would suddenly arrive at the edge of a precipice?
He wouldn’t stop. He’d just keep going, running in thin air — and suddenly, he’d look down, realize his plight, and plummet to the ground, to the audience’s shrieking delight.
I thought about the Coyote the other day when Colorado Springs’ hapless rookie congressman, Doug Lamborn, suffered yet another humiliating defeat at the hands of the Godless Communist Democrats (as Ann “the Queen of Mean” Coulter might put it).
After the House voted 383-34 to put the kibosh on studying Fort Carson’s proposed Pinon Canyon expansion, Lamborn plaintively remarked that he’d been “blindsided.”
It’s easy to imagine Lamborn as the Coyote, or maybe, to extend the cartoon analogy, as Elmer Fudd, about to be tripped up by Bugs Bunny.
It’s easy to make fun of Lamborn, but I wonder whether any Republican representing the 5th Congressional District could do better. The southern and western Republicans who once ruled the House are in powerless disarray, baffled and impotent, hoping for some “deus ex machina” to rescue them from the looming disaster of 2008.
And things are no better at the State Capitol, where most of our Republican legislators are running furiously to nowhere, scarcely aware of the yawning chasm beneath them. Absent Amy Stephens, Bob Gardner and one or two others, we don’t really have a Republican legislative delegation — just a bunch of ideologues spinning their wheels, introducing bills that will never get out of committee.
A few lines from Yeats’ “Sailing to Byzantium” neatly summarize our dilemma.
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees …
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick …

That’s us — old, irrelevant, neglected.
We’ve had our 15 minutes of fame, and we’ve gotten the hook. Ted Haggard is a figure of fun, Dr. James Dobson preaches only to the true believers, Joel Hefley is retired, Bob Isaac’s in a nursing home, Bill Owens is trying to make money, Wayne Allard is leaving office and Doug Bruce is in Ukraine.
Looking back, we had a pretty good run. While other cities saw their military establishments shrink or disappear, ours expanded. While other cities saw their signature industries move out of town, or wither and die, we saw businesses move here and prosper. And while other cities struggled to get the attention of policymakers in Denver and Washington, we didn’t.
We were the most solidly Republican city in a solidly Republican state — maybe even the most solidly Republican city in the country! As Madonna might have sung, “We are living in a Republican world/And I am a Republican girl …”
It’s all over, isn’t it? The fawning politicians, the arrogant lobbyists at our beck and call, the comfortable feeling that we would get what we wanted/needed, because, as “Engine Charlie” Wilson said about GM half a century ago, what’s good for Colorado Springs is good for America!
But one thing remains constant.
More than almost any other American city, we do not control our own destiny.
We own water rights on the Arkansas River, but we can’t use them unless we get the nod from Pueblo elected officials, the Salazar brothers, the governor and dozens of others.
Our regional economy is heavily dependent upon the military, especially Fort Carson. But Fort Carson’s expansion — and perhaps its very existence — might hinge upon Pinon Canyon.
And as recent events have demonstrated, we’re scarcely at the table as these decisions are being made. We’re not even bystanders, we’re just collateral damage.
So what can we do?
It’s too bad that we’re not as canny, ruthless and unprincipled as our neighbors in Texas.
As some might recall, when Democrats utterly dominated the national government in middle third of the last century, a Texan (Sam Rayburn) was speaker of the House and a Texan (Lyndon B. Johnson) was Senate majority leader. These two ardent Democrats made sure that the needs of their state were met — and then some.
But as the Democratic tide began to turn, so did Texas politics. By the mid-seventies, the new southern Republicans were ascendant. And within a couple of decades, a Texan sat in the White House once again, and a Texan (Tom “the Hammer” Delay) ruled the House.
And now? As you might expect, the Democratic Party is enjoying a substantial resurgence in the Lone Star State.
We, unfortunately, cling to the antediluvian notion that we ought to elect politicians based on their ideology and/or party affiliation, instead of steely competence. That’s fine, but that belief, like squeamishness in a mortician, doesn’t work.
This is not occupied France during World War II — there’s no glory in joining the Resistance. It’s time to be collaborators.
OK, I understand that we can’t go all the way and elect (gasp! shudder!) Democrats across the board. But let’s get smart, co-operative, amiable Republicans like Stephens and Gardner, representing us in Denver. And let’s hire lobbyists with Democratic connections to represent us, not yesterday’s arrogant and much-despised power geezers.
And let’s sit down with Lamborn, and tell him to stop gratuitously insulting his Democratic colleagues. Saying that folks who vote against your Pinon Canyon bill are disloyal and unpatriotic will make you no friends — but it’ll sure make you some enemies.
And if he won’t listen to reason, it’s time for the Republican powers-that-be to designate a successor, by banging heads together and anointing a single primary challenger for 2008. Otherwise, it’ll be déj