Democrat Doubles Down on GOP Talking Points In a State Decimated By GOP Talking Points

by: David Sirota

Thu Aug 19, 2010 at 12:43

Colorado Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper has released his first campaign ad, and beneath the terrific production value and smart branding lurks a very disturbing message. See if you can catch what I'm referring to:

That's right, at 15 seconds in, Hickenlooper says, "Colorado needs a governor who brings people together to create jobs and cut government spending." And this isn't one of many policy in one of many ads - this is the only policy message in the campaign's very first, agenda-setting ad. So it's very deliberate and very important.

Remember, Colorado has for years been aggressively slashing its budget thanks to the recession and the pressures of the odious Taxpayer Bill of Rights (which, though temporarily suspended by Ref C, still made a major spending impact). Because of these huge cuts, we've seen draconian reductions in teachers, police forces, road maintenance and basic infrastructure. Thanks to Colorado Springs' experience with all these awful cuts, our state has become the infamous national cautionary tale about what happens to a state whose political culture becomes obsessed with the idea that the best kind of politician is the one who most aggressively promises to "cut government spending" - regardless of the consequences.

Because Republicans are likely to split the vote in this three-way race featuring GOP nominee Dan Maes and third-party candidate Tom Tancredo, this gubernatorial race is all but a coronation for Hickenlooper, which means he could be using the free pass to do what Colorado Democrats in the recent past have been doing to great electoral and public policy success - namely, countering the right's insidious "cut government spending" mantra with a more constructive vision. But instead, Hickenlooper's ad, while certainly cute in its construction, is actually using the free pass to reiterate the Republicans' central (and most legitimately dangerous) argument about what Colorado's fundamental challenge really is.

David Sirota :: Democrat Doubles Down on GOP Talking Points In a State Decimated By GOP Talking Points
What's particularly bad about this is that we have some idea of what Hickenlooper thinks should and should not be cut from government spending. Though his ad doesn't specify where he wants to cut, Hickenlooper recently opposed Democratic efforts to reduce corporate welfare subsidies here in Colorado.

So we know he's not interested in cutting those subsidies, which, of course, then leaves programs for regular working people on the chopping block. We're talking stuff like schools, and low-income assistance and police and firefighting. Indeed, it would be nice if a Colorado reporter would ask Hickenlooper exactly which government programs he believes need to be cut, and what areas he thinks Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter's administration is overspending on (by the way, I'd be happy to be the journalist who asks Hickenlooper these questions, but since Hickenlooper caught his foot in his mouth on my radio show a few months ago, he has unfortunately refused our invitations to come back on the show, preferring a monthly appointment on Mike Rosen's conservative forum on KOA). Considering the hard work done by progressive groups and Democratic legislators to oppose TABOR and other TABOR-like initiatives, it would also be nice if those groups and those legislators took public issue with Hickenlooper's central "cut government spending" message.

No doubt, this ad will get lots of applause from Democratic politicos here in Colorado and in D.C. They will say it's construction, slick choreography and humor are brilliant - just brilliant! And, as I said, it certainly is a nice piece of marketing. But in a state that is facing extreme crises because of the "cut government spending" mantra Hickenlooper echoes, this ad is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

The worst part is, Hickenlooper didn't have to make this the central message of his campaign (by the way, just as polls show congressional Democrats don't have to make conservatives' deficit reduction mantra the central message of the Democratic 2010 campaign). Again, this race is probably going to be a coronation, which means there's no extreme pressure for him to simply parrot Republicans' most destructive talking points. In fact, he could have decided to talk about his laudable courage in successfully advocating modest tax increases here in Denver in order to preserve government spending on key municipal priorities. Or, he could have followed the lead of another Western Democratic governor, and trumpeted innovative ideas to raise more revenue and therefore avoid more spending cuts.

Instead, he did the opposite. He doubled-down on a promise to generally "cut government spending" - as if government overspending (not spending on specific programs he identifies as wasteful, but spending as a general concept) is the number one problem in Colorado. In making the choice he made, in telling us that he thinks that this is the central problem facing our state, Hickenlooper is telling us exactly what kind of policies he will pursue as governor.  

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here is another "better" (?) Democrat, (4.00 / 2)
who supports extending Bush tax cuts for the wealthy

"In an appearance before the state fair in Sedalia, Missouri, Carnahan stressed that "now [was] not the time to raise taxes" for members of any income class. Tony Messenger, a reporter with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was at the fair and tweeted the news. A Carnahan campaign aide confirmed the Secretary of State's position to the Huffington Post.

In announcing her support for a full extension of the Bush tax cuts -- which are set to expire this year -- Carnahan creates conspicuous distance between herself and many of the national Democrats she's hoping to join. President Obama, for one, has pushed for an extension of the cuts for those making below $200,000. Individuals earning more than that or families in an income bracket above $250,000 would see their tax rates revert to previous levels under the president's plan. With some exceptions, this position has been echoed by Democrats on the Hill, who argue that the budget would take a major blow if the tax cuts for the wealthy are extended. "

Why would any progressive even think the Democratic party was worth squat?

You Sound Hypercritical... (0.00 / 0)
Colorado probably is required by its constitution to have a balanced budget, as most states are.  Colorado is surely having to cut deeply to meet that balanced budget requirement. Hickenlooper is discharging his constitutional duty, with little help from the federal government.  In this campaign ad he obliquely or passingly takes credit for doing his constitutional duty to balance the budget, in language voters can understand, and you criticize him for it?  It is not as though he is advocating that the federal government reduce its deficit by cutting spending, or, worse, as pointed out above, would be to advocate cutting taxes for the rich and increasing the deficit, as Carnahan just did here in Missouri.

Give the guy some slack.  Damn, we love to eat our own.

This isn't a case of "eating our own." (4.00 / 2)
This is a case of a person, whose business background has both plus and minus notes, who will likely pursue economically destructive policies as defined by his ideological program.

The only way to convince pols away from pursuing destructive policies is to create real opposition to those policies. Giving such people slack is tantamount to approving their programmatic priorities. It's that simple.

In this world, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. The business community will spend a lot of money squeaking their way into the Governor's office out of a blind pursuit of what they wrongly think are correct policies. If citizens don't make it clear they disagree with Hickenlooper's blinkered economic ideas, he will view that as tacit approval and very much rightly so.

Politics is a contact sport. Cutting people slack only results in being ignored by power. That hasn't worked out so well, now has it?

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates

[ Parent ]
I tend to assume you're not familiar... (4.00 / 2)
...with Colorado's Taxpayer Bill of Rights.  It's a whole lot more than a "balanced budget."  TABOR has a ratchet effect in which lean years mandate future lean years regardless if the years ahead are boon years.  It's a complicated system which is slowly choking all municipal and state services.  Some municipalities have voted to de-Bruce (for Douglas Bruce - do look him up) themselves in order to function.  But, it's not an easy process.  Most often it has been school districts when parents realized that TABOR was literally suffocating their schools.  There is no saving for a rainy day with TABOR.  Tax receipts above a specified amount are returned to the taxpayer.  And, last year's lean year, requires lean years ahead.  It's highly retrospective.  In hindsight (no pun intended) it's a lousy piece of legislation that's been particularly resistive to amend, or remove and it's made a hash out of state and municipal budgets.

[ Parent ]
I thought TABOR was dropped. (0.00 / 0)
But looking at the wiki, I see TABOR was only weakened, not dropped completely.  That sucks.

[ Parent ]
take a vacation on election day (4.00 / 1)
or vote green.  This dem is not worth it.

My blog  

Sentiments Such As Yours In 2000 Cost Gore (4.00 / 1)
votes in Florida and made the state close enough for five justices to hand the office to Bush.

That tactic has not worked so well, either, has it?

The only tactic that works in the long run to primary these guys from the left.  We win some of those, and we lose some of those.  Fight him on the policies after he is elected instead of resisting his election when that resistance accomplishes nothing, and lessens leverage after he wins with the left sitting it out.

[ Parent ]
I had a sarcastic comment prepared but threw it away. (4.00 / 3)
Lots of things cost Gore the election, least of all Nader. If he (Gore)  had run a different campaign for example and made more progressives a part of it he would have had more progressive votes in Florida. If Democratic flunkies did not all rubber-stamp the crap that the party regularly serves up then we might have a different Democratic Party and less progressives would even think of voting elsewhere. Your own smug attitude on who and what is to blame.

One approach to the sell-out policies we are facing is to abandon the Democratic party altogether; another is to "perfect" it. It is unclear to me which is superior, neither tactic has worked so well (if you really disagree with that assessment you can write a long progress report detailing the success of your tactics. I have heard about the "better" Democrats campaign for a decade now and the Democratic Party has moved relentlessly to the right all the while)..The  sort of comment you served up seems to me to be both incorrect, intellectually lazy,  and counterproductive.

[ Parent ]
Blame (4.00 / 3)
Why do people like you blame Democrats who voted for Nader instead of Democrats who voted for Bush?  Just curious.

[ Parent ]
it's like I'm really reading Balloon Juice (4.00 / 1)
I thought we were all past this kind of shit

[ Parent ]
Past (0.00 / 0)
Those who fail to learn from the past etc.

[ Parent ]
I learned that old hippies will never forgive Nader (0.00 / 0)
for derailing our chances at a Tipper Gore First Ladyship(hood?)

[ Parent ]
Some people never learn (0.00 / 0)
You would think the obviously bad results of supporting Nader with no evidence whatsoever that they helped pushed anyone to the left would at least result in a few mia culpas.  Ain't gonna happen.

[ Parent ]
implying that was the idea (4.00 / 2)
Perhaps some people were voting for the candidate they wanted to win, rather than the one they were instructed to vote for.

[ Parent ]
I think gore would have signed onto war (0.00 / 0)
I really believe they are treedle dee and teedle dumber!

My blog  

[ Parent ]

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