The best of democracy | VailDaily.com

The best of democracy

Don Rogers

I spent part of my weekend with Democrats. Wasn’t so bad, really. I’ve long maintained that I, a poor Republican and an even worse Democrat at the ballot box, tend to favor GOP ideology but enjoy the Dems more socially. The Republicans generally serve better spreads but have stuffier personalities. The Dems are great to hang out with, but man, some of their ideas about saving us from ourselves are a bit out there even for me, a member of that fabulously “liberal” tribe of professionals known as journalists.Simone Fodde-Crotzer, director of The Collaborative art gallery next to Ti Amo in Eagle-Vail, played the wonderfully attentive hostess, pouring red wine in real glass as Democratic Senate candidate Mike Miles delivered his stump address and took questions from some of the faithful Friday night.I was impressed. Real glass. Snidely, I know, I equate Democrats with plastic-cup affairs. The speech was pretty good, too. I muttered an earthier version of “oh baloney” in reaction to about a third of Miles’ talk. But that’s better than usual for me listening to these speeches, and of course that meant I thought about two-thirds of it was right on. The undercurrent was one of everyone having a responsibility to helping their community. That I really appreciated, and the sentiment transcends parties. Too bad more of us don’t embrace it. For that, I could accept his gaffs, such as a remark about whoever heard of Canadians coming to the U.S. for health care? (Canadians with money come here in droves, actually, because our huge advantage in research and development has led to more effective treatment of all sorts of injuries and diseases. It’s a key part of revamping health care without gutting it.) And recasting the argument over Iraq as a debate over Saddam’s “imminent” threat to us directly missed the point, I thought. But hey, it was his speech, his platform. The choir seemed to like it.A great part of meet-and-greet events is the opportunity to look candidates in the eye, to take their measure face to face. And Miles impressed me. The odds against him are lottery-sized to make it past the primary against the far better known Ken Salazar, the state attorney general. But I loved the moxie of this Colorado Springs educator – whose career spans Army Ranger, State Department analyst and diplomat, and middle school teacher and now assistant school district administrator. As he put it, it’s been all about service to his country. He gives not an inch to being a longshot. It’s all about the message with this guy. A hearty sign of politics stepping up to a new level would be Miles prevailing over the Democratic machine. Too bad more voters don’t come to meet-and-greet events, much less watch debates or read up on these folks. This is why some Republicans, more likely to be hard-eyed realists about human behavior, fear Michael Moore’s documentary “Fahrenheit 911” so much. It’s Willie Horton turned against the Bushes. Taken as a group, America’s Ignorant Impressionables outnumber either party. They are why we still have gross exaggeration as a staple in the big political campaigns despite widespread disgust with this genre.I left the gallery with a fundamental trust in Miles as an antidote to this ever slicker era of political campaigning. And with a fervent hope that our local races can stay free of partisan poisoning this year. The last county commissioner race, in 2002, slipped pretty badly, in my view.No such worries Saturday at Bair Ranch, though. Rain early in the morning gave way to just a classic summer day in the High Country. What better place to take it in than up on the ranch, in a celebration of what should have been a no-brainer decision to purchase the future development rights to 4,800 acres at the head of Glenwood Canyon?OK, that’s an editorial judgment. I understand the opposition, and we’ll see if the opponents’ stated affection for open space commitment to the Edwards gravel pit and to the Vassar Meadows-Avon complex of land exchanges holds up. Call it a test of sincerity.Meantime, County Commissioner Arn Menconi was praised heavily for his extra effort to make the Bair Ranch project succeed. Menconi faces a strong challenge from A.J. Johnson, sheriff for a couple of decades before term limits bumped him out.Bair is a bit of a fault line for comparing Johnson and Menconi’s differences. Menconi was a consistent, whole-hog supporter for Bair. Johnson, while not rejecting Bair as worthy of the county spending $2 million of open space funds to make the preservation happen, voiced many of the same doubts as the people who don’t favor this agreement.This is where the commissioner candidates’ contest for our votes should focus – on the issues. There will be enough variation in how these candidates would approach county issues of the future to shape our votes in the ballot box. We don’t need the muddy mischief that bogged down the Stone-Sandberg race. Listening, Michael?The prescription for the inevitable innuendo to come: Be sure to meet each of these guys face to face in the coming months. One of the great blessings of local elections is that we don’t have to rely on partisan connections, TV commercials or even newspaper articles to take the measure of the candidate. We can go see and talk to them directly. No better democracy than that.Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 600, or editor@vaildaily.com