Boulder County Democrats in conflict


A recent Pew survey states that 50 percent of conservative voters and 35 percent of progressives say that it’s important to live where most people share their political views. In Colorado, this political self-segregation is seen in the stark differences between Boulder and Colorado Springs.

This translates into nasty fights, particularly in a swing state such as ours.

There is another division. Among progressives, people hyperventilate about whether to vote for the Democrat or some third party candidate. People on both sides should know that political power doesn’t come from the voting booth, but from grassroots social movements that can hold politicians accountable. In the long run, the Keystone XL fight and the growing labor rebellions might be more important than this year’s election.

However, the people who are in office can matter a lot. This is crucial since progressive social movements aren’t strong enough to move the state or the country to the left at the moment. Remember the 2010 elections when batshit crazy Republicans with anti-environment and anti-worker agendas won big victories in the U.S.

Congress and captured the state legislatures and governorships of many states.

The Democrats are predicted to do badly in the November elections both in Colorado and around the country. Obama is currently unpopular for various reasons which dampens enthusiasm for the party. Many who vote for Democrats only pay attention to presidential races and ignore mid-term elections. As a result, the Republicans might win control of the Colorado state legislature and the U.S. Senate. There are differing polls on Gov. Hickenlooper’s chances for re-election.

Hickenlooper’s love of fracking has enraged many fellow Democrats. For some reason, people dislike a polluting industry next to their homes and schools. At the Executive Committee meeting of the Boulder County Democratic Party (BCDP) meeting in Longmont on July 9, Cliff Smedley — longtime party activist — introduced a motion to withhold candidate assistance to Hickenlooper for not “reflecting Democratic Party values” (a BCDP rule) due to his profracking stance and several other issues (such as how a firefighters’ collective bargaining bill was “watered down to the point of being worthless” as a result of his threat to veto the original bill). He was supported by several party veterans as well as Kenny Wilson, a 16-year-old Sierra Club member and Niwot High School student, who spoke about the urgency of stopping the looming climate doomsday. The motion was rejected by a vote of 25 to 10.

The meeting was nevertheless upbeat. A resolution to praise Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall for issuing same-sex marriage licenses passed unanimously. Boulder County state legislators talked about many progressive bills that were passed because the Democrats controlled both houses of the legislature and the governorship.

The BCDP is important to the state party. Boulder County voters frequently provide the winning edge for Democrats in state races. Both the House Majority Leader, Dickie Lee Hullinghorst, and the Senate Majority Leader, Rollie Heath, are from Boulder County. The BCDP issue platform is left-leaning and comprehensive. Rebecca Browning, the head of the Platform Committee, has encouraged rank and file members to help write the platform by using online issues surveys, House District and precinct “Walk the Plank” issues discus sions and surveys, a Friday night at the movies (with progressive documentaries) and other special events.

Nevertheless, Smedley is concerned about a growing number of disillusioned BCDP activists. One of them is Harry Hempy, who has become the Green Party candidate for governor. He says many Democrats have quietly told him they will vote for him. Check out for his thoughtful policy proposals. Hempy was a lifelong Democrat who became a full-time activist when he retired from a 40-year career at IBM in 2008. He was involved with the BCDP’s Grassroots Action Team which played a leading role in passing a Boulder ballot measure in 2011 calling for a constitutional amendment stating that corporations are not people and money is not speech.

Greens and progressive Democrats need to work together. We need a prodemocracy movement to defeat the plutocrats who dominate both major parties. But our rigid two-party system keeps third parties off to the margins. Any significant social change will require a strong insurgency inside the Democratic Party.


This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.


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