My news feed lately has been full of stories touting the novelty of our Democratic governor attending a conservative conference. This was, in many of the stories, touted as a marvel.
While I salute any politician with a genuine desire to try and reach across what is becoming an increasingly polarized society, I find myself startled at the approbation coming seemingly from all corners. To me this is less a marvel than the maneuvering of an experienced career politician.
Despite what you might see on the backs of pickup trucks, I don’t think that “my governor is an idiot.” In terms of a political instinct, I think Jared Polis is actually pretty savvy. He has, as Jon Caldara put it, a knack for knowing the right thing to say at the right time, a knack for knowing what to do to get a particular message out in the press. He also knows enough to avoid genuinely difficult situations. His press events may happen all over the state, but the events are as carefully choreographed, and attendees are vetted thoroughly enough to avoid any public discomfort.
This conference and his remarks while there are a perfect example. Polis was not confronted with questions from the audience. He was seated on a panel with his friends. Rather than it being Polis meeting people where they are (as his press man keeps saying), it was a friendly conversation in front of an audience too polite to say anything.
It was also a chance for Polis to spit out the kinds of quotes that the press love because they reinforce the narrative that he is more centrist than his policies and actions have shown him to be. What’s that? Jared said that we shouldn’t have an income tax? A brave statement indeed: It was made in front of audience he knew would be sympathetic and it carries about as much weight as my oft-repeated declaration that I should have a salary in the millions. Neither have even the slightest chance of becoming reality.
This is all bad enough, but it is even worse when you consider some of the other statements Polis made at this and other meetings. To quote, “[t]here’s no role for saying somebody’s a murderer because they don’t want to require a mask but there’s no role for saying that masks are like some Nazi death camp either.” In other contexts, he has stated “what’s more important for the people of Colorado, for public education and the particular outcome of that discussion in every area is that we have that discussion with civility and respect.”
Is it just me, or are you also older than one year old? I remember well a time last year when not wearing a damn mask made you a “selfish bastard,” or concerns over your civil liberties and government intrusion made you, in Polis’ own words, “on the side of a deadly virus.” I also am old enough to remember a time when he has also labeled things he disagreed with as being related to Nazism.
What changed there? Well, undoubtedly the situation with COVID is different and I’m not going to pretend that doesn’t play into things now. Still and all, and you can label me a cynic if you’d like, I think that Polis’ political spidey sense has also come into play. More people are speaking up against masks and a recent survey indicated that there is not widespread support for masks in schools among independent voters. I can’t help but think he the knowledge that he’ll need those voters has shaped his newfound interest in civility.
If Polis has had a sincere change of heart on the matter, then good for him. I try to remain open to new perspectives and growth. I salute the same in others. I would be more inclined to believe this to be the case, however, if he would once acknowledge the role he has played in furthering division by spouting some rather uncivil and disrespectful rhetoric.
Instead, it seems that we see the usual out of the career politician’s playbook: He’ll say what needs to be said now to get headlines and nods of approval while hoping his previous remarks stay hidden like turds buried in a litterbox.
Cory Gaines runs the Colorado Accountability Project on Facebook and lives for what Richard P. Feynman called “the pleasure of finding things out.”
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