Denver Direct: Naysayer Editorial – by Phil Goodstein

Monday, November 29, 2010

Naysayer Editorial – by Phil Goodstein

The Triumph of the Republicans

Historian Phil Goodstein

     Seventeenth Street Republicans swept the Colorado elections. This is the branch of the GOP also known as the Democrats. Led by the likes of Roy Romer, John Hickenlooper, and Michael Bennet, it has made it plain that advancing the corporate agenda is the primary duty of elected officials. Precisely because the Democrats have assured that its officeholders will carry out the business line, the Republicans have been able to run and elect ever more extreme candidates.
     In some ways, the polling results were quite positive. Regardless of who won the contests for governor and the Senate, obnoxiously bad candidates lost. What is more, getting Hickenlooper out of city hall is an accomplishment. Since gaining the mayor’s post in 2003, he has primarily relied on public relations to cloak his agenda of turning over public business to private interests. His efforts to destroy the integrity of the parks as free gathering spots is simply the tip of his effort to assure that Federico Pena’s beloved “public/private partnership” is the complete control of public life by private entities. Even so, Hickenlooper leaves as mayor before he has been able to make this goal a complete reality. In particular, US OpenAir, an out-of-state contractor whom he allowed to fence off the Civic Center to show movies at $15 a pop, not only failed to do so in 2010, but it recently walked away from its efforts to transform City Park into a private venue for 2011.

     The thoroughly muddleheaded Nation, the bible of the most gullible wing of the liberal branch of the Democratic Party, has heralded the Colorado results as a great Democratic success. An equally credulous group, the Colorado GOP, also believes this is the case, not grasping how thorough the Republican victory was. To be sure, in some cases, such as the deserved ousting of John Salazar from Congress, the triumph was simply replacing a pro-war, anti-civil liberties Democratic reactionary with a Republican of the same stripe. Similarly, in both the Senate and governor’s races, it was clear that the business establishment could not lose, given that Hickenloopcr and Bennet have been part and parcel of the corporate orientation of the Bill Clinton Democrats.
     To show his desire to continue the anti-labor policies of the Bill Ritter and Bill Owens administrations, Hickenlooper reached out to Owens as part of the victor’s transition team. This has led Torn Tancredo to squawk. It is good that he and other GOP loyalists have not realized they actually won (or retained) the governor’s seat. Since they have the foolish feeling that Hickenlooper is a Democrat and even some sort of liberal, as the party of no, GOP loyalists will automatically oppose Hickenlooper, so keeping some really bad proposals from becoming a reality. Besides, this will be the first time that Hickenlooper has ever had to worry about an organized opposition. City council in recent decades has been overwhelmingly composed of rubber stamps, toadies, and administration echoes.
     All the while, Hickenlooper has had a sophisticated smear machine, assisted by the Denver Post, that has denigrated those who have stood in his path. The way the establishment is ready to defame voices of opposition is illustrated in the latest escapade of the Denver school board. Despite the efforts of Hickenlooper and Bennet to assure that corporate control of education is at the center of Denver Public Schools, three members have increasingly opposed the utterly arrogant superintendent, Tom Boasberg. In response, the four-member majority, at the behest of lawyers, has called for censuring the dissident members on the most absurd accusations of violating open-meeting laws. Given all the secrecy and inside deals of executive sessions and the way private interests and supposed “charities,” especially the Piton Foundation, have shaped school policy, the move is indicative of the petty vindictiveness of the ruling elite. It is also a smoke screen since the minority is starting to say what many have long known: that the charter schools and voucher schemes of Bennet and Boasberg have done nothing to improve the overall quality of the educational system.
     At least, nobody on the current school board is seeking to replace Hickenlooper as mayor. The announced candidates for mayor are even worse. They are a compendium of the thorough rot of the Democratic Party. James Mejia, for example, is someone always in need of a job. An ex-member of the school board, over the past decade, he has had an amazingly wide array of city hall positions, ranging from manager of parks and recreation to the person in charge of the way over budget and behind schedule new jail to the elitist preschool program. In none of them has he shown any ability to shake up the status quo.
     Mejia is something of the Latino candidate. So is Rich Gonzales. The later played on his ethnicity to gain appointment as fire chief under Federico Pena, a post that has been increasingly politicized since the 1980s. Gonzales has also been part of the Ritter team, i.e., the pro-business Democrats.
Chris Romer makes both of these candidates look good. He even makes his father, Roy Romer, look good. In office Roy Romer was impulsive while he threatened his opponents with violence. His great schemes, especially the airport and convention center, never produced as promised. If they had, Denver and Colorado would not now face a financial crisis: the projects were supposed to assure a smooth flow of public financing during hard times. His son has shown little knowledge of anything while he readily embraces such asinine ventures as a street car on Colfax and a massive expansion of gambling to solve the problems his father helped create.
     Doug Linkhart is the liberal in the race. Of all the members of council, he has been the only one consistently to voice a moderate dissent from some of the creepy and dictatorial actions of the administration. However, whenever push has come to shove, Linkhart has always lined up with the establishment. He has been the available man in receiving appointments to the House and Senate while serving as an administration liaison to connect neighborhood groups with city hall.
Linkhart is a giant of integrity compared to another member of city council seeking the mayor’s post, Michael Hancock. Like Mejia, the latter is a professional jobholder, a man who was the leader of the ultra-establishment and none too successful Denver Urban League. On council, he has been among those endorsing Tom Tancredo-like measures against supposed illegal immigrants while he has never questioned the political or economic establishments. Fittingly, his campaign co-chair is Bruce James, the managing partner of Brownstein Hyatt. This alone shows that Hancock is the preferred candidate of 17th Street, especially those who cynically use race and gender to strengthen the corporate establishment.
     Another member or council, Carol Boigon, is pondering the race. The most that stands out on her record is that she has done nothing other than gaining a ballot spot for council under highly questionable circumstances as the selected insider of the Democratic establishment. She was the children’s/educational expert of Wellington Webb. The more candidates and officeholders have announced their devotion to improving these fields, schools and childhood welfare seemingly get ever worse. Her run would be most positive: it would get her out off council. Ideally, other members of the city legislature will follow Linkhart, Hancock, and Boigon. It will take the new members of council a while to show that they are as bad as the incumbents.

     Other candidates will doubtlessly surface. Unlike 2007, when the political elite-including the feeble Denver Republican Party-unanimously allowed Hickenlooper a virtually unopposed re-election, different factions will now stake their claim to power. Some contenders will have all of the wisdom of the Republican Party: the understanding that something is terribly wrong, but who wish to replace the status quo with something even worse. In the interim, with a lame-duck mayor, followed by an acting mayor, succeeded by a newly elected mayor, city hall will temporarily lack firm direction for doing all the wrong things. Meanwhile, at the Capitol, Hickcnlooper will not have nearly the power he did in city hall. Ideally, he will soon get bored there and so leave for Washington or some other place where he will be far less of a threat to those who treasure Denver and Colorado.