Where the hell is the Democratic Party? You got to stand for something if you want to win. — Howard Dean, October 9, 2014
[dropcap]C[/dropcap]olorado is one of the most beautiful states in the country with hundreds of thousands of people who love living here and who will do whatever they can to protect our quality of life and environment. But last week’s election not only saw major loses by the Democratic Party, it also probably saw the most depressed election engagement from environmental activists in over a decade.
It is true that money flowed in from an eco-billionaire and major environmental groups to try and win the election, but that money did not even remotely make up for the lack of enthusiasm and disengagement from the Democratic Party felt by the vast majority of Colorado environmental activists. If Colorado Democrats want to turn Colorado blue again, they’ll have to turn it greener too.
Here are five things the Colorado Democrats must do to win back environmentalists and to win future elections.
1. Colorado Democrats need to get the oil and gas out of the Party. Climate change is real, burning oil and natural gas make it worse, and fracking is ruining our air, water, property values, climate and democracy. Colorado Democrats can’t be taken seriously unless they confront the fossil fuel industry and address the single biggest issue facing our state, nation, and planet. The fossil fuel industry currently controls the inside and outside of the Colorado Democratic Party. In the build-up to the 2016 election, the Colorado Democrats need to fight the fossil fuel industry and climate change.
2. Colorado Democrats must confront Hickenlooper on fracking. For four years, the “we have to protect Hickenlooper’s re-election” mantra has completely taken over the Democratic Party. The election is over. Hickenlooper can no longer be allowed to institutionalize anti-environmentalism inside the Democratic Party. He doesn’t listen, and he ridicules and belittles the environmental community nearly every time he talks about fracking. We need leaders within the Democratic Party who will confront and challenge Hickenlooper to restore respect for Colorado’s environment and environmental community.
3. Colorado Democrats need to start telling a Colorado environmental story. The vast majority of people live in this state because it is beautiful – soaring peaks, vast forests, raging rivers, great snow in the mountains, and endless days of sunshine. Probably the sickest thing that happened during the 2014 election was watching Cory Gardner tell this story better than Mark Udall – Gardner ran TV ads with Colorado’s mountains in the background and touting renewable energy; Udall ran one “energy ad” that mostly highlighted his support for natural gas. The Colorado story is an environmental story. Stand up and tell it.
4. The Colorado Democrats need to be a party of the people. In November of 2013, a few hundred passionate, mostly volunteer, progressive activists pulled off five amazing victories to ban or place a long-term moratorium on fracking deep in the purple suburban heart of Colorado in an off-cycle election in cities with over 400,000 citizens. The Colorado Democrats provided almost no support, allowed Hickenlooper to ridicule the activists and voters as “misinformed” and “uneducated,” and called activists the “Tea Party of the Left.” A Tea Party of the Left is exactly what Colorado Democrats need.
5. Colorado Democrats have to take a formal public stand to get the money out of politics and oppose Citizens United. A few days after the election, former Colorado U.S. Senator Gary Hart wrote, “Our founders repeatedly said that the greatest danger to the survival of the Republic they created was corruption, corruption being favoring special or narrow interests over the common good. We are there now and we are increasing the speed with which we become a totally special interest political system. And, even if my Party had prevailed in this election, I’d be issuing the same warning. Where the feared corruption is concerned, both Parties are equally guilty.”
A couple days later, renowned Colorado political pundit Eric Sonderman said, “the takeover of both parties by huge money is cancerous.” Much of that cancerous money and corruption is coming from the fossil fuel industry and the Chambers of Commerce which are hell-bent on rolling back environmental regulations and protections.
The Democratic Party blaming and name-calling is all over the media. Howard Dean’s comment above was one of the lighter criticisms. Comedian John Stewart took it farther and called it, “Obama and Pussycrats.” Bill Maher said point-blank, “The Democrats suck.”
You get the picture.
The 2016 presidential election is just around the corner. The voters have spoken. Colorado Democrats need to change direction, toward Colorado’s mountain peaks, forests, vast open spaces, and raging rivers. We need to tell Colorado’s story.
Green is the new blue.
Gary Wockner, PhD, is an environmental activist, registered Democrat, and former Democratic Party campaign manager in Colorado. Contact at: GaryWockner.com.
[ Top image: Colorado U.S. Senator Mark Udall tours a Siemens Test Wind Turbine at the National Wind Technology Center in Louisville via NARAL.]
It appears that Mr. Wockner believes that the oil and gas industry is the root of every evil facing Colorado. I’m sure he has disavowed driving, using electricity generated by fossil fuels, etc. This post is a classic example of why Colorado cannot make any real progress on this issue. This all or nothing approach is really not something most Coloradans are interested in – if they have to choose between driving, heating their homes and paying higher taxes over driving the fossil fuel industry from the state, I think most will choose the former. It is also very clear that most politicians, no matter the party, do not support chasing this industry out of Colorado. Rather than wasting energy on the unrealistic goal of not developing fossil fuels in Colorado, Mr. Wockner and others would be better served to engage in realistic and meaningful conversations with industry and government to pursue and support innovative ways to minimize the impact from fossil fuel development. It’s way past time that this meaningless rhetoric – on all sides – come to a halt.
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