We’ve been thinking lately that we have underestimated Gov. John Hickenlooper, and that our “purple” Colorado – balanced between red and blue – could be wishing for his steady hand again one day soon. We used to think he was efficient but lackluster. That was before we witnessed a boom of politicians who put party before state or country. They’re seldom dull, but they are menaces.
Hickenlooper, meanwhile, actually gets things done, even in the last months of his administration – and with little fanfare, as he did recently by pushing ahead to address the hazards posed by the state’s abandoned oil and gas wells.
We don’t know what the likely outcome is of the race to replace him, or even where our support will lie when it comes time to make our endorsement, but we do know now that we are faced with two candidates who have a significant partisan and ideological divide. And that worries us because we are certain the state’s future lies somewhere down the road between them.
Being a purple state is no longer some quirk or artifact. It has become a state of being and one we are in no hurry to abate. It works for Colorado. It helps us arrive at livable compromises on issues such as drilling and taxes. We are blessed to be able to go to the state ballot and tinker.
But to stay purple, we have to see that while neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are unique or irreplaceable, we also need both striving for the right as they see the right. That’s their job.
It is not necessarily the job of the voters, however. We owe blind allegiance to nothing but the common good. We choose candidates and leaders, not parties.
Our values and ideals could never reside in one party. They’re within us.
This is – we freely admit – a moderate stance. And moderate should not be a dirty word in a nation beset by extremism.
The other day, an acquaintance upbraided us, asking, “Would you have advocated for moderation in addressing slavery?”
Lincoln, our greatest president, was a moderate. The fire-eaters of the South thought he was a zealot, but the leading abolitionists of his day reviled him, and routinely abused him in their correspondence for being cautious, weak and immoral.
But who best addressed slavery? When has moderation ever failed us? And when has extremism not ended in tears before supper?
“I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation,” the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison said in 1831. “Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; – but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present.”
Today, our Colorado house is not on fire and our brothers and sisters are not enslaved. Compromise ensures that.
“Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice,” Barry Goldwater said in 1964, when he accepted the Republican nomination for president – and then lost in a landslide, partly because not enough Americans believed liberty was so imperiled.
So it is for Coloradoans today. Like Gov. Hickenlooper, we aim to keep it that way by the simplest expedient: being strong, centered and calm.