Bruell column: Reflections on the elections

Debbie Bruell

In last week’s election, Americans showed the world that the vast majority of us believe in the rule of law over rule by force, equality over white supremacy, and kindness and community over hatred.

Defying the bleak predictions from most political pundits, Americans came out in record numbers, especially young people and women, to vote down election-denying candidates who spouted false and dangerous rhetoric. We came out to vote for our freedom — the freedom to love who we want, marry who we want, grow our families when we decide, and elect our leaders. We voted to protect our democracy.

Democracy may seem like an abstract concept, but MAGA Republicans have made it crystal clear what our future could look like without it. Nick Fuentes, leader of the white nationalist America First movement, told his supporters that the inability of far-right Republicans to win elections is precisely why “we need a dictatorship.” Only a dictatorship would allow the far-right to do what Fuentes wants: ”take control of the media or take control of the government and force the people to believe what we believe or force them to play by our rules.”

This election was proof that the vast majority of Americans do not want our country to go down that path.

Another fundamental reason why Democrats defied the odds and won big in these midterm elections is that Democratic leaders have been accomplishing concrete wins for the American people. President Biden has successfully lowered prescription drug costs, addressed the climate crisis head-on with major investments, and taken steps to ensure that ultra-wealthy corporations finally pay something closer to their fair share.

Democratic leaders in Colorado have also shown how our government can work for us — from Governor Jared Polis’ creation of free, quality preschool and full-time kindergarten to U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s historic investment in western water infrastructure and drought resilience.

Voters in Garfield County overwhelmingly supported state-level Democratic leaders. According to the unofficial results to date, Sen. Bennet beat his Republican opponent by a 7% margin in our county; Gov. Polis beat his Republican opponent by a 12% margin.

The question remains why county-level races went to the Republican candidates. Current Republican commissioners have held their seats for over a decade; John Martin is going on three decades. Some of the biggest challenges facing families in our county have only gotten worse since these men have been in office. The housing crisis has intensified; businesses and critical services have been unable to fully staff their operations; childcare is harder than ever to access; and traffic issues have worsened at the same time that wildfire danger has increased, making the prospect of emergency evacuation even more frightening.

Compared to the innovative ways Democratic commissioners in neighboring counties are tackling these same issues, our Republican commissioners look like they’ve been asleep. Summit County commissioners have made great strides in terms of wildfire prevention efforts and regular communications with community members during wildfire season. Eagle County commissioners have helped to expand toddler-care services and recruit childcare workers. Commissioners from nearby counties also participate in regional coalitions focused on creative solutions to the housing crisis and traffic on I-70. Our commissioners scoff at the very idea of collaboration.

Instead, Garfield County commissioners have spent countless hours and millions of our county dollars trying to increase oil and gas development. But what do they have to show for all their efforts and expenditures? A failed lawsuit; no increase in good-paying oil and gas jobs; and a continuing downward trend in revenue from oil and gas production.

Our commissioners want us to believe that we’re on the verge of another gas boom that will replenish our county coffers. But the fossil fuel industry is declining across the globe. It’s way past time for us to diversify our local economy and develop new avenues for good-paying jobs and reliable county revenue streams.

The commissioners’ dismal records are at odds with their electoral wins. Given their many years in office, perhaps name recognition is a factor?

All nine of the elected positions in Garfield County are now held by Republicans — despite the fact that the split in votes between Democrats and Republican candidates is consistently close to 50/50. Of course, it’s the duty of these elected officials to serve all of us, and I hope they will. If not, there’s another election just around the corner.

The remarkable victories of Democratic candidates across the nation and the overall defeat of MAGA Republicans illustrates the opportunity that opens up with each new election — no matter what the political pundits may be predicting. These victories also have shown that those of us who want a fair and just government, who believe we can create a government that truly works for the American people, are far more numerous and powerful than we thought.

Debbie Bruell of Carbondale chairs the Garfield County Democrats and is a past member of the Roaring Fork Schools Board of Education.

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