In one another's arms ...
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing
— William Butler Yeats, "Sailing to Byzantium"
A few months ago Mayor Steve Bach, who had just turned 70, told this slightly older reporter about a recent visit to the dentist.
"He checked out my teeth, and said, 'Well, Mayor, it looks like you may have all your own teeth for a few more years.' Can you believe that?"
Like others of us easing gradually into old age, Bach wasn't eager to be reminded of time's toll upon our bodies, minds and even our once-sparkling smiles. Like it or not, the grave awaits aging politicians and journalists alike.
For some of our elderly leaders, these may be difficult times. Never mind that the local economy is recovering, downtown may be poised for a dynamic rebirth, sequestration hasn't done as much damage as expected, and Mountain Shadows is rebounding. That's fine, but all is not well with the world.
Not so long ago it seemed clear (at least to Republicans) that Coloradans were on their way to forever rejecting the permissive liberalism of the 1960s. Focus on the Family moved in, and Ted Haggard's upstart New Life Church grew into a 14,000-member superchurch. Springs car dealer Will Perkins launched Colorado for Family Values, which spearheaded passage of a constitutional amendment forbidding Colorado governments to offer "special rights" to gay people. Anti-tax crusader Douglas Bruce pushed through the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights.
Sure, there were still a few pesky Boulder/Denver Democrats out there trying to make mischief, but Colorado Springs was ascendant. Instead of snoozin' in the pews, upright citizens trooped to the polls and threw out the liberals. Goodbye, Tim Wirth, Gary Hart and Roy Romer. Hello, Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Wayne Allard and Bill Owens.
Gay marriage? Constitutionally forbidden. Marijuana? Illegal. Legislature? Proudly GOP. And then Republicans forgot the simplest maxim of politics, which former state Sen. Ken Chlouber once explained to me: "It's good to have great ideas. But if you don't git elected, then you don't git to govern."
So enamored did Republicans become of their ideas that they never changed. As the passing of All in the Family's Jean Stapleton reminds us, the Reagan majority has gone to the graveyard, replaced by many who don't care about Ronnie's World. The GOPsters never got the news, pinning their hopes upon creaky warhorses like John McCain, Mitt Romney and even Tom Tancredo.
In Colorado, the transition from red to blue was especially abrupt, as Democrats took over both houses of the Legislature, both U.S. Senate seats and the governor's office. In a titanic reversal of fortune, state Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, became Senate president, taking the job that could have gone to former Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs.
It looked as if the GOP was toast. But thanks to missteps and miscalculations by Democrats, the Repubs may be back in the game. Did it make sense for Democrats to whoop through multiple bills dealing with immigration, gun rights and gay rights in the same session? Did Gov. John Hickenlooper's bizarre decision in the Nathan Dunlap case make any sense?
Give Hickenlooper credit — he wasn't pandering to his base. He was genuinely indecisive, not a trait voters appreciate. By refusing to make a decision in literally a case of life or death, Hickenlooper may have given once-despairing Republicans some traction for 2014.
Democrats, almost as dismissive of opposing beliefs as were their GOP predecessors, may have put their majorities at risk. Here, it'll be difficult for Dems to hold Morse's seat, regardless of the recall. Morse has been powerful and generally popular; it's hard to see what Democrat might replace him.
A lot of old folks may now have reason to hope that the state's once-dominant Reagan majority hasn't been forever silenced by time's arrow. But demography is destiny, so go ahead and smile indulgently as your parents and grandparents clap their hands and sing.
It's something for them to do, before that final appointment in Samarra.
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