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Republican bottom feeders hit bottom 

Here's an argument against evolution: the Republican majority in the Colorado state Legislature.

If you apply standard evolutionary theory to politics, you'd assume that politicians, as they climb up the food chain, would become more sophisticated, more intelligent and better adapted to an increasingly complex environment.

Not so, at least here in Colorado, where the progression from petty officeholder to statewide big shot is devolution at its most extreme.

Want proof? Compare our two local mayors, Manitou's Marcy Morrison and our own Lionel Rivera, with House Speaker Lola Spradley and State Sen. Doug Lamborn.

Ask yourself if either Morrison or Rivera would even think about pulling the kind of stunt that Spradley and Lamborn did in the waning days of this year's legislative session.

Dissatisfied with last year's court-mandated reapportionment of Colorado's congressional districts, the Republican majority showed its muscle by gerrymandering the existing map to assure permanent Republican dominance in six of eight districts. It's a serious piece of legislation, one that profoundly affects local politics, and may even echo nationally. Indeed, it's been suggested that Bush's No. 1 hit man, Karl Rove, orchestrated the whole thing.

But I doubt it; this one came straight from our local GOPsters. After all, the administration gave Saddam Hussein several months to mend his ways and fall in line; local Democrats and Independents had three days.

The reapportionment bill, which had been conceived and created in utter secrecy, was introduced three days before the end of the session. GOP committee chairmen, notably our own Bill Cadman, pushed it through without the slightest regard for legislative custom, rules of procedure or even simple decency. There were no public hearings; no citizen input. Democratic legislators who sought the floor were gaveled down; ordinary citizens who tried to participate were ignored.

It was quite a show. But you'd seen it all before, if you'd studied the workings of the Soviet "parliament" under Stalin, or Saddam Hussein's "legislature" in Iraq.

Republicans have controlled the state Legislature in Colorado for most of the last quarter-century. As befits a majority party, they've played to win and they've played tough. But until this year, they've played by the rules. And most of all, thanks to leaders such as Chuck Berry, Tilman Bishop, Bev Bledsoe and Ray Powers, they maintained a genial collegiality that enabled legislators from both parties to find common ground.

Unfortunately for us, this year's crop of bottom feeders has ended all of that. They didn't have the political courage to introduce this bill at the beginning of the session because they knew it couldn't survive public scrutiny. Instead, the mindless majority whooped it through, contemptuous of both democracy and tradition.

It's possible that the courts will overturn the Legislature, but don't count on it. And it's possible that the voters will be sufficiently upset to toss the rascals out, but don't count on that, either. Courts generally defer to legislatures unless they're clearly breaking the law, and voters don't pay much attention to legislative arcana such as reapportionment bills.

Meanwhile, wrapping themselves in the flag, the Republicans sponsored a successful measure to make the recital of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools mandatory. Don't be surprised; it's just part of a decades-long Republican scheme to make the iconic symbols of our nationhood registered trademarks of the GOP.

But it's hard to believe that the Republican legislators, who chant the Pledge every day like so many third-graders, have ever considered what it says:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

By so pledging, we commit ourselves to upholding the core principles upon which this nation was founded. We're a republic whose governments at every level derive their power from the people whom they represent. We are one nation -- rich or poor, black or white, Republican or Democrat, we're all equal. Our nation is indivisible, made so by the rule of law, the weight of custom and the loyalty of its citizens. And our nation offers liberty and justice for all; citizen and noncitizen, Christian and Muslim, men and women, ally and foe.

So let's assume that our legislators are as bright and capable as a class of third-graders, and give them an assignment:

"Explain, in 300 words or less, why your actions as a state legislator reflect the values of the Pledge of Allegiance."

I think it'll be a while before any of those papers are turned in ...

-- jhazlehurst@csindy.com

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