Hal Bidlack

Hal Bidlack

Normally, my columns are clever observations about all things political, with keen insights and a wee bit of false modesty slipped in (Ed: well, let’s not go crazy here…). Most of my missives are of at least of some minimal interest to Democrats, Republicans, independents and the rest, to one degree or another. But today, I am only writing to my fellow Democrats, to offer some unsolicited advice on how to campaign and how to govern. So, if you are not a Democrat, please do feel free to skip the rest of this discourse. But just so that you haven’t completely wasted your time, here’s a fun fact about Colorado: Every river that flows in Colorado goes out of our state. There are no rivers that flow into Colorado. That is why we are sometimes called the “headwaters state.”  There it is, a fun and nonpartisan fact that I learned from John Hickenlooper (dang, does that make it political now?).

So, to my fellow Dems still reading, I want to offer a simple idea about how our party should campaign and then govern. Simply put: do both like Republicans. They do it better, and we should learn their lessons.

There, I said it.

Former President Obama made mistakes, of course, as we all do. But in my view, the worst mistake Obama made was trying to work, openly and honestly, with the Republicans in D.C. Note please that I am not talking about what I’ll call “old school” GOPers, who still cling to the traditional values of the party, such as small government. The “good” Republicans, like former Colorado Governor Bill Owens and Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, generally say what the mean and mean what they say. I can disagree with them while still respecting them.

No, I’m talking about the Mitch McConnells of the world. Recall, please, that Sen. McConnell stated, on the eve of Obama’s first mid-term election, that his primary goal in the Senate was not about policy or making America better. Nope, it was about making Obama a one-term president. Yet Obama still tried working with McConnell on what he thought were common areas of interest. But rather than cooperate for the good of the nation, McConnell and the Senate Republicans fought to defeat, well, everything Obama proposed. Heck, McConnell even filibustered a bill he himself had introduced only hours before, as a political stunt aimed at embarrassing Obama. Oh, and don’t forget Merrick Garland. McConnell and the new GOP worked not for America but to keep and enlarge their own power. 

So, my fellow Dems, it is time to get much, much tougher. The Republicans cannot win nationally anymore without the twin tools of gerrymandering and voter suppression. Currently the GOP is making claims they must know are false about the dangers of mail-in ballots. Voters in Oregon, Hawaii, Washington, Utah (that Democratic bastion) and our own Colorado already vote by mail and have for years, without major problems. Voter fraud is, frankly, a fake claim used by desperate GOPers who know in their hearts that voter fraud is simply not a problem. Heck, the very forms of voter ID they want people to use to vote (drivers licenses, passports, etc.) come to the voters — can you guess? — by mail. We need to work hard to thwart the ongoing voter suppression that McConnell and his ilk are engaged in right now. Reducing the number of polling locations — especially in communities of color — is another part of this widespread effort to keep the “wrong” kind of voters away from the polls. I could go on, but I think you get the point, fellow Dems.

And, if Biden wins and the Dems take the Senate, we should govern as the GOP did, without apology or pretext. One thing that should mean, in my humble view, is that the filibuster goes away for good. While it is true that the filibuster has been abused by both parties, the GOP has taken that abuse to whole new levels. McConnell, by his own admission, is sitting on nearly 400 bills passed by the House. It is not that he’s calling them up for votes and fighting for or against them. No, he is refusing to let them even be discussed. Not quite the representative government the Founders imagined. So, we get rid of the filibuster and pass stuff, simple as that. 

The path to election victory and successful governance is to, well, put on our big boy/girl pants, get tough and stop rolling over. Campaign hard, call out the GOP BS, and don’t stop until the polls close.  And then, if we win, we run the government like they did. I don’t mean dishonestly or in a single-minded pursuit of power, but rather with the same focus and dedication. Stop trying to find common ground with people like Marco Rubio, who changes beliefs when the winds shift. Fight hard and get things done.

We can win this thing and end the nightmare of the Trump era. I also believe the GOP can find its soul again if that cancer is removed. But until then, Democrats, please fight hard. The other side certainly is.

OK, got that out of my system. Next column, I’ll write for everyone (Ed: promise?).

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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