This is the political post where I get real – and it is Colorado centric, so if you’re from elsewhere, feel free to skip this one (or forward it to your Colorado friends to remind them to VOTE DAMNIT.) or skim it and then apply it to your own state races.
I’ve got a few friends who are still on the fence about the whole voting thing this year. They’re convinced that all politicians are equally bad and no one deserves their vote and waaa-waaa-waaa, “If God wanted us to vote, He would have given us better candidates to choose from.”
Look, I get it, no candidate is perfect. Duh, they’re fucking human – and yes, they are absolutely operating under the influence of Big Money. But does that mean that all candidates are equal? Oh Hellz No!
Here’s a couple of examples right here in the Colorado races.
For Senate there are a few people on the ticket, but we all know the choice really comes down to Cory Gardner or Mark Udall.
The nice thing in this race is that you can completely ignore ALL of their political ads – the attack ads as well as their self-puffery ads – because they both have public voting records! Yatta!
Udall is the incumbent Colorado State Senator and Cory Gardner is the outgoing Colorado State Representative from my district.
Because both of them have been my elected representatives for the past couple of years I have had a few run ins with both of them. I tend to email my representatives, a lot. I also try to meet them in person when they are in town stumping. And, here’s the thing, on a HUGE range of issues from teacher pay to environmental regulations to gun rights to job creation to minimum wage to running the government to managing social service programs to education to climate change to separation of church and state all the way to, yes, women’s reproductive health – Udall has consistently voted closer to my beliefs, values and vision for the future than Cory Gardner. Further, when Udall replies to my emails (including the robo-replies) he has always talked up to me as if I was a real constituent with valid thoughts and concerns worthy of his consideration.
In contrast, Cory Gardner has repeatedly assured me that not only does he fundamentally disagree with everything I care about, he will actively work to make sure my voice and concerns are not heard or represented in Washington. Gardner has gone so far as to call me a little lady and told me to stop worrying and leave all this political stuff to the men.
I know most of my friends are voting no on Amendment 67, a new sneaky attempt at enshrining fetal personhood into law, doing away with female personhood entirely. Let me just say, for the record, that if you oppose amendment 67, you need to also oppose Cory Gardner as his name is still on as a co-sponsor of a federal personhood bill. If you’d like to keep that bill from making it to the desk of any president ever, we have to keep people like Cory Gardner out of the Senate, and the only way to do that is to vote for people like Mark Udall.
Udall isn’t flashy. I’ll admit that. He’s kind of a quiet guy. He’s thoughtful and considered. He doesn’t always tow the liberal line. He’s a whole lot more pro-gun rights than I’d like – but he does support some limited regulations around that right. I wish he would take a firmer stance on things like fracking and the keystone pipeline, but he’s trying really hard to find and create a middle ground that allows for increased domestic energy production and RESPONSIBLE oil and gas development. I’m pretty extreme on that issue. I am not sure there is such a thing as responsible oil and gas development. The town next to mine, Erie, can’t even find a space to build the new school they desperately need because there are so many fracking wells set up that they can’t find a safe site that meets the set-back restrictions! That’s a lot of damn drilling, and it’s being touted as responsible energy development.
But does Udall’s desire to take a measured approach make him the same as Cory Gardner? Not by a long shot. And this is where a lot of my liberal leaning friends and true independents seem to falter. We seem to think that because the Democrats are, by and large, playing for the middle ground, that they’ve abandoned us and become as bad as the far-right Republicans. (Just as many Republicans think that their middle of the road candidates are pandering to the left-wing extremists.) And so, we write them off and we don’t bother voting and then… The actual extremist wins.
Mark Udall taking a measured approach is NOT the same as Cory Gardner’s hard right approach.
Or take the race for Colorado Governor.
Anyone who knows me knows I am not a huge fan of Governor Hickenlooper. We’ve butted heads on a number of issues. The biggest one is his unwavering and seemingly unconditional support of fracking. I am also over-the-top annoyed that in all the hundreds of emails I’ve sent him over the years, I have never once received a reply – not even an automated robo-reply that says he gives half a shit about what his constituents think. I have a HUGE problem with that.
And yet… He got my vote. Because… On balance, when I look at the LONG list of issues I care about, he’s on my side more than he’s not. And his opponent, Bob Beauprez, stands opposed to me on EVERY. SINGLE. ISSUE.
I’m a realist. I’m never going to find a candidate who sides with me 100% on everything, but I CAN find candidates who start with similar values and goals and give those candidates my vote. Because to me a candidate with whom I have a few disagreements is not equal to a candidate who stands fundamentally opposed to everything I care about.
Then there is the race for Cory Gardner’s old seat in the house of representatives which pits Ken Buck against newcomer Vic Meyers. It doesn’t take much to see that these candidates are not the same.
Ken Buck is a district attorney who has said on more than one occasion that he will not uphold Colorado State laws that he personally disagrees with . He’s also the guy who once said people should vote for him because he doesn’t wear high heels. He is militantly anti-abortion. I don’t think he can call himself pro-life since he doesn’t even support exemptions for the life of the mother. He’s another guy who should not get the vote of anyone who does not support Amendment 67 and fetal personhood that outweighs female personhood.
Aside from his blatant disregard for women as human beings, he also stands against everything I am for – education, environmental regulations, voting rights, job growth, expanding civil rights to include all citizens regardless of gender, sexual identity, race, ethnicity or class.
His opponent, Vic Meyers, by contrast is another one of those down-to-earth thoughtful candidates. We may not agree on everything, but I appreciate that he has actually considered the issues and the ways that government action – or inaction as has been the case all too often of late – will affect real people. I also love that he filled out this “Political Courage Test” and took the time to call them out for over-simplifying things.
This is a guy who got my enthusiastic vote, a guy I would appreciate having in office because he has values that shape his opinions, but he is still open to learning more and hearing from his constituents and representing THEM, rather than simply representing his own interests.
The same tools I used to spot the differences between the candidates can be used by anyone voting in any race. Non-partisan sites like Project Vote Smart try to give voice to candidate’s actual stance on the issues that voters care about so that we can make informed decisions.
You may not agree with my stance on the issues, and that’s okay. That means you’ll vote for a different candidate, but I do hope that you can see that they are not, in fact, all the same. I hope you can see that there are real differences in the policies they support and that those differences have real consequences in real people’s lives.
When I looked at each of the candidates in my state and in my district and checked off their stances on the issues I cared about it was clear that while there might not have been a perfect candidate who checked every single box I would have checked, there were absolutely candidates who came closer to holding the same beliefs and values that I hold and who would come closer to representing me and my vision for the future of my state and country than other candidates.
I agree that the American political system is less than perfect and that we often have less than ideal candidates to choose from, but that doesn’t mean that all candidates are the same or that our votes don’t matter.
I encourage you all to do the work, examine your candidates, look at their stances on the issues that matter most to you and give your vote to the person who comes the closest to representing your values and your hopes for the future. I can assure you, they are not all the same and the outcome of these midterm elections will have real consequences for us all.
Also, one last note to my Colorado readers, we have the opportunity to vote on GMO labeling in our state. A friend of mine had a great response to this issue for the fence sitters, “I’m not voting yes on 105 because I care about labeling. I’m voting yes on 105 because a corporation I really don’t like is spending millions to try to convince me to vote no.”
I voted yes because personally I think the free-market only works if consumers are informed enough to make real choices, but I also like the idea of voting yes just to spite Monsanto.