#politics | BIDLACK | Is history a guide or a burden in handicapping political races? | Opinion

Hal Bidlack

There are days when I cast about for a writing topic, and then there are days when the topic jumps out at me. Happily, today’s column comes from the very top story on Colorado Politics this morning about about the current Colorado Senate race. It’s a terrific piece that looks at what it has taken, historically, to win a Senate seat here in the Centennial State. Go ahead and read it, I’ll wait here…

All set? Now you know the main points include a lesson from history; it’s been almost 50 years since the good people of Colorado elected a person to the Senate that wasn’t a sitting member of Congress or a statewide officeholder. So, what does that mean?

Well, if history is our guide, it would suggest that there is only one candidate in the large field of Democratic hopefuls with a realistic chance to defeat Cory Gardner — and that is John Hickenlooper. So, is history a guide or an unreasonable burden? 

I’ve written before about my own personal struggle to settle on a favorite candidate. But deep inside my core, where I am pretty partisan these days, what matters to me most in the Senate race is what matters to me most on the presidential level — who can defeat a dangerous and foolish incumbent? I didn’t use to put Gardner in the same pot as President Trump, but given their mutual endorsements of each other, and Gardner’s refusal to break with Trump on many of his most dishonest and dishonorable actions, I now consider Gardner little more than “Trump-lite,” and as a man who appears to have sold his soul to Trump in hopes of keeping his seat. 

History can be a wonderful teacher. And historic trends are often instructive and compelling. Pro-Trumpers like to point to the stock market trend since Trump was elected, though they conveniently forget that under Obama, the markets nearly tripled, but that discussion is for another day.  So, shall we honor the lessons of history that Luning pointed out, and line up behind Hickenlooper? Or shall we refuse to be bound by the shackles of times gone by? 

I admit, it’s a tough question.

I hope to be, most of the time, a realist, driven by data and logic and evidence. That mind-set says that we should get behind the best chance of beating Gardner — Hickenlooper. And that makes sense to me. I’m also not entirely thrilled with some of the shots that some of my more liberal Democratic friends are taking at Hick, given that such attacks are likely being carefully cataloged and stored away by the GOP for reuse in the general election. I remember Ronald Reagan, a man I doubt could get the Republican nomination today, and his so-called “eleventh commandment,” which was “speak no ill of fellow Republicans.” I’m not sure that wouldn’t be a good mantra for my fellow Dems today.  

Interestingly, it was, about three weeks ago that I found myself at Phantom Canyon, a very nice bar and grill in Colorado Springs, sitting with John Hickenlooper, chatting about fossils and other stuff. Hick, you see, as a businessman years ago, was one of the key partners in getting Phantom Canyon built. And thus, it made a good place to meet, when I heard from a mutual friend and fellow retired military officer that Hick wanted to chat, at least in part due to my earlier column on my difficulty in choosing a candidate. 

We ended up not really talking too much politics, or should I say current politics, because we chatted mostly about the Founding Fathers and that interesting time. Hick also took me over to the bar to show me a feature of Phantom that he was particularly pleased with — fossils embedded in the bar surface. It was a nice chat, and I was pleased he knew of my column, given that I think it is mostly used to wrap fish (Ed: I wouldn’t say mostly…).

I read a recent social media entry that fits well with the lessons of the Luning column. The post (original authorship unknown) suggested that we should think of the choosing of candidates for office to be less like a marriage and more like a bus ride. We are not going to pick our perfect life partner, with whom we agree on all things. Rather, we are picking which bus to get on, knowing that it is heading in the general direction that we want to go. We don’t insist that our bus be perfectly matched to our wants and desire, but rather, that it generally fit with what we want. Demanding perfect agreement with a chosen candidate may well be the route to defeat of any candidate. 

And so, dear readers, as you think about the various candidates for the U.S. Senate, perhaps it might be wise to pick a bus and not a spouse. That way, you may end up getting much closer to your destination.   

Hal Bidlack is a retired professor of political science and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who taught more than 17 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

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