A Colorado Road Trip
by Ari Armstrong, July 7, 2005
Maybe Coloradans would get along better if Denver became its own state, bringing Boulder and the 'burbs along with it. Then the rest of Colorado could establish its own seat of government in Fort Collins or Grand Junction or Colorado Springs (or perhaps make it revolving). The folks in the new state of Denver could raise taxes to their hearts' content, restrict guns, ban new development, ban smoking, and passing all manner of goofy regulations. And the rest of us (for I would surely move within the new boundaries of Colorado) could live in peace and relative freedom. If the states are supposed to be laboratories of democracy, splitting Colorado would provide the best experiment of the last century.
If Denver remained business-friendly, it would continue to be the economic heart of the region. But I imagine the Denver legislature would quickly make a mess of things, which would result in new economic centers in (new) Colorado, surrounding Denver state. Legislators from Denver and Boulder have some nice personal-liberties sentiments on some issues, but they seem to have learned much of their economics from quacks like Marx and Keynes.
Whether the issue is a Presidential election, a state-wide election, a spending hike, or a gun restriction, usually the Denver area is on one side, while the rest of Colorado is on the other (except, perhaps, for a few rich resort towns). Might an amicable divorce solve the problem?
Fantasy, no doubt. But I recently drove around the state and marveled at the fantastic diversity that is Colorado. How could two cities be more different from each other than the People's Republic of Boulder is from the Christian military town of Colorado Springs? My wife and I, along with Brian Schwartz, a graduate student at the University of Colorado at Boulder, spent a long weekend last month driving through Colorado Springs, west to Durango, then north to Grand Junction to hit I-70 home.
In Colorado Springs, we stayed with Steve Gresh, an activist with the Republican Liberty Caucus. We went with Steve to hear Vin Suprynowicz, who works on the editorial pages of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He was pitching his new book, The Black Arrow, "a tale of freedom and fertility, of rebellion and revenge."
The Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition (PPFC) hosted the event. A state legislator, the district attorney, a Congressional assistant, and the editorial editor of The Gazette attended. Suprynowicz talked about the right to own a gun, the abuses of political power, the folly of national ID, and the absurdity of the recent Supreme Court ruling against medical marijuana. Bernie Herpin, president of PPFC, said Denver risked becoming a "feudal city state" by trying to deny its citizens Constitutional protections of gun ownership.
The next day we dropped off Brian in Dolores, near the Anasazi Heritage Center, where a friend he was visiting works. Backtracking to Durango, I was reminded that such towns are home to pot-smoking ski bums and mountain lefties as well as cowboys and conservatives. But mountain lefties generally are different from city-slicker lefties; the rugged ones are usually more protective of individual liberties and more skeptical of centralized political power.
On Saturday, June 11, my wife and I joined friends in Cortez for the local rodeo. I've been to a rodeo before (in Pendleton, Oregon), but a small-town rodeo is more visceral. Sitting that close, you can see the cowboys getting kicked in the gut by the horse, you can hear the calf thud on the ground after the roper snags its neck. I imagined what it would be like to watch the rodeo with Boulder's prairie-dog lovers.
The rodeo opened with a prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Star Spangled Banner. It closed with God Bless America and thanks that we could congregate without the fear of terrorism. The clown was named Hollywood. He made fun of Britney Spears, L.A. gangs, and Bill Clinton. (When somebody asked Clinton why he was wearing women's underpants around his arm, he said, "I'm trying to quit, so I'm on the patch.") The rodeo was diverse; the Latino, Chicano, and American Indian attendance was strong, and several black families joined the crowd.
After a day spent contemplating the mysteries of Mesa Verde and eating terrific Mexican food at Tequilas, we headed out the next morning to Telluride to met Bill Masters for a late breakfast. Masters is the sheriff of San Miguel County. We talked about his work as sheriff and as a security consultant. And we talked about a controversy in Telluride about recruiting local students for military service.
Masters wondered about the attitude that apparently relied on poorer people elsewhere to serve in the military.
We continued on to Grand Junction, near where I grew up. We joined my dad at the Far East restaurant, where a group of good ol' boys gathers over coffee to tell jokes, discuss business, and talk politics. News of the verdict in Michael Jackson's case arrived with one of the guys. The group split over the wisdom of the not-guilty decision, but it reached consensus that Jackson is one peculiar dude. After dropping in on my grandmother, whose house overlooks the orchards she and her husband used to own, we sprinted home.
The same city lefties in Denver and Boulder who worry about whether Europeans like Americans don't seem to give a damn about what people elsewhere in the state think about the metro crowd. Yet, while creating a new state of Denver might be good for the rest of Colorado, there's also some benefit to getting these really different sorts of people together. Especially for Denver and Boulder.