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Parsing the silly season

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By John Riddell

It is not bad enough that 70 percent of us are afflicted with “news fatigue,” but now we are solidly enmeshed in and totally bored with the “silly” season of politics fondly known as the primaries.

While having a role in our election process, many would agree with me that things have gotten a bit out of hand. Certainly, the projection of campaign costs approaching $25 million should be a source of some concern.

You have to ask the question: Is this investment (largely in media ads) really that effective in garnering votes? Are there really that many undecided zealots, and what about this pool of independents?

To the casual observer, the ads being run in Colorado are largely driven first by quantity while sacrificing quality. These have to be the most expensive modern bumper-sticker slogans in the history of Colorado politics.

It is always dangerous to over-generalize observations, but it seems that the Democratic Party’s candidates for governor have determined that their platform is very simple: anti-President Trump, pro-Obamacare, anti-guns. And did I mention anti-President Trump?

I do believe that Colorado may be the first and perhaps the only state to have a campaign for governor to be highlighted in a tattoo parlor. And lest anyone doubt their outlook for the future, all of these candidates profess to be the walking, talking embodiment of “progressive” values.

What gets lost in the media hype is the clear understanding of just what this term “progressive” values implies. When you finally get the onion peeled, you realize that this is clever verbal shorthand for an increased role of government in the daily lives of the governed. This increased role can only take place with an increase in the size and cost of said government, hence a need for an increase in taxes from said governed.

Whether you want to call them fees or taxes, the result in the voter’s pocketbook is the same. Additionally, whether you agree with it or not, every increase in government’s role is a decrease in an individual’s liberty.

In our society, we all agree to give up some liberty in exchange for the protection by the government. The ebb and flow of American society has always been in the balance between this liberty and the power of government.

It is no coincidence that only with an all-powerful, central government can movements such as national socialism and Communist Marxism take root.

Now the Republican candidates also have their peculiarities to deal with. I find it very interesting that the term “conservative” becomes a rallying cry when, in fact, operational and voting track records may not support such individual claims.

As written in some of my other columns, “conservative” values initiate with individual responsibility and accountability, favor less/smaller government and see taxes as a necessary evil. With a constitutional foundation of government, conservatives see as one of government’s key functions to be the guaranteeing of equality of opportunity.

Just putting the word “conservative” in a political ad is not sufficient. The Republican Party, historically the party of conservatives, the party of emancipation, women voting rights, anti-Jim Crow legislation, anti-segregation and the right to private property has not recently made a consistently strong case in Colorado as to why it should be the party of choice.

You have to ask yourself, “Why?” One would think, given the increase in immigrant voters and influx of entrepreneurs, an atmosphere of equality of opportunity would be a key and vital selling point.

Add to this the historical mindset of the rugged, self-reliant individual, the founders of the West, the ranchers and farmers, and you would think that the state has to be solidly red (Republican). Yet the last national election clearly showed it is not. Perhaps it is because the Republican Party has strayed from conservative values.

Finally, we all have to painfully sit through the negative ads. We know that the reason candidates employ ads highlighting perceived negative factors of their opponents is that political campaign advisers say they work.

Yet, during primaries I cannot help thinking that such ads remind me of some species of animals that are known to eat their young. In a general election, I can certainly understand taking shots at your opponent, but in a primary, every one of the same party is theoretically on the same team, part of the same family.

It even seems that some on the team promised to not attack others on the team. But as soon as one family member violated this trust, others responded in kind — a commonality of both parties. Given that the positive ads of candidates of both parties are questionable in their initial claims, why should any more veracity be applied to their negative messages?

And all of this entertainment for a mere $25 million (which includes the aforementioned tattoo parlor). That’s about $8 per registered voter with no guarantee of results. I can’t wait for the general election.

Following a successful international business career, John Riddell turned his attention to small-business/entrepreneurial pursuits that included corporate turnarounds, start-ups, teaching as an adjunct business school professor, authoring noted business and sports columns, and serving as vice president for the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce directing its Center for Entrepreneurial Growth. E-mail him at jfriddell@msn.com. The former Georgetown resident now splits his time between Tennessee and Colorado.