We’re in a critical time in America’s history, says Sen. Michael Bennet | VailDaily.com

We’re in a critical time in America’s history, says Sen. Michael Bennet

Sen. Michael Bennet hosted a town hall meeting Friday afternoon at Colorado Mountain College's Edwards campus. Helping moderate was Red Cliff Mayor Anuschka Bales.
Randy Wyrick|rnady@vaildaily.com |

EDWARDS — Sen. Michael Bennet’s second town hall in Edwards was ever so much more civil than his first.

Years ago when the Obama administration was pushing through the Affordable Care Act, hundreds of people packed Berry Creek Middle School gym to give Bennet, a Democrat, a piece of their minds. After that meeting was finished, Bennet found himself against a wall surrounded by angry people explaining to him with great enthusiasm that they believed Obamacare was a monumentally bad idea.

Friday’s town hall at Colorado Mountain College’s Edwards campus wasn’t like that, at all.

“I’ll behave myself, and I hope others will behave themselves,” Bennet said grinning.

Health care is still at the top of people’s minds, and was the first question asked during Friday’s one-hour Q&A.

“We’re in one of the most expensive places in the country to buy health insurance,” Bennet said.

He had nothing good to say about Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.

“I could not design a bill less responsive than the one the House of Representatives passed,” Bennet told the crowd.

He said the best course is force lawmakers to sit down and “clean up” some of the Obamacare’s issues.

“We are divided in a much too partisan way. The answers do not lie in this left/right fight,” Bennet said. “I have no shortage of things I’ve been able to work on with Republicans. People come home and say how awful the other side is in Washington. That has not been my experience, and I’ve been criticized for it.”

What leadership looks like

Bennet said he has seen the leadership that’s needed. He was among the eight senators who comprised The Gang of Eight, spending eight months hammering out an immigration reform bill.

“The Republicans — Jeff Flake, Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Marco Rubio — spent eight months negotiating that bill, knowing what the base of their party was going to say. But they did it, for the good of the country and for the good of their party and very much in that order,” Bennet said.

Those Republicans weren’t exactly a love-in during the process either, Bennet wisecracked.

“It took eight months to negotiate, but we could have done it in four. We had to start every meeting with a little time for Republicans to talk about how much they hate Ted Cruz,” Bennet said as the crowd roared in laughter.

All kinds of questions

Questions ranged from immigration to refugees, from climate agreements and the environment to gerrymandering, from security to public land, from education to the First Amendment and freedom of the press.

“Immigration is a huge deal in Colorado,” Bennet said. “Families are split, resorts cannot get the labor they need.”

The other side of the immigration question is security.

“We have to be vigilant to protect the country, but we must also protect Constitution,” Bennet said.

He is concerned about President Donald Trump’s Twitter tendencies.

“When he says things and lives are at stake, as they have not been in his real estate empire, it’s a serious matter,” Bennet said.

President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris agreement, as he said he would during his campaign.

“That was one campaign promise I was sure he would break,” Bennet said.

Still bullish on America

We live in contentious times, but Bennet is still bullish on America.

There was no assurance that the Framers of the Constitution would be successful, Bennet said.

He spoke of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin who stood on a step outside his home when someone asked him, “What sort of government have you given us, Mr. Franklin? A monarchy or a republic?”

“A republic, if you can keep it,” Franklin is said to have replied.

“They were doing something not done before in human history, and we’re still here,” Bennet said. “They would be shocked if they were here today, absolutely shocked that we are still here. They wouldn’t believe it. They’d be saying two things. One, we were smarter than we thought we were, and they were. And second, generations of Americans have benefited from them keeping our republic.”

The original colonies were not states, they were like different countries that did not like each other very much. Yet they persevered and compromised and struck a deal.

“We’re 330 million people. We have the strongest military and capacity for defense that humankind has ever known, the strongest and most innovative economy on the planet.”

People feel differently about this president and this government, Bennet said.

And maybe we didn’t ask to live in a time when these kinds of things are at stake, but they are, Bennet said.

“I’ll do the best I can, and we all need to be involved,” Bennet told the crowd. “The fact that you’re here means you want to be part of the solution to these issues.”

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Support Local Journalism