People vote by dropping off their ballots in the final day before Election Day in Denver on Nov. 2, 2020. (Kevin Mohatt, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will take the oath of office on Jan. 20, but the massive voter support for Donald J. Trump in this election showed that the American electorate maintains a selfish disposition with a tendency toward self-destruction.  

The president continues to allege fraud in the election, without evidence.  He and his enablers will push the envelope of legal argument to de-legitimize the election results.  Meanwhile, Congress may remain deadlocked and the Supreme Court has become nothing more than a political football in the eyes of the public (thanks, Sen. Mitch McConnell). 

In other words, Rome is burning.

Casey Martin

This is a scary time, no doubt about it.  And, a large chunk of us, when given the chance to turn back from the brink, jammed down the accelerator a la “Thelma & Louise.”  The alternative to Trump was another old white man – moderate, Catholic, with a history of working with Republicans.  

Democrats shied away from their progressive base in an attempt to extend the olive branch.  They put up an honorable, empathetic public servant.  Still, a large swath of Americans threw their support behind a serial liar who destroys hard-won democratic norms on a daily basis.

Colorado (literally on fire all summer long) did its level best to douse the flames.  We showed that we understand the stakes.  We showed that we don’t just vote the party line, but settle on the candidates best for the job who represent us and what we value.  

Coloradans have the opportunity (obligation, perhaps) to be first responders in this seemingly endless firefight.  Coloradans understand the desire to be free to live a life they choose.  The pioneering spirit of their past lives on in the hundreds of thousands of “imports” who continue to flock to the Centennial State, my family included.  

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But, as our population grows, our resources become strained and working folks are priced out of the market, Coloradans must also understand that one woman’s freedom can become another’s burden.

Sen.-elect John Hickenlooper and Sen. Michael Bennet are proven firefighters – problem solvers, not flamethrowers – but they have a lot of work to do here in Colorado, and in Washington, D.C.  They have to show Republicans and independents that they understand the fear that their state and nation seem to be changing in ways that impede their chosen way of life.  At the same time, they must address the fears of younger people that, without big change, our chosen ways of life hang in the balance. 

Sen. Cory Gardner made Colorado proud on election night delivering a gracious and hopeful concession speech.  In a normal year, maybe he wins re-election.  But, because he was forced to take sides in an unpopular impeachment, and any conservative vote was deemed “supporting Donald Trump,” Coloradans threw him out with the bath water.  

Sen. Gardner missed some opportunities to fight the fire and endear himself to moderate Democrats and independents by voting against a real impeachment trial, and for a Supreme Court nominee just days before a presidential election.  However, Sen. Gardner is an asset to Colorado, he has a role to play if there is to be any reconciliation after this election, and he’s off to a good start.

Political firefighters are in short supply these days, and as long as Mr. Trump is the standard bearer for approximately half of the electorate, the conflagration may be too strong to snuff out.  

Some dismiss criticism of the president as irrational “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” but his tactics are undeniably selfish, rip scabs off of old wounds, and incite division.  If that is what roughly half of America wants, the flames will continue to spread.  

Now that Joe Biden will be our 46th president, let’s hope that cooler heads prevail, and the country looks west to Colorado for cues – hire more firefighters.

Casey Martin is an attorney in Buena Vista.

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