There was a fundraiser for Senator Bennet this evening at KC Becker's house in Boulder. I've never been to one of these so I went to see what is was like (and had permission from the campaign to blog about it).
It was snowing like crazy but if that reduced turnout, then it's a good thing because the house was bursting at the seams. It was very much the Boulder political elite - older, whiter, and extremely liberal - and I'm talking by Boulder standards. (Boulder may have a lot of positive attributes - but the lack of diversity by any measure is not one of them.)
When Michael arrives he is moving toward the center of the house as rapidly as he politely can while shaking hands and saying hi to everyone who reaches out to him. But there is one kid along the way and he stops and talks to her for half a minute. So the most face time went to the one non-voter in the house. I think that speaks very well of him as a human being - he clearly likes kids.
Ok, so then we got to the strip-tease. Off comes the jacket, off come the shoes, ... - well actually the jacket went off because he was hot and the shoes because he had to stand on a stool so most could see him. But how often do you get to talk about a Senator using the phrase "then we got to the strip-tease?"
First came the stump speech. A cute personal one about John McCain and one of his daughters. Then discussing the issues we face. He spoke a bit on healthcare, climate change, education, the economy, and a couple of other standard issues. But it was interesting that two items did not come up - jobs & the Wall St/Main St divide. Yet these are probably going to be the two largest issues in the campaign.
We then got in to the Q&A. Bennet gives long substantive answers. And he speaks to the question asked. I really like that in our elected representatives - it shows that they are willing to treat us as adults as well as engage on the issues. Also kudos to the questioners - only a couple preached in their questions or went on over-long. And only one person had her phone on who got a call (and then tried to pretend for ½ minute it wasn't hers - as it kept ringing & ringing).
On a lot of the questions, along with answering the question he discussed the political climate today. This discussion was what I found the most interesting. He no longer watches cable TV because he finds it an "echo chamber of nonsense - both sides." (I'll agree with that except for the two most thoughtful news shows on cable - The Daily Show & The Colbert Report.)
He also talked about how the "special interests cling to the status quo for dear life" worried about what change means for them. This gives us a system where everyone is trying to stop any change. This is an interesting (and possibly spot-on) observation because it means that everyone is trying to stop everything, not just protect the specifics each directly finds useful. That would explain a lot about Washington approaching total gridlock - a lot of groups want total gridlock.
He brought up the problem Republicans in Congress face where they are "scared to death" of a challenge from the fringe right - and that Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck have inordinate power because they can rile up that fringe and primary them. Because of this, the discussion in Congress is no longer a war of ideas but rather the Republicans viewing each proposal as a chance to wage war on the Democrats and gain the approval of their base.
This also is a very good point. Rush Limbaugh & Glen Beck make a lot of money by making people feel alienated and afraid. It is in their direct financial interest to have the political system degenerate as much as possible. We've always had people like this - but now we have them as the primary power in the Republican party rather than a fringe that was mostly ignored. This is really bad news for both the country and the Republican party. And until the Republican party gets a new William F Buckley & Ronald Reagan (both cast the nut cases out), we're going to continue with this mess.
He was asked about AfPak and this crowd clearly was hostile to the idea of any troops over there. He talked to the impossibility of success there based on history, yet also why leaving was an even worse scenario. He spoke directly to this, including why he supports Obama's plan and is hopeful, but will continue to evaluate how things are going there.
I then asked him about our giving the banks gigantic amounts of money and the banks turned around and awarded themselves large bonuses - and how from a political perspective this was incredibly damaging in that we gave, they took, and there was no shared sacrifice. He agreed that this will be a giant issue in the campaign, talked well about why it legitimately is and why the actions of the banks were "horrible." But he then said he "doesn't have an answer." It's worrisome that for what will probably be the number two campaign issue (after jobs), he doesn't have an answer. My guess is Jane Norton will.
So there you go. He worked the crowd very well by giving full & complete answers to their questions. And it was a very friendly & enthusiastic crowd. So all pretty much as expected. And he clearly comes across as a quality candidate and Senator.
On the flip side, he did not do much to differentiate himself from either Romanoff or Norton. And he has never run for office before. Will he learn how to draw those distinctions effectively - because that does require brutal warfare. Norton has done that. I'm hoping that the primary gets a lot more physical so Bennet can get trained in the primary rather than the general.
first published at Michael Bennet Fundraiser