Hal Bidlack

Hal Bidlack

Just in case you haven’t noticed, there appears to be an election campaign going on right now. And putting on my well-worn retired political science professor hat, let me assure you, this one is important. But did you see what I did there? Every election is important, albeit for different reasons every time. When I ran for the U.S. Congress back in 2008, taking on incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, I told my audiences what I believed — that that election was the most important one in a generation. And I was right, right up until this year.

And I’m not talking about Mr. Trump’s ongoing dishonest and deeply flawed personality shortcomings and why reasonable people should vote for Biden (Ed: good!). I’m not even going to talk about the greatest effort at voter suppression by a major political party (cough…GOP…cough) since, well, at least a generation or two (Ed: ok, still good, have enough on that already).  I am not even going to once again leap atop my rickety soapbox of idealism to object to Colorado voters having so many ballot questions to vote on.

No, instead, I want to talk about the teachings of Homer Simpson and the danger of bears running amok and the importance of magic rocks.

It seems the longest-running scripted primetime TV show, The Simpsons, has some lessons to teach, and back in 1996, it warned us of the dangers of specious reasoning and, well, of bears and rocks. It seems that in the episode aired back in 1996, the good people of Springfield found themselves confronted with a single bear that had wandered into town. As a result, the citizens overreacted and created a bear patrol, at taxpayer expense, to guard against the ursine menace. The wise and skeptical Lisa suggested that the bear patrol, and the taxes raised to fund it, were as unnecessary as a supposed magic rock that repels wild tigers. Long story short: Homer buys the magic rock, and tigers remain scarce. Take a look for yourself, because YouTube has everything.

I thought of that magic rock when reading the Colorado Politics 2020 election guide, which does an excellent job of surveying the various ballot initiatives facing the Centennial State’s electorate. 

You likely have heard of at least some of the initiatives, as they are supported or opposed by folks with enough money to air TV ads. Prop 115 is yet another effort by some to get rid of abortion. These folks know they would lose if they simply put forward an absolute ban, so they try to chip away in little bits, and that is again the pattern we see with prop 115. 

Less familiar to voters is Prop 114 (at least some of them are numbered in order) which would approve the reintroduction of wolves in Colorado. This proposition shows the folly of having such questions voted on by passionate, but likely not fully informed, voters like, well, me. My gut is to say “yes, of course!” I like wolves, and they belong in our ecosystem. But the opponents argue that wolves are already here and that prop 114 is a bad idea that will actually mess up nature, not help fix it. Who is right? I do not really know, which I why the legislature should have taken the time to fully study and vet the idea and then decide on it.

The big ballot issue for many people is Amendment B, which would, as the CP article explains it, “smash” the Gallagher amendment. This is certainly an important issue, and support and opposition for the proposed measure often crosses traditional party lines. It is a highly complex argument with dramatic implications, especially for the more rural areas of Colorado. But it is being attacked as a “tax increase” — which it is not really — or supported as a way to keep taxes low. Again, highly technical with lots of implications, and the state legislature should have made this call after careful study.

Oh, and the Republicans want a tax cut, because, well, taxes are evil. Frankly, I like paying taxes in exchange for things like police departments, fire services, and oh, I dunno, the ..S, Army, but I digress… The GOP wants Prop 116 (at least we are back to good numbering) because government is always the enemy, I guess. The Dems and others have countered with Prop 118 which would create a paid family leave plan (which sounds good to me) but it isn’t fully clear how it would be paid for (which is not as good to me).

There are other proposals, and I suggest you invest the time to read the CP election issue. But I want to close with the proposed Amendment 76 to the Colorado constitution (the U.S. Constitution, by contrast, only has 27 total amendments). This proposal would limit voting to — wait for it — actual legal citizens. As this is already the law, the proposal is just symbolic nonsense. Do you really think that people who are here illegally actually walk into government facilities (polling stations), identify themselves, and then seek to cast an illegal ballot? Study after study has proven conclusively that voter fraud just does not exist on any kind of meaningful scale. Yet the Republicans, as they seek to suppress the votes of those they feel likely will oppose them, want to sell you a magic rock in the form of a ballot proposal, that will repel essentially nonexistant illegal voters and, presumably, tigers.

We, as a state and as a nation, are better than these proposals. I urge you to become informed but to also push for more work by the legislature and less selling of magic rocks. 

Hal Bidlack is a retired professor of political science and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who taught more than 17 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

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