Columns » Outsider

Seeing the world as it is



From time to time, this column takes a moment to make fun of whatever political party happens to present the best target. You'd think that'd be the GOPsters; after all, Republicans run not only Colorado Springs, but almost everything else.

But it's hard to make fun of 'em; you might as well make fun of Microsoft. Like that brilliantly successful company, the GOP is irritating, omnipresent, intrusive, rich and seemingly unstoppable. And like Microsoft, the Republican Party so powerfully affects your daily life that you've gotta deal with 'em, like it or not.

And what about the Dems? Surely we can make fun of the Donksters? No, I don't think so ... that'd be like making fun of the victims of a plane crash. Let's look at it this way: If Republicans equal Microsoft, the Democrats equal Martha Stewart Omnimedia. Like the Dems, Martha's company depended upon a sexy, charismatic CEO. And once CEO Stewart left in disgrace, there was nothing much left on which to build.

Yup, imagine a company that has, over the last 25 years, steadily lost market share to its chief rival. Its revenues are shrinking, its employees demoralized, and market areas that it once dominated are now closed to its products.

Imagine, moreover, that the company has ignored demographic changes, and insists on marketing products that consumers, especially in the high-growth areas of the South and West, have consistently rejected. Finally, imagine a company whose long-entrenched leadership cadre is aging, fractious and clearly unable to appeal to younger consumers.

As a shareholder, what do you do?

It's simple. You join other dissident shareholders who are fed up with the ruin of a once-great corporation and throw out the board of directors and most senior managers. You replace them with smart young folks who better understand today's world, who can communicate with the market, and are prepared to do battle with a skillful, ferocious rival.

For a political party, one of the great advantages of being out of power is that it's easier for new leaders to emerge. We're seeing it Colorado, where businessman John Hickenlooper, a political newcomer, became Denver's mayor by a 2-to-1 margin. He ran a good campaign, but he won because Denver voters were sick of politics as usual.

A year or so ago, when it still felt OK to make fun of the Dems, I twitted our local Donks for spending time and energy touting the nascent campaign of some obscure educator from Fountain, who was planning to run for the U.S. Senate in 2004. After the column appeared, the obscure educator, a guy named Mike Miles, gave me a call, and we had coffee together.

I was impressed, to put it mildly. Miles is quite a guy. His rsum would be the envy of any pol; raised in modest circumstances, he became an Army Ranger, a diplomat and a school principal, excelling in all three capacities.

But Mike himself is a lot more impressive than his rsum. He's an extraordinarily bright man who, unlike most politicians, sees the world as it is, not as he imagines it should be. Compared to his likely opponent, incumbent Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Mike shines. Campbell's a typical congressional lifer; all bonhomie and BS, sly, cunning, and in bed with every moneyed interest group he can find. I have a hunch that, come 2004, Miles can and will beat Campbell.

And that's what the Dems have to do -- find folks like John Hickenlooper and Mike Miles who can win elections. There are a lot of 'em out there, but you don't hear much about them. You read plenty about Al Sharpton, Dick Gephardt, Carol Moseley Braun, John Kerrey, Howard Dean, and John Edwards -- the Dems' pathetic lineup of presidential candidates.

They're The Candidates That Time Forgot -- scam artists and/or tired retreads and/or irrelevant lefties.

Get rid of 'em!!! I'd rather vote for Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln, an articulate 42-year-old mother of two who just shamed the Senate into restoring a tax credit for low-income families that the GOP had eliminated.

Or how about Maryland Congressman Chris van Hollen, who knocked off a Kennedy in the primary and an 11-term Republican incumbent in the general election? Van Hollen's the guy who, as a Maryland state senator, redirected half a billion dollars of public funding from a football stadium to the public school system.

There are a lot of Mike Mileses and Lincolns and van Hollens out there; we need to get to know them.

Finally, a disclaimer: van Hollen's my cousin. But then again, so is George W. ...


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