There's a method to the madness we see in politics. In many cases, political controversies are actually pitched battles orchestrated by one side or the other to make us look more divided than we actually are.
I thought of this after a recent meeting I had with a constituent. We met at Ziggi's Coffee House in Longmont and had a good conversation. After about an hour, we both needed to get back to our day jobs so we headed out. We continued talking as we headed for our cars. The gentleman thanked me for the visit and said he hoped the next legislative session would be less partisan than the last. I answered that I hoped so too, but his comment struck me as odd. While we had a good discussion, we didn't talk about partisanship at the Capitol. He injected that without prompting.
For sure, there were some partisan fights during the 2010 legislative session, but there was also a great deal of bipartisanship.
Last session we considered 649 bills and passed 458 of them. Of those that passed, 36% had both Democrat and Republican "prime" sponsors, meaning a Democrat and a Republican carried the legislation in at least one chamber. Additionally, 79% had bipartisan "co-sponsors" where Democrats and Republicans choose to put their names on the bills after the final vote as a sign of support.
Clearly, however, the impression this gentleman had of the process was that everything we did involved a partisan fight. Perhaps this shouldn't come as a surprise. It seems every political talk-radio program focuses on the differences between Democrats and Republicans, and it's not a new phenomenon that the press gravitates toward conflict and controversy. Editors of newspapers have looked for "good copy" for as long as newspapers have existed.
What's new is how politicians and political strategists exploit this phenomenon to advance partisan agendas. For a politician who wants to get his or her name in the paper, cooperation and collaboration are actually counterproductive. A winning strategy for publicity is to create controversy and intrigue at every turn.
"Gridlock" is a word you hear a lot these days to describe politics. But, gridlock usually doesn't occur because politicians can't find common ground on difficult issues. No. It's most often a tactic designed to make it look like one side or the other can't get things done. It's used to promote a political party or ideology by drawing contrasts and building a platform from which to launch partisan attacks. There are those who try this in Denver at the statehouse, but you see it most clearly in Washington, D.C.
There's just one problem: Coloradans actually want our government to work. Instead of electing politicians who play to the media and try to prevent progress, we want public servants who are willing to roll up their sleeves and come to the table with constructive ideas and solutions.
Coloradans want their elected officials to leave their egos at home and put the good of our state and nation before partisan victories. We have real problems that need to be solved and it's time to embrace cooperation to overcome the challenges that lie ahead.
Please consider this as we head into the November elections. We need problem-solvers, not ideologues to lead our state. Coloradans don't dream of Democratic or Republican victories. We dream of a secure and happy future for our families - regardless of party affiliation, station, race or creed. If we work together, we can create a better, more prosperous Colorado for everyone.
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