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The storm of the century?

Political forecasters seek a break in the clouds

By Leigh E. Rich

The bitter wind blowing through the nation these days isn’t a sign of an early fall.

And the frost covering Colorado can’t be blamed on our state’s fickle weather.

It’s not global warming. It ain’t the hole in the ozone. And it has nothing to do with El Niño—though it certainly is a type of regional oscillation.

No, this current storm system is all due to what political atmospheric analysts ought to deem the “TPPO”: the two-party political oscillation effect.

Sure, it’s been around forever. And some years are less tumultuous than others. But given the chance and the right set of environmental constraints, and the TPPO can result in verbal monsoons, catastrophic flooding of attack advertisements, epidemics of muckraking, even civil unrest.

And there’s little citizens can do to mitigate the impacts of such cyclical warming and cooling of America’s political currents.

Like the brewing Hurricane Francis, our only options left in the 2004 electoral squall are to board up the TV screens and try to find higher ground.

Both the Republicans and the Democrats have stepped up their campaign efforts, lobbing ever-growing hailstones to beat down John Kerry’s war record, George Bush’s Iraq calculations, John Edwards’ trial lawyer reputation, and Dick Cheney’s Halliburton and lesbian connections.

Even on the home front, far from the eye of the storm, the Virginia-based Americans for Job Security has created a cloudburst with its “Cyanide Salazar” ad, attacking Democratic Senate candidate and Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar’s environmental record and his handling of the Summitville Mine cyanide disaster years ago.

Salazar tried to fend off the storm, even asking his opponent Pete Coors to stay the blustery group that has no direct ties to the Coors campaign. But Salazar and his green truck have been caught in this growing mudslide, despite his efforts to prevent such a change in the weather the morning after the Aug. 10 primary when he called on Coors to sign a pledge to run a sunny campaign and sandbag against such outside PAC groups.

Sorry, Salazar. It seems there will be no dry ground this election season.

And while the Democrats unveiled their evacuation plan for Colorado during House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s stopover, they scrambled last Friday to overcome a “GOP protest” that involved one young “operative … distributing a shrill leaflet” outside of the Colorado Democratic Party’s headquarters in the rain.

The three-page press release issued by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) deemed Pelosi “ultra-liberal” and her agenda “radical” and “out-of-touch.” It also included a sample list of her voting record while serving California’s 8th District over the last 18 years.

“The fact that Republicans would send a protester to a positive, hope-filled visit by the highest ranking woman member of Congress shows how worried they are that Rep. Pelosi will be the first female Speaker of the House,” said Chris Gates, Colorado Democratic Party chairman, in a rebuttal press release.

It’s sad to say, Chris, but that’s what any campaign season is about. Especially this one.

Under any other TPPO circumstances, it would be hard to justify such cause for alarm when the so-called protest amounted to one 20-something, who quietly inquired whether those entering the Dem headquarters were reporters. He seemed as frightful as the Sesame Street character who surreptitiously asks whether passersby want to buy an “N.”

No other edicts were issued by this covert agent, and he was neither peddling Bibles nor drugs.

Inside, without having to temporarily store their press releases inside their raincoats, Pelosi and Gates both spoke to GOP voting records. They lambasted Bob Beauprez, Marilyn Musgrave and Tom Tancredo for their conservative agendas.

So why is one gale worse than the other?

And the NRCC leaflet didn’t pick on Pelosi for being a woman. It picked on her for being a liberal from San Francisco. There is a difference. Not a sophisticated one, but a difference nonetheless.

By the end of the 2004 election, FEMA assistance will be necessary to resuscitate America’s drowning political system and to rebuild voter confidence as we sift through the dismal aftermath.

In the interim, the TPPO—and the campaign quarrels seeding it—is nothing but a bunch of hot air. 

Rich, L. E. (2004, September 3). The storm of the century: Political forecasters seek a break in the clouds. The Colorado Statesman, p. 2.

Second Place – Political Columns – Colorado Press Women – May 2005

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