Littwin: Colorado’s long, strange not altogether bad trip, 2014
Fair and Unbalanced
Now that 2014 has ended, it is time to reveal the strangest thing about this strange year.
It wasn’t all bad.
Sure, it was mostly bad. I mean, in no other year would I have had to sit through an entire Seth Rogen and James Franco movie just to annoy North Korea. But even though many things went mostly wrong, some very important things actually went right.
We can start with same-sex marriage, which is now legal in 35 states. As 2013 ended, it was legal in 16, which seemed like a lot at the time. The only way you could have predicted 35 for the end of the year was if you had bet the way, way over.
If you remember, the most important court case happened in Denver in front of the conservative 10th Circuit, which was the last place that same-sex advocates wanted to be. And the case came from, of all places, Utah, maybe the very last place you’d expect.
But here’s what I really liked about it. In this case, and in nearly every other, the judge writing the majority opinion cited Antonin Scalia’s prediction that once the Supreme Court adopted the “homosexual agenda” — I think the agenda year was 2003 — that gay marriage was inevitable. Ironic? Let’s just say it was a lot more ironic than “The Interview.”
And like many of you, I am now looking forward to what will happen in 2015, when the Court is expected to take up the case and when, if all goes well, Scalia will write an explosive dissent, in which he will desperately yearn to be transported to some other year, like 1815.
Pot also went right in 2014. This is the underplayed story of the year. Not that pot finally became legal — nobody underplayed that — but that so much of it went right.
This was the year of the great experiment, in which you’d have expected some real screw-ups. Certainly, real screw-ups were predicted this time a year ago. How would a cash business that was illegal everywhere else go legit overnight? Would consumers consume responsibly — at least while driving? Would Colorado become a laughingstock? And if so, would companies refuse to move here? And if they did, would Bob Beauprez get elected governor?
So much could have gone wrong. And while there were certainly issues, it could hardly have been anticipated that the biggest problem would be when Maureen Dowd confused an edible with a Snickers bar.
Everyone was watching. And a few more states not only watched, but also voted to legalize. And the wrongheaded war on drugs may have finally begun its long retreat, if you don’t count the border war with Oklahoma and Nebraska.
And, yes, let us not forget the Jefferson County School Board fiasco, in which board member Julie Williams demanded that AP U.S. history must emphasize the “positive aspects of the United States and its history,” meaning, of course, to make that work in JeffCo, you’d have to erase everything that Williams said from the record.
But here’s the best part: When Williams is asked which positive aspects of history weren’t being taught, she admitted she didn’t really know enough about the course to say. We should have known that already. It was Williams who said she wanted to eliminate materials from the AP course that would “encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law,” which would have eliminated teaching, say, the Boston Tea Party or Rosa Parks. It can happen.
So what went right?
Teachers began with sick-outs. Hundreds of students walked out of school day after day in protest. And so it became a national story, as people around the country contributed to the hashtag of the year — #JeffCoSchoolBoardHistory. As in, “By ‘Ludlow Massacre,’ they meant ‘Ludlow Disagreement.’” Or, “If it wasn’t for a ban on high-capacity magazines, Davy Crockett would have held the Alamo.”
Instead of just learning history, students made some.
As did Mark Udall. For much of the year, it seemed the only thing Udall would be remembered for is losing. He didn’t just lose to Cory Gardner in Colorado’s high-stakes U.S. Senate race. He was ripped by the Denver Post editorial board for running an “obnoxious” campaign. In a debate, a moderator tagged him as “Senator Uterus.” And though Democrats lost in states around the country, Udall was somehow seen as a special case.
And then, came the speech. Despite what you might have read in the Post, Udall was at the center of getting the torture report executive summary released. He argued over redactions. He threatened to read the entire report into the record. And then when the summary was released, he still wasn’t satisfied. And so he slammed President Barack Obama and he slammed the CIA.
The money shot: “That’s not good enough. We need to be better than that. There can be no cover-up. There can be no excuses. If there is no moral leadership from the White House helping the public understand that the CIA’s torture program wasn’t necessary and didn’t save lives or disrupt terrorist plots, then what’s to stop the next White House and CIA director from supporting torture?”
It was the best moment for a Colorado politician all year. You think anyone in 2015 will do better?
Mike Littwin runs Sundays in The Aspen Times. A former columnist for the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post, he currently writes for ColoradoIndependent.com.
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