Politics returns to our taverns | VailDaily.com

Politics returns to our taverns

Steve Lynn
Vail, CO Colorado

AVON, Colorado ” Cheryl Bottomely worried about President Bush’s plan to lift a federal ban on off-shore oil drilling ” until she talked about it over a beer.

At a “Drinking Liberally” meeting, she met with some people in a bar and a man with a background in finance broadened her perspective.

Bottomely learned that U.S. states, which could choose whether to allow drilling or not, likely would pick the latter, he said. The price of oil also could fall with the outlook of a viable domestic oil reserve, the man said.

Bottomely, of Gypsum, doesn’t know if that’s all true, but “that’s the kind of thing you can learn in these groups,” she said.

“It gets people thinking about issues,” she said.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

“Drinking Liberally” has 269 chapters in 50 states and Washington D.C., according to the organization’s Web site, and a group of Democrats in Eagle just started one. The group has called itself “one-part Moveon.org and one-part Tammany (Hall),” the latter a group of powerful, corrupt New York City Democratic politicians in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The meetings are informal and relaxed, and a way to get Democrats and progressives to meet and share ideas, said Carol Onderdonk, co-vice chair of the Eagle County Democratic Party.

Talking politics in taverns goes back to Colonial times, said Tom Volek, associate professor of journalism and mass communications at the University of Kansas. The American newspaper started around the 1700s, but better breadth and depth on local issues didn’t come until the 1800s, he said.

So people not directly involved in politics, such as indentured servants, got their information from conversations in churches ” and taverns. They debated, for example, Great Britain’s contentious stamp tax on the Colonies and whether to break from the mother country, he said.

“Tempers got heated and people got in fights, just like they do today,” Volek said.

Today, a great deal of people have access to the Internet and therefore almost any kind of political discussion in the world, he said. But like in Colonial times, the best way to communicate is still face-to-face, Volek said.

Bottomely was at the Democratic State Convention in Colorado Springs when she saw a booth promoting “Drinking Liberally.” She and others decided to start a chapter in Avon, and they hope to start another one in Red Cliff.

The group met for the first time last month in Loaded Joe’s Coffeehouse and Lounge in Avon and Democratic candidates for Eagle County Board of Commissioners John Stavney and Peter Runyon showed up.

Drinking Liberally is not a campaign event, Onderdonk said. Nor does one have to drink alcohol.

“It’s more for each other than it is for the politicians,” Onderdonk said.

Gretchen Ebbeson, of Avon, attended the last meeting. Around a dozen people showed up and conversations among smaller groups sprouted, she said.

The candidacy of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama inspired Ebbeson, a delegate to the state convention and Second Congressional District this year, to get more involved in politics.

Ebbeson’s friends, however, don’t want to talk politics, and at work it’s inappropriate, she said. So Drinking Liberally was a good fit for her.

“It was fun,” she said. “That’s what it comes down to.”

Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 970-748-2931 or slynn@vaildaily.com.

Support Local Journalism