Douglas Bruce And Evel Knievel: A Study In Contrast

[COMMENTARY] The past few weeks, from faraway lands, I logged online a total of twice. One of those days, I learned that Evel Knievel had died – and that Douglas Bruce had gotten himself appointed to the Colorado Legislature. I couldn’t decide which interested me less. Vacations can be a wondrous thing.But now I’m back in Colorado, shrugging over the latest antics of Bruce, author of Colorado’s 1993 so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Since then the anti-government activist has had little success at convincing most people of his way of thinking about government reforms – other than to get himself elected to the El Paso County Board of Commissioners three years ago. He has also continued, with an almost uncanny ability, to offend and alienate just about everyone who isn’t, well, him.

Which brings us to Dec. 1, when he got 44 people in his conservative eastern Colorado Springs district to appoint him to the Legislature (a handy deal that appears carefully executed by Bruce, former state Sen. Ron May and new state Sen. Bill Cadman). And now it turns out that Bruce doesn’t want to get sworn into office until after the Legislature convenes on Jan. 9. Instead, he wants to be able to play with the government he hates so much for two years more than if he simply showed up along with the other 99 state lawmakers who plan to show up on time. This maneuver means he would show up five days later, past the deadline marking the halfway point for what would have been Cadman’s final House term – which by law lets Bruce stay an extra two years if voters allow it.

As mentioned above, over the years Bruce has insulted a great many people, which has been widely detailed, including by Colorado Confidential here and here and here.

In 2004, when Bruce, a former longtime Democrat in California, finally succeeded in his nearly three-decade-long quest to get elected to public office. Now a Republican, he acknowledged his “brusque” personality. “If I have offended anyone here, I apologize,” Bruce said in his speech three years ago to the GOP county assembly. “It was unintentional. I’m only human, and God isn’t finished with me yet.”

Early this month he provided another self-evaluation, to another group of GOP activists: “I’m still working on my charm deficit.”


Whether Bruce maneuvers six years or eight years in the state House, plus another eight in the state Senate, is entirely up to the voters. Meanwhile, his words – including vows to work harder to play well with others – have proven entirely unreliable.

Let’s compare this track record to Evel Knievel’s, the daredevil motorcyclist. In Knievel’s death notice, The New York Times recounted Knievel’s stunt, at 27 years old, that was designed to jump his motorcycle “40 feet over parked cars and a box of rattlesnakes and continue on past a mountain lion tethered at the other end.”

He ended up landing on the rattlesnakes.

“Right then,” Knievel said, “I knew I could draw a big crowd by jumping over weird stuff.”

Unlike Bruce’s hollow vows, those truly were words Knievel lived by. Heck, when it comes to politics and Bruce, perhaps they are words we should all live by.

Cara DeGette is a senior fellow at Colorado Confidential and a columnist and contributing editor at the Colorado Springs Independent. E-mail her at

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