Almost every week, the lesson in humility slaps me in the face one more time. I'll meet somebody from the conservative side, and after a few pleasantries, reality strikes, invariably in a comment such as this:
"You people at the Independent only write slanted liberal stories, so I don't even bother reading it."
For years, in all kinds of situations, my response has been this: Just give us a chance, because the Indy isn't as blindly one-sided as you think. Sometimes it means convincing people that we're not sitting in some dark room, passing around beer and joints, crafting our next sneaky ideas for how to further the progressive agenda. We observe what's going on in and around Colorado Springs, listen to what people are talking about, and look for chances to tackle the overlooked angles in a different way.
Not all of those stories happen quickly. One has been nagging at me ever since joining the Indy at the start of 2007, but the idea goes back to the 1990s. I always figured it would happen someday, but not until the people involved would talk.
It appeared that local Republicans were dividing slowly into factions. The establishment types weren't connecting so well with what you might call the Rural Right, and as time went on, the local Old Guard also became distanced from those who focused more on social issues. But enough Republicans could agree at the polls, even if it gave them indigestion.
Then came 2010, as the tea party pulled many in the GOP more to the right. But the social conservatives didn't like that direction, and elected officials weren't so happy with either group. Now, suddenly, younger adults have pushed into party leadership, and they're using that stature to challenge well-known Republican legislators from within the party ranks.
And guess what? All of those Republicans are willing to talk. To us. They're responding to each other. Through us. And they're sharing their deeper frustrations. With us.
So after weeks of lengthy interviews, thoughtful analysis and follow-up work, we bring you this week's cover story by reporter Chet Hardin, starting here. No matter what anyone thinks, this isn't a one-shot hit piece, trying to make Republicans look bad. We're presenting it in a detached manner, giving all sides their say, from newcomers like Sarah Anderson to familiar names like Amy Stephens, Bob Gardner and, yes, Dave Schultheis.
We're not gleeful, either. We're the messenger here, trying to convey how different Republicans feel, without being judgmental ourselves. But the conflict still is fascinating. If you care about local politics, no matter what your persuasion, you'll want to read this cover piece and share it with others who might be anti-Independent.
You also might come away with the same thought that I've had. Arguably the biggest problem for this county's Republicans might be that there isn't a single person whom everyone fully respects. No single person who could call a meeting, stand up and demand, "Let's stop this infighting, now, and figure out how we can all get along." No single person who can unify everyone and enforce the peace.
The door is open for someone to emerge. Thousands of voters, not just elected leaders but the conservative masses, are willing to embrace new choices. They just pulled together and chose a new mayor. But Steve Bach, as the city's CEO in a nonpartisan office, cannot also lead the GOP. It has to be somebody else.
We can't create the exact mosaic that would be that person — a calming influence, more charismatic than combative, strong-willed yet open-minded. But from this perspective, the local Republicans appear to be at a crossroads, and nobody can predict the next chapters. Just remember, this is the county that Tom Tancredo carried in the last gubernatorial race. Voters here also went with Jane Norton in the Senate GOP primary, then Ken Buck in the general.
Then, as now, the local Republicans found themselves battling not just Democrats, but themselves.
We're proud of the fact that the Independent can convey this story first. And if it helps more people see this paper for what it truly is, all the better.