Denver Direct: The Contempt of the Rulers – Phil Goodstein – The Naysayer July 2013

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Contempt of the Rulers – Phil Goodstein – The Naysayer July 2013

Historian Phil Goodstein

In the early 1770s, the British government was sick and tired of the American colonies. All those living in them did was complain.  Rather than promptly and cheerfully paying new taxes and readily accepting any and all assertions of royal power, residents protested the king’s actions. They submitted a variety of petitions, spelling out their grievances. In response, the British administration became ever more abrupt with the colonies, chastising those who submitted the remonstrances and denouncing their messengers. Having no other alternative, those living in the New World increasingly resorted to direct action, arming themselves against English tyranny. The upshot was the American Revolution.

Benjamin Franklin was among those decrying the deafness of the British government. “Where complaining is a crime,” he observed, “hope becomes despair.” Far from learning this lesson, officeholders of all stripes in the United States have increasingly looked to the British model in recent decades. They have thrown armed guards around their buildings against the public while arranging for ever greater compensation for their elected positions. Simultaneously they have howled about terrorist conspiracies while the politicians have insisted that the everyday public show unquestioning respect to public officials.
This has particularly stood out of late with the Adams County board of commissioners. In April, it decreed that the public can only protest or seek to interact with the administration at extremely limited, isolated spots around the courthouse. Part of the reason, board chairwoman Democrat Eva Henry explained, was because dealing with the citizenry is too time consuming. In particular, she lamented that high-priced lobbyists and attorneys have to wait for everyday people to have their say at public hearings.
Such elitism is not surprising. Henry gained office as a goody-goody opposed to the allegedly evil role of Alice Nichols on the board.  The latter was typical of traditional Adams County politics where nepotism and business and political connections defined the daily workings of the administration. Against this, many proponents of good government have seen themselves as enlightened agents who, through their own virtue and self-righteous commitment to public service, will automatically provide for a fair, just administration. As such, they are extremely intolerant of dissent, especially protests by those who have a completely different way of judging what is good and whom the government should serve.
Such reformers are not usually venal, unlike the thoroughly corrupt British administration of the 1770s which scorned petitions of redresses.  In some ways, the modern arrogant officeholders are far worse. While the practitioners of traditional politics are amenable to change, especially when pressured by an aroused population, the reformers simply resort to gun control, armed power, and restrictive “free-speech zones” to keep themselves protected from the everyday public. As such, they are far more dangerous and a threat to liberty than politicians who pocket extra money. They further guarantee cynicism whereby the populace knows the rulers will not listen to everyday citizens, assuring more and ever bitterer clashes against the fragile, fairy-tale world personified by Eva Henry.
Once touted by populists as a way of forcing the government to respect the people, the electorate has rarely employed the recall since voters adopted it more than 100 years ago. Far from seeing it as a way of checking arrogant officials, goody-goodies have usually regarded it with outrage. They have been particularly loud in denouncing it because concerned citizens have petitioned for the recall of Colorado Springs state Senator John Morse. By so doing all in their power to limit this means of direct, popular democracy, self-avowed enlightened advocates of good government simply make actions like those of Henry ever more likely on the part of officeholders.
If Denver did not have a completely dead political culture, a recall effort would be underway against clerk and recorder Debra Johnson.  Recently, she rejected a citizen petition to force a referendum about a city council vote giving away much of Hentzell Park. The prime purpose of the initiative and referendum is to affirm that ultimate sovereignty is with the voters. They have the right to make their opinions known by petitioning the government and forcing elections on controversial issues. Against this, Johnson ruled that council was acting in an administrative capacity when, in a highly political setting, it agreed to dispose of the park land in a questionable deal touted by Mayor Michael Hancock and Denver Public Schools. According to Johnson, elected officials are beyond the reach of the referendum process when they act in such a manner.  pp A United States District Court judge recently ruled illegal a Colorado statute on foreclosures. The measure, passed in 2006 by a Democratic legislature led by speaker Andrew Romanoff, allows a lender, with virtually no court oversight, to seize a property it claims is in foreclosure. This was a green light to the mortgage industry to encourage ever more people to take out residential loans. Added to this were public policies that defined “affordable housing” as dwellings that occupants purchased rather than good, clean, safe rental properties.  The goal was to induce one and all to put their savings into real estate.

That the mortgage law passed under the leadership of Romanoff is indicative. He has projected himself as Mr. Morality. Seeking a place in Congress, he states he will not accept corporate money for his campaign. Given his record when he was speaker, this means he will give away his favors rather than asking a price on them. His actions have helped make possible the polices of Henry and other “reformers” whose haze of “respect” and “good government” beclouds what they actually do.
The Denver Post featured the tales of Nichols and Henry. It has paid far more attention to the inside workings of Adams County politics than anything it has printed in years about the Denver city council or the school board. This is a striking anomaly in the paper. It has much preferred to bait supposed terrorists, complete with a ludicrous tale that a Saudi was actually the real person behind the murder of Tom Clements, the director of the Colorado Department of Corrections. While it has had exposés about problems with the way the state has handled paroles and child welfare, it has never dug beneath the surface to explain how these problems developed and festered under the administrations of governors Roy Romer, Bill Owens, Bill Ritter, and John Hickenlooper.

Given the paper’s miserable record, obviously there is something more than a commitment to good government in emphasizing Adams County corruption. The latest blast at Adams County came at the same time the Post has been heralding Mayor Hancock’s scheme to build a city in the sky around Denver International Airport. Not surprisingly, Adams County wants its cut of the lucre. Real investigative reporting would examine whether there is any link to this, the history of failed airport proposals, and the way greed and real estate schemes have long been at the center of everything associated with the airport, doings which make the scandals of Alice Nichols small potatoes. 
The New Yorker is almost as dense as the Denver Post. Recently, it had a feature on Hickenlooper, hinting at the man’s presidential ambitions. Seeing nothing, it employed every stale, trite, and tired journalistic political cliché in arguing that Colorado was starting to emerge as a liberal bastion. The evidence is simply that, opposed to the increasing hysteria of parts of the country about abortion, homosexuality, and marijuana, Colorado has failed to hop on the bandwagon.  On the contrary, it has virtual homosexual marriage and the decriminalization of marijuana while it has passed a gun control statute.

Missing from all of this is the essential Hickenlooper. The New Yorker presents him as Mr. Clean, a politician who describes himself as sickened by negative political campaigning. There is no mention of the demeaning way Hickenlooper treated his employees as a bar owner, his attacks on public workers, and his relentless efforts to turn public parks over to private profiteers. Nor is there any reflection on the way he has arranged for his political and media backers to bash those who have opposed the governor’s policies. Most of all, there is nothing about Hickenlooper’s complete lack of moral leadership, especially in opposing the death penalty, tobacco pollution, or the insanity of the war on drugs.

Of course, a discussion of labor and poverty is missing from the New Yorker. Traditional liberal slants that all of the populace should benefit from a rising economy is beyond it and the Hickenlooper crowd. At no time since the Democratic resurgence in 2004 has that party used its power in the statehouse to reverse the longtime Republican record of reaction. Particularly missing has been any effort at restoring the progressive income tax destroyed by the Republicans.  Instead, all the New Yorker and other trendy liberals see are a few social issues. Far from changing a system of exploitation designed to enhance those with wealth and power, New Yorker establishment liberalism is nothing but the opportunity for a few select women, Hispanos, blacks, gays, and others to rise to the top of the exploitive system, so assuring more misery, hypocrisy, censorship, and the arrogant insecurity which has been the hallmark of the triumph of “reform” in Adams County and the doings of Debra Johnson.