Marolt: The runoff has peaked. Good riddance!

Roger Marolt
Roger This

When I finagled my way into writing this column a decade ago, using that ol’ one-bullet-in-the-chamber persuasion of “since you can’t stop me from stirring the pot of letters to the editor with a pen-shaped spoon and a nom de plume, you’ll be better off hiring me,” I was idealistic.

There was a lone aspen growing at a 45-degree angle to the south out in the pasture along Brush Creek that I believed beckoned me to recline against it on warm afternoons to ponder things before spinning ideas into golden words of wisdom as birds chirped and gentle breezes dried my forehead as needed.

I was wrong. Idealism is the fuel for poets and the folly of politicians. For the rest of us, it is better avoided altogether. I soon learned that aspen trees grow at extreme angles when they sprout among big rocks, grassy fields look lusher from a distance, breezes are gusts working up momentum and ants are not sympathetic about writer’s block or deadlines. I am sure nobody ever will write anything worth reading from beneath that inviting tree that still stands alone along Brush Creek Road.

I have learned that good writing doesn’t happen in the oak-paneled study at midnight over a glass of expensive port wine, neither of which I have access to, much less in a scenic meadow unconsciously running a quill over a Moleskine pad. I’ve found that the most inspirational place for me is the breakfast table at 5 a.m. if the dog doesn’t get up with me. It’s usually too dark to see anything, so I am forced to use imagination.

It’s from here that I write today. Imagination and the quality of writing notwithstanding, a high and mighty Aspen idea must go. The runoff election has proved to be a waste. It is a waste of time, money and newsprint. It creates another layer of political friction that has proven to further stress our community already so fractured as to be pitied by Humpty Dumpty. Locally, it has never changed the outcome of an original election, and many people don’t think it should, anyway. I’m with them.

Think of the fodder for fighting if a second-place finisher in the first election should happen to win in a runoff. Assuming that all of the original supporters cast their votes for the same remaining contenders, that would mean the original election result is overturned by people choosing their second-, third-, fourth- or nth-favorite candidate. The touchy-feely side of me itches over this thought.

The thing that really doesn’t sit well about these redo elections is the underlying premise that the voters are stupid and if they could only see that they are throwing away their votes on candidates that have no chance of winning, the bona fide proper person would be elected. It’s like the original election is nothing more than an exercise to prove this point to the simpletons.

“Oh, I get it now. My candidate really didn’t have a shot at winning, so, yeah, let’s revote so I can back some realistic ideals.” The runoff election system was designed to eliminate free thinking. I can see it no other way. Yes, they give the creative nonconformists lip service about the democratic process and allow them to participate in a real election atmosphere without the possibility of doing any actual damage to the status quo or cause anyone to think about what they are saying. After the charade of the formal but meaningless Election Day, we are left to choose between two mainstream candidates, whether we like them second best or not at all. If they ever set out to devise a plan of how to get voters uninterested in the electoral process, I would point to the runoff election and declare that this already has done it for me.

Personally, I think people know darn well when they are casting their votes for a candidate who doesn’t stand an Andrew Kole’s chance in Aspen of winning. A vote for somebody other than the two most popular candidates says something. That’s the way some voters want it. There’s no point in putting someone you don’t love into office with too much confidence, like they might get if they win a runoff and unavoidably garner more than 50 percent of the vote.

It’s OK to move away from high ideals in the interest of practicality, which, come to think of it, might be even more idealistic. Anyway, we learn from experience. A tree in a field might be a better place to think and write from if you can make it into a table and set a cup of coffee on it.

Roger Marolt can get behind voting early and voting often, but he doesn’t like to have to do it again a month later. Contact him at


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