Marolt: The pursuit of division
May 19, 2013
Who am I? I was for the new Aspen Club and against the Lift 1A development. I am against tall buildings downtown but was also against the emergency legislation that sought to halt the creation of more of it. I am for open space but against the S-curves. I am for exploring alternative sources of energy but against hydroelectric in Castle and Maroon creeks.
I am for employee housing but against building more of it. I was against the plastic-grocery-bag ban but for Mick Ireland. I am for Aspen Skiing Co. but against Aspen Skiing Co. Who am I?
OK, I is me … am me …whatever. The real question is, "What am I?" Am I an Aspen "conservative" or "liberal"? Let me say that nobody cares except the people who made a big deal out of analyzing the results of the recent City Council and mayoral election. They categorized all candidates as either liberal or conservative. They used the old local yardstick: If you have anything to do with the real estate business, you are a conservative. If you drive a Subaru and clean up after your dog, you are a liberal. Fair enough, we all do some version of this analysis even just sitting next to Wagner Park people-watching.
I don't like the next step they took, though. After sticking the candidates into one of the two groups, they suggested that, if the total votes for all the candidates in both categories were pooled into those two categories, the "conservatives" actually would have won the election rather than the "liberals." Oh, brother.
The suggestion is that some candidates should have dropped out of the race so that we would have been left with only one candidate from each "party" to vote for, and in this way, the true will of the voters would have prevailed. This is desirable because, as we all know, there are always only two possible views on every issue.
You do understand that this is the way politics are handled on a national level, right? I do, and that's why I loathe the idea. Party politics has done for our country what vinegar and oil did for salad dressing. Nothing happens unless things get shaken up, or else we end up settling for an alternative gooey mess like Thousand Island.
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One special thing about Aspen is that for every issue, there are about 5,000 different opinions about it, and there are almost as many opportunities to have yours heard if you want it to be. It's as easy as going to a local coffee shop and burning up a morning or as moderately challenging as getting a few hundred people to sign a petition so that you can officially burn up an entire spring or fall campaigning to get elected to office so that you are guaranteed primetime on GrassRoots Television pontificating at City Council meetings.
Now, here's the thing I don't want to see happen with all of those opinions: I don't want to see this town split in half so that two groups can boil down all the ideas flowing through here into two freeze-dried powders that get reconstituted every election cycle into something without taste and of only minimal nutritional value.
I think it's hopeful that we generally don't have candidates dropping out of races to yield their passions and beliefs to the campaign that is the best organized and most highly funded that kind of sort of is most closely aligned with some of the things they believe in. It is proof that the election analysts are wrong, that we are not a town so easily categorized as liberals and conservatives, that the will of the people is arrived at not through just two cookie-cut choices but rather homemade lumpy dough that comes out differently every time it's baked, half or completely through.
When Steve Skadron and Torre continue to debate instead of capitulate, it's proof that there is no such thing as the "The Liberal Machine." It's just hard, door-to-door work and a willingness to suffer tired ears and feet that is necessary to get elected here, after all. When candidates represent a political spectrum as varied as the colors of a rainbow instead of black-and-white party doctrine, it's proof that they aren't conspiring to punish half the town but rather are pursuing their beliefs. When our town doesn't allow itself to be divided into two general political camps, it assures us that we are pursuing preservation of the place we love rather than simply trying to prevent those we don't agree with from winning the game.
Roger Marolt believes he is a social liberal and fiscal conservative, except for when he's not. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.