Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content In a democracy, lasting change can start at the very bottom

Clay Turner Published: September 15, 2013

Whether it's a natural disaster, a drop in the stock market or a political speech, in any event of national consequence, the media rushes to tell us what we just witnessed.

In the case of the recall of state Senate President John Morse, we saw either: (A) an abuse of the political process, (B) a waste of scarce public resources, (C) an ugly affair involving nefarious outside interests bullying beloved public officials, or (D) an inconsequential spasm of voter pique against a term-limited politician that didn't change the balance of power at the state Capitol, anyway.

(Late-breaking: A "voter suppression" conspiracy theory is also gaining ground with at least one ex-senator from Pueblo.)

Well, I was there from the beginning, and this is what I saw:

On a grim Sunday afternoon this winter, I drove to the east side of Colorado Springs to attend an organizational meeting for anyone who wanted to recall John Morse. The parking lot was jammed with SUVs and dually trucks looking for a parking spot.

Inside were about 200 working-class Coloradans. The dress code was jeans, ball caps, boots and Stetsons. There was no buffet table, no sound system and no PowerPoint. There was just this one guy, dressed like he'd just come from a convention of welders, talking about recalling John Morse and groping for a way to organize this ungainly gathering of political novices.

I asked how we could make a donation. They didn't even know how to take my money.

No NRA, no party officials, no Koch brothers; just these earnest people politely raising their hands, asking questions and scribbling their contact info onto clipboards.

It was the most humbling demonstration of democracy at work that I have ever witnessed.

They were energized by anger at their own senator, John Morse, who sneered at their beliefs in self-reliance and personal responsibility. He had bragged about ignoring their calls and emails. These were the kind of people who knew disrespect when they saw it.

Over the next few months, they were called sex offenders and threatened with criminal investigation. They survived legal challenges at every turn. The Denver Post called their cause a "perversion." Michael Bloomberg and company outspent them by a margin of 8-1.

Against all expectations, they accomplished the first recall of a state legislator in Colorado history.

Similarly in Pueblo, ex-Sen. Angela Giron (see "voter suppression" above) was KO'd by a tattooed 29-year-old plumber-turned-activist. How can you not root for these people?

Those who thought they held the strings of power have been caught flat-footed. They've been reminded that the real glory of a democracy is that lasting change doesn't come from the top down; it comes from the bottom up.

Morse tried vainly to save face in defeat, saying, "The highest rank in a democracy is citizen, not senate president." He's right, but I doubt he appreciates the great irony in his statement: that those whom Morse was elected to serve were the ones who just gave him his final promotion.

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Clay Turner is the creative director for NRA's America's First Freedom magazine and a 16-year resident of Colorado Springs.

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