I’m not a huge fan of Joe Biden but no matter where you’re coming from, you want someone in the White House at this point who will make the simple suggestion that we “give each other a chance.” It’s gotta be up there on our country’s agenda.
Jim Pfaff, who’s as conservative as anyone in Colorado’s Republican Party, and I have been giving each other a chance for about a decade, and we’re both better for it.
Don’t get me wrong. I still think he perpetuates evil, even if he knows not of the evil he spreads. I’m glad he won’t be wielding power as the Republican House minority leader’s chief of staff at the Colorado Capitol, and a more moderate Republican will be in his place. I hope he gets recalled from his elected position as a city council member of Woodland Park.
But I like him. We learn from each other. He helps me remember I’m a libertarian Democratic socialist, not just a Democratic socialist. I once helped turn him against grossly wasteful military spending.
We find agreement on broad civil liberties issues, foreign military intervention, and defense spending. And we at least agree to be civil with each other and to try to respect the principles that motivate us.
As Pfaff says, the “political spectrum is not linear but more of a cycle of issues.” I like that.
“You and I may have different things we want to do, but we know that in so many ways the party structure doesn’t do what we are asking,” he told me the other day, knowing I’m in the Sanders/Warren camp on the issues.
“This is why you and I are friends,” he says. “…We don’t support something because this politician I love says it, and therefore I believe it. Well no, sometimes that guy is wrong, even if I agree generally with him or her.”
We talk about how much we hate party operatives who are so obsessed with polls that they won’t take a stand for what’s right, even if the electoral impact of taking such a stand is low.
For me, that means, for example, fully welcoming immigrants with citizenship, medical care, abortion rights, and love. I love tax increases and unions. I worked for Greenpeace for many years and voted for Ralph Nader.
For Pfaff, it means, for example, opposing taxes, unions, abortion rights, and gun restrictions.
“I believe society is benefited from the birth of every wanted and unwanted child,” he told me. “I am never going to back down from that.”
“The Republican Party in Colorado has a false belief that you have to back down on social issues, like guns, abortion, gay marriage, whatever it is, instead of taking the responsibility to make your case,” said Pfaff, who spearheaded a successful campaign in 2006 (thankfully reversed later) banning gay marriage in Colorado. “And therefore because certain people in the Republican Party do not want Republicans, like Pat Neville to stand for those issues, then they try to take him down. Because they have it in their minds that if we get rid of Pat, then we are going to win more.
“Frankly, they’ve been fairly successful at that, and look where we are now.
“The Nevilles are not the problem with the Republican Party. The problem with the Republican Party is its head-strong effort to try look more Democrat.”
If I’m honest, that’s like me saying, which I do all the time, that the problem with the Democratic Party is that it’s trying to look more Republican.
“Politics is a competitive game, and Republicans aren’t out to compete,” says Pfaff, sounding like me criticizing Democrats. “And those of us who get pigeon-holed in the right wing saying, ‘We know these issues resonate with enough voters that we can move forward. But we will never have a chance to do any of those things when we run away from them, one, and, two, when we don’t run campaigns that are organized around identifying voters, finding out where are, getting them registered to vote, and then getting them to the polls. Political campaigns are boring–and profound at the same time.”
My bubble says Pfaff is wrong, and if that’s not enough, the evidence shows that Coloradans don’t like what he stands for.
But even blue Colorado seems to hate many of the pillars of my agenda too, even if more of my pillars are standing at the moment than Pfaff’s.
Republican pollsters, like Magellan, tell Pfaff everything he needs to know about why he’s a loser here these days. Swing voters want politicians who have plans to address problems, like health care. They support common-sense gun safety. They believe in LGBTQ rights. They hate Trump.
“Magellan doesn’t often enough dig into questions like, ‘So does that affect your vote.’ In every political campaign, it’s not whether you are right or wrong in an argument. It’s whether you are telling a story that allows that candidate to break through the noise and get to the heart and mind of the voter. And if you take a defensive approach in a campaign to say, ‘I’ve got to be careful not to anger my opponents’ supporters,’ as your primary way of determining what to say, instead of saying, ‘How do we approach the message?’ you’re going to lose. Republicans don’t think that way. And Magellan has misguided the Republican Party.”
Pfaff cites family leave, which gives Coloradans paid time off to take care of loved ones, as an example.
“We don’t need a government program to deal with family leave,” Pfaff says. “What we need is a fantastic economy so people can bear that brunt, so that they don’t have to worry about losing their jobs. Coloradans love it when government doesn’t tell them how they should think through things. They like it when they are left to decide how to they are going to handle things with good information. This is why I haven’t been personally as far out blasting Jared Polis constantly. I think at his core he understands that.”
“What people like about Donald Trump, is that Donald Trump believes in them,” says Pfaff, citing Democrats who voted for him in swing states. “They have a sense that someone believes in them. Government programs take that away.”
It’s not easy to listen to this, if you’re me. But Pfaff has a point that I need to hear. It’s worth the chance we give each other.