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This week's Onion has a delightful little "news" story headlined, "Democrats Vow Not To Give Up Hopelessness." The piece quotes Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., as exhorting his party to remain true to its hopeless direction, despite Republican scandals and widespread calls for change in Washington.

"We are entirely capable of bungling this opportunity to regain control of the House and Senate and the trust of the American people ... it will take some doing, but ... we can lose this. All it takes is a little lack of backbone."

OK, I know, it's satire; Reid never said any such thing. But, as Jon Stewart might say, satire sometimes has more truthiness than reality.

Consider a conversation I had with Colorado ex-Democratic chair Chris Gates at a Mardi Gras event in Denver. Gates, it appears, is still plenty ticked at the party activists who ousted him after the 2004 elections.

You may recall that, for Democrats, the bitter taste of Bush's re-election was washed away by the champagne of the state party's stunning victories. The Dems took both houses of the state Legislature, as well as GOP seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate. We went from being a dyed-in-the-wool red state to ... well, if not a blue one, at least a purple one. You would have thought that Colorado Dems might have commissioned a bronze statue of Gates, the Moses who led them from the slough of despond to the sunny uplands of power, credibility and committee chairmanships.

Of course, they did no such thing. They threw him out, because of his perceived bias against Mike Miles, the messianic Springs liberal whose quixotic campaign for the Democratic senatorial nomination was abruptly derailed by Ken Salazar's candidacy. It was clear: The Dems just couldn't actually abide, like, winning elections, so they sacrificed Gates to propitiate the god of defeat.

So, a year and a half later, with both parties gearing up for this fall's elections, what does Gates think?

On Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter: "I'm still recovering from a broken heart [because Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper declined to run], but Ritter has problems. Most of the party activists don't like him [because of his anti-abortion views], and a lot of people just aren't impressed by him. It'll be hard for him to raise the money he'll need for the race. His party isn't behind him."

On Republican candidate Bob Beauprez: "He's a nice guy, a guy that the power brokers like. [Denver lawyer] Steve Farber endorsed him and Farber's this year's chair of the Democratic Business Coalition. What does that tell you?"

On Pat Waak, who replaced him as party chair: "She's doing her best, I guess. We'll see what kind of success she'll have as the election gets a little closer."

A few days later, I ran into my friend, the Idealistic Democratic Activist, at a local watering hole. I told her what Gates had said.

"That son of a bitch!" she sputtered. "He didn't win those elections the Gang of Four did. Those four billionaires [Rutt Bridges, Tim Gill, Jared Polis and Pat Stryker] who poured millions into the campaigns, and caught the goddamn Republicans with their pants down. F**king Gates is nasty, abrasive, double-dealing that's why we kicked his ass out!"

She paused. "But he sure could raise money. We were stupid to get rid of him."

Now all this may seem like politics as usual, but it's not. It's Democratic politics as usual. Consider the case of state Sen. Deanna Hanna, D-Lakewood, who tried to shake down the Colorado Association of Realtors for $1,400, calling it "reparations" for the contribution they'd made to her opponent. Accompanying this bizarre demand was a veiled threat that, absent the dough, Sen. Hanna might be less than responsive to the realtors' needs in the upcoming legislative session.

Senator, Senator, I know what you're doing you're trying to act like a Republican! Reading about Jack Abramoff's crude extortions, you assumed that all Republicans are equally coarse and venal so why not get with the program?

Sorry, but real Republican shakedown artists/fundraisers/elected officials are dignified, artful, honest, sincere, and never, never, never put it in writing. They don't have to. They win.

johnhazlehurst@earthlink.net

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