Politics, plains and people: The New Yorker does Colorado




The New Yorker's going back through its archives to pull out pieces related to swing states in this year's election. Here's bits from stories linked in its Colorado post, where it writes, "It’s clear that the magazine has been attracted not just to the reality of Colorado, but to the mythology of it, too. And who wouldn’t be? It’s no wonder that both the Republicans and the Democrats want to feel at home there."

"Dr. Don," Sept. 26, 2011, by Peter Hessler:

Don Colcord was born in Nucla, and he has spent all of his sixty years in Colorado, where community-minded individuals often develop some qualities that may seem contradictory. Don sells cigarettes at his pharmacy, because he believes that people have the right to do unhealthy things. He votes Democratic, a rarity in this region. He listens to Bocelli and drives a Lexus. At Easter, the Colcord family tradition is to dye eggs, line them up in a pasture, and fire away with a 25-06 Remington.

"The Uranium Widows," Sept. 13, 2010, by Peter Hessler. From the abstract:

In February, President Obama approved over eight billion dollars in conditional loan guarantees for the construction of new reactors. In former industry centers like southwestern Colorado, old debates have been rekindled. Tells about the mining and milling of radium, vanadium, and uranium in southwestern Colorado in the first half of the twentieth century and the use of materials from that region in the Manhattan Project. After the war, when the arms race heated up, the government decided that the best way to increase uranium production was to encourage private citizens to explore and drill. There was essentially no regulation. In the 1950s, public-health officials discovered that radon concentrations were nearly a thousand times higher than the accepted level of safety.

"Roughing It," April 20, 2009, by Dorothy Wickenden:

Late on the evening of July 27, 1916, after a five-day journey culminating in a twelve-hour train ride across the Continental Divide, Rosamond Underwood and Dorothy Woodruff arrived at the depot in Hayden, Colorado. They had been hired to teach at the new school in Elkhead, in the mountains seventeen miles north of town. The two women, who were fleeing privileged but unfulfilling lives in the East, had got on the train in Denver. They regarded it, Dorothy said, as “something of a joke,” with its halting progress and periodic breakdowns, but by the end of the journey they were awed by the engineering feat that the rail line represented: it was the highest ever built in North America.

"The Code of the West," Sept. 1, 2008, by Ryan Lizza:

Over dinner one night at the Elephant Bar, a chain restaurant in Colorado Springs that boasts of its “elephant-size portions,” [Douglas] Bruce, a heavyset man of fifty-nine with fierce opinions (Obama is a “moron,” a gay person is a “homo,” illegal immigrants are “illiterate peasants”), complained that the conservative movement, even in Colorado Springs, was on the wane. “We have nine socialists on the city council and five rinos”—Republicans in Name Only—“as county commissioners,” he said between sips of a mango-raspberry swirl and outbursts directed at our waitress and the restaurant manager concerning the service. Bruce may have been unusually agitated that night; when we met, he was facing a primary challenge in ten days. “In the Republican Party, there’s probably twenty-five to thirty per cent of the people who hate my guts,” he said. “I have what are known as high negatives.” Then again his opponent, Mark Waller, a former Air Force officer whose views were not so conservative as Bruce’s, was a mere novice. “He’s doing everything wrong,” Bruce said. “So, frankly, it’ll be a miracle if he won.”

"No Place to Hide," Nov. 27, 2000, by Michael Specter. From the abstract:

Writer tells about his compass collection & visits Colorado Springs, the home of Schriever Air Force Base, where the 2nd Space Operations Squadron of the 50th Space Wing of the U.S. Air Force can be found. Its mission, with a little help from nearly a dozen cesium clocks and three hydrogen maser oscillators (which were created to test Einstein’s theory of relativity), is to control the global positioning system ... Within a few years, every cell phone, quartz watch, and laptop computer may come with a tiny G.P.S. receiver embedded in it.

"II-The Button," April 8, 1985, by Daniel Ford. From the abstract:

The Pentagon has contingency plans for using nuclear weapons despite public statements saying that the country's nuclear forces would never be used in a preemptive first strike. If the U.S. were pushed into a corner it would strike first. Writer tells of visiting the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in the Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado. Its central mission is to determine whether the Soviet Union has launched a missile or bomber attack against North America.

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