Here in Colorado, some are asking why many of the candidates for U.S. Senate, and the women in particular, are staying in the race when John Hickenlooper, the former governor of Colorado, has been endorsed and anointed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in Washington, D.C.
Though I cannot speak for others, the reason is pretty straightforward for me. Hickenlooper has been a best friend to the oil and gas industry. I am concerned that he may not be the sort of candidate who will attract voters who are concerned about the climate crisis, especially younger voters and people in vulnerable communities.
With Hickenlooper, industry has exceptional cover; he promoted oil and gas drilling in neighborhoods and rural areas alike; he sued cities that wanted to keep fracking out of their backyards, and he caused Colorado to punch above its weight by contributing to climate catastrophe and drilling as if there was no tomorrow.
I believe that the DSCC made a misstep by anointing Hickenlooper straight out of the gate. In a sense, they created their own spoiler. If they had not given Hickenlooper this tremendous boost, a sort of false start, he would have been forced to campaign like the rest of us, fighting the good fight, and voters could observe what sort of support he, like the rest of us, could generate on his own.
Cory Gardner will be defeated, and it will happen without DSCC interference. Why? Because in order to win, we must all pay attention to what citizens want. A Colorado College State of the Rockies 2019 Conservation in the West Survey found that 77% of Coloradans think that climate change is a serious or a very serious concern.
If the DSCC was intent on endorsing a candidate who is similar to the incumbent Democrat who was defeated last time by Cory Gardner, why not take some time to see how things play out in the lengthy primary season?
It was a risky choice to choose Hickenlooper without understanding the sentiment that people in the environmental community and beyond feel toward him. The DSCC hit the panic button and created a crisis when there had been none.
Young people and progressives, in particular, need to know that candidates are listening and speaking for them. With youth climate protests happening worldwide, now would be a good time to start paying attention.
We have a unique opportunity at this moment in history that will likely not come again. As the environmental journalist Bill McKibben wrote, “Climate change is a timed test, one of the first that our civilization has faced, and with each scientific report the window narrows.”
The focus on climate is being fueled by hundreds of thousands of young people. Now is the time for action. Now is not the time for praise, for endorsement or for empty words. Now is the time for sacrifice. Greta Thunberg is right.
And what is the Democratic party’s plan for bringing young voters into the fold? Doesn’t seem like they have a plan. Younger voters are willing to do the hard work of marching and protesting and organizing but when it comes to voting, many just say, “Nah ah.” Why is that?
It is bad enough to sit home because no candidate fully supports their values, but it is even worse if communities of color and youth sit out on election day because they have been ignored, have no spokesperson, have been treated as if they were invisible.
Elections are often determined by those who don’t vote. People sit out because they believe the system is stacked against them and that their opinions, their concerns, carry no weight and are not heard.
Political campaigns encourage the disenchanted to register their protest by not voting in subtle and not so subtle ways. That is why people of color, the young, progressives, are targets. Many don’t feel represented by the Republican platform but they also don’t feel inspired by Democrats.
There are several in the U.S. Senate race in Colorado who claim to be climate champions but have not done the heavy lifting that is required in defense of climate.
Some have actively joined with oil and gas to defeat measures that would have reigned in oil and gas. In 2014, some candidates and current representatives joined with oil and gas and Gov. Hickenlooper to drop measures that would have given Colorado an environmental bill of rights and a 2,000-foot setback.
That was thousands of drilling permits ago. If more candidates had supported 2016 ballot initiatives and Prop. 112 — a 2018 ballot measure that would have kept fracking out of neighborhoods — they likely would have passed. This is exactly the kind of failure of courage which will cause people to lose faith in the democratic process and stay home on Election Day.
I imagine oil and gas proponents have given one another high fives with the Hickenlooper announcement by the DSCC. They must have felt they hit the jackpot.
They know that it is likely that they will lose a Republican seat in Colorado but they may get Hickenlooper as the consolation prize. It’s a win-win for them; they couldn’t have hoped for a better scenario. And of course, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Gardner could defeat Hickenlooper or someone like him.
Women are often told to hold their tongues, and men are told to get in line. I am not going to back down and by the look of it, neither are several other candidates. So it’s the DSCC’s move. I believe that they should consider taking back their endorsement and allow the primary to proceed as it should, democratically.
I’m a psychologist, not a politician and as such, I have a somewhat different perspective when trying to understand popular opinion. One thing is for certain; popular opinion is sometimes not very popular.
Diana Bray, Psy.D., psychologist, mother, and climate advocate, is running for U.S. Senate in Colorado.