Time for a takeover

How about it? Did you go to your party caucus last week? No? I thought not. You're not alone. As usual, attendance at the caucuses was limited to a few eccentrics, folks who actually believe in funny, old-fashioned ideas like participatory democracy and the two-party system.

Whittier Elementary, a noble old building that has stood in its west-side location for more than 100 years, was the site of Precinct 51's Republican caucus. Of the hundreds of registered Republicans who live in 51, four of us showed up. It wasn't a particularly diverse group, either color us white, male and middle-aged, all longtime Springs residents.

There were four County Assembly delegate slots to fill, but only three of us are able to serve. And there's a possibility that one or two of us may go to the State and Congressional assemblies.

I'm glad to be going to the assembly, and I'm happy to serve as precinct chair. (Yes, I finally won another election!) But if you think that the caucuses are as irrelevant as they are ignored and obscure, think again.

Look at the folks who represent us in Denver, in Washington and locally. Except for our City Council members, who are chosen in non-partisan elections, virtually every one of them owes their nomination and election to the caucus system.

And who attends the caucuses? For the most part, true believers people who are obsessively concerned with one or more hot-button issues.

Here in Colorado Springs, Republicans who attend their caucuses and become assembly delegates tend to be staunchly pro-life, pro-gun, anti-tax and aggressively Christian. They're skeptical about public education, worried about the "radical gay agenda" and unhappy with what they see as a licentious, pornography-ridden society.

For the most part, they're decent, hardworking people easy marks for scoundrels and demagogues. That's how the Marilyn Musgraves and Tom Tancredos get elected to high office, by scamming the tiny percentage of Republicans who are party activists and getting that precious Republican nomination.

What's truly amazing to me is just how vulnerable and open the system is, and how easy it'd be to take over the local Republican Party. Let's suppose that our local Democrats, instead of wringing their hands over the never-ending dominance of the GOP, decided to go where the power is.

There are tens of thousands of registered Dems in El Paso County. If just a few thousand of 'em switched parties and attended Republican caucuses, they could take over local politics. Far-fetched? Nope it's exactly what right-wing Christian activists did all over the country, when they stopped snoozin' in the pews and got involved.

Meanwhile, if any of us were wondering where the smart, capable, superbly qualified candidates for public office have been hiding, we found out last Thursday when a couple of dozen of 'em showed up to pitch themselves, hoping to be appointed to City Council for the remainder of Richard Skorman's term. They all wanted the chance to be a mover and shaker without having to pay their partisan dues.

That's fine, I guess. After all, it's a lot easier to write a letter and give a three-minute speech than to actually run for office. That can be nasty, dirty and full of confrontation it's much better left to the activists of the extreme right, isn't it?

Speaking of: Anderson, Bremer, Crank, Lamborn and Rivera. Sounds like an ambulance-chasing law firm, doesn't it? But one of 'em's going to get the brass ring Congressman for Life! So who's gonna make it? Here's the early line:

Bremer and Crank: Forget it. Bremer's so last decade, and Crank's an inside-the-beltway lobbyist wannabe who's never paid any local political dues.

Lamborn: Still the guy to beat. Affable and smart, with an impeccable conservative record, and popular with the GOP rank-and-file.

Anderson: The liberal elite love him, and so do the gunnies. That base means that he'll be one of the last men standing.

Rivera: Best name recognition and he'll pull the business community, minorities and moderates. Plus, he's the only one with competitive campaign experience.

And the winner is ...



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