What’s Called For

When you have to write a column a couple of days in advance, there’s always a danger of being overtaken by events.

This one didn’t even make it to 400 words.

“THEY CALLED PENNSYLVANIA!!” Heather shouted from the bedroom as I wrote on Saturday morning.

My brain abruptly turned into a train derailment as my fingers skidded to a stop.

“You’re kidding!” I called back.

“No! NBC, CNN, now ABC …”

I looked at my incomplete draft. And then reached for the backspace key.

Maybe I ought to buy that lottery ticket after all.

Like most of us, I had gotten used to the thought that “Call Me” might be a nice Blondie song, but it was unlikely to be seen in real life for quite some time. After all, this is how it works, right? Trickle of votes, adjust the lead, back to the count. Trickle of votes, adjust the lead, back to the count. Over and over in an endless news cycle, sort of like Peter Jennings meets Bill Murray.

To be honest, the catch-and-release pattern gave me a rueful chuckle. This used to be my former life as a newspaper reporter. In the Super Bowl-like enthusiasm of Election Day – marked by newsrooms with high adrenaline and higher pizza bills – there would always be at least one race that would defy deadlines. In a ballot full of easy calls and quick turnarounds, you would somehow draw the one that looked you in the eye and screamed “Meaningful results? TONIGHT? HAHAHAHAHA! See you in the morning, sucker!”

So yes, this is familiar. It’s just on a larger scale.

It’s also more challenging.

As a reporter, I had a job to do, a story to write at the end of it all. As a voter, it’s less obvious. After all, we’ve done our job, right? We made our call, said our say, and now we can finally be thrilled, or disappointed, or eager to see if armies of lawyers can manage to beat each other to death with briefcases.

But it’s not that simple.

When the election ends, our job is just getting started.

There’s been a lot written lately about peaceful transitions of power. That’s not just a courtesy – it’s a recognition that elective offices are under a permanent job review. Fortunes can change as easily as the tides, yesterday’s “outs” can be tomorrow’s “ins,” and when it’s your turn, you had better show the same grace on the way out that you hope to receive on the way back in.

And that job review? That’s us. Regardless of party. Regardless of faction.

And that goes on long beyond a cast-and-counted ballot.

It means watching the people we choose, and not just as a fan club. It means separating truth from fiction, learning what’s going on, learning what it means for people beyond our own sliver of the world. Not silencing our voice, but learning to hear the voices of others as well. As any choir will tell you, that’s the only way to create harmony.

It means holding people accountable for their actions, even the ones on our “team.” I use the quotes, because our real team is ultimately the country itself. No one deserves our blind support. Praise what makes us better, challenge what makes us worse, and always look for a way to bring more light and less pain to the world.

I’ve said it before – this country is never finished. We need to make sure the next chapter is one we can all be proud of. Even if we have to rewrite it in midstream.

Now and always, that is our calling.

A “Feud”-ile Struggle?

The smoke has been so thick it’s felt like fog.

The wind has been barreling through like an invading army.

The national news has felt stranger every day, and the news from friends and family has had its own strains to bear.

The way this year is going … I swear I can hear the voice of Steve Harvey.

I promise, I haven’t lost my mind after too much homebound exposure to the Game Show Network. And yes, I know the reigning joke on the internet is that 2020 has been a real-life “Jumanji,” with each month revealing a new and more dangerous level to the living game.

But if this year hasn’t been “Family Feud” in action, then what is it?

I’m sure you remember the setup. You have families scrambling against each other for what often turns out to be an incredibly small reward. You have heat-of-the-moment guesses that often produce groans or contagious laughter. And most of all, you have The Board.

STEVE HARVEY: “100 people surveyed, top five answers on the board. Name the next disaster that’s coming down the pike in 2020.”

CONTESTANT: (Buzzer slam) “Invasion by killer clowns!”

STEVE HARVEY: “Send in the clowns!”

SURVEY BOARD: “Bing!!!” (Reveals no. 1 answer)

What’s made Family Feud stand out over the years is that it’s a game of anticipating trends. Being a master of trivia doesn’t help. You don’t have to be a good speller, or willing to take on a bizarre dare, or even be blindly lucky. All you have to do is predict what’s likely to be up there, even if it’s completely at odds with what you’d expect.

If you’re good at putting yourself into someone else’s shoes, it can be easy to score big. If you’re not, it can seem almost bizarrely random. And either way, the only way to survive is to try to guess what’s coming next.

Yeah, this is sounding more familiar by the minute.

We anticipate what our neighbors might need and try to help. We think about what our neighbors might do and plan accordingly. (“A restaurant on a holiday weekend? Maaaybe not.”) And as the answers get revealed one by one, we’re often guessing as best as we can to try to keep up, wondering “how many people expected this?”

Maybe that’s why it sometime feels a little hopeless – like we’re reacting to events instead of making choices.

And that’s why I’m encouraged by at least one turn of events in “2020: The Home Edition.”

Namely, the massive voter turnout we’ve started to see, this early in.

As of Friday, Colorado’s early voter turnout was 24 times what it had been in 2016. Twenty-four times! And we haven’t been unique – across the country, folks have been lining up to cast a ballot and make a choice.

That’s not the act of a hopeless population.

People can turn out to vote when they’re inspired. Or when they’re angry. Or when they see a job that needs to be done or a change that needs to be made. There are a hundred different motives you can ascribe to a large turnout, but not one of them is “despair.”

Because voting, by its nature, is a fundamentally hopeful act.

To vote is to say “I can change what’s on the board.”

For once, a piece of 2020 is in our own hands.

I know. It’s a small piece. But small pieces accumulate. And if enough of us have the confidence to make our voices heard – to be a part of the outcome instead of just waiting for it to happen – we can put our own answer up to the times we’re facing.

Together, we can make the game our own. For all of us.

Survey says?

Fighting for Indecision

On Friday came the news that I had been waiting for. Probably many of you, as well.

“Your Boulder County ballot has been mailed,” the email read. “Look for it in your mailbox soon!”

Finally. The last lap was in sight.

In recent years, most of us have had enough election fatigue to fill a book, and that volume is called “The Neverending Story.” No sooner does one campaign drag itself to an end than the next one sprints out of the starting blocks, demanding our attention. (And money. Never forget money.)

It’s not that we don’t care. If anything, the opposite has been true lately. People have gotten more passionate about their politics than ever – some from seeing just how much difference these choices can make to themselves and their loved ones, others from the sort of team loyalty that the Broncos used to excite when their roster was longer than their disabled list. We’re paying attention. We’re caring. We’re engaged.

We’re also very, very tired.

Some of it is doing all of this in the middle of Pandemic Land, of course. Captain America himself would be more than a little drained in his patriotic duties after dealing with the everyday realities of COVID-19 and its ripple effects. But there’s more to the picture than that.

And the biggest part of that picture is called certainty.

Colorado has had mail ballots for several years now. In most of those years, I have waited until the last possible day to fill out and hand-deliver my vote. Why? A desire for complete information – or, as I’ve always liked to put it, “I want to give the candidates the maximum opportunity to screw up before I make up my mind.”

There were always positions to be weighed, nuances to be studied, details to be considered. Even in the pre-mail ballot era, I could sometimes take a while – at my first-ever presidential election, in 1992, I wasn’t completely sure who my choice would be until three days before Election Day.

That’s not a problem this year.

I suspect that’s not a problem for a lot of us.

This year, my ballot’s likely to be returned within a day or so of getting it. And I know I’m not the only one. A recent poll from Quinnipiac University found just 5 percent of voters were undecided – a five-point drop from the same moment in 2016. The lines are sharply drawn, the issues clearly demarked and for most of us, the choices were made long ago.

Which, of course, is one reason why the voices have been louder than ever. Why the stakes have felt so high. And why there’s been such a desire to just get on with it – and at the same time, an anxiety about what that might mean.

At its best, politics is the principle that “talking is better than fighting,” to quote an old professor of mine. It’s meant to be a way for people who don’t always agree to find common ground, or at least to work out how to move forward together.

But lately, it’s felt like just one step above war. And a short step at that.

I want my indecision back.

I want to be able to look at two candidates and say “Hm, I like what he said there but she’s got a point.”

I want to be able to consider a win or loss without dread. Trepidation, sure. That’s part of the game. But without a fear that either of the players is going to overturn the board.

I think we can get back to a place like that. Not quickly. Not easily. Not without work. But if enough of us want it, if enough of us choose it – both on the ballot and in how we live our everyday lives – we can get there.

We’re tired. We’re worried. But we can still make a difference.

Watch that mailbox.

Our next step comes now.

Un-Conventional

The flash commanded immediate attention, filling the bay window for a dazzling instant. And then came the signature.

KRA-KA-BOOOOM!

If you were in Longmont on Friday evening, you know exactly what I’m talking about – a window-rattling, house-shaking thunder burst fit for a Beethoven video. The sort of close strike that makes you wonder what just blew up, or when the invasion began.

I gave a nervous glance to my front yard maple tree – untouched, thank goodness – and to social media, which was lighting up even faster than the sky had. But the skies themselves had other business; with their Big Boom out of the way, the agenda had moved on to a gentle rain rather than an extended battle.

Which in turn meant peace in Chez Rochat. Our mighty dog Big Blake, known to cower under desks on the Fourth of July, was on to his usual food-swiping and eye-begging ways within moments. Our disabled ward Missy, who jumps and yells at the sound of a backfiring motorcycle, kept rocking out to the tunes on her stereo.

There had been plenty of buzz. Lots of chatter. But no lasting effect.

This time of year, that seems especially appropriate.

Right at the close of convention season.

I spent 16 years as a newspaper reporter, most of it covering governments of one kind or another. I used to joke that it was a lot like following a soap opera: when you first sit down, the actions seems utterly incomprehensible, but over time it becomes addictive as you start to understand the characters and the plots.

Even so, I never saw the point of a national convention. To torture the metaphor a little further, it always felt like a “sweeps week” – a chance to juice the ratings and draw in some casual fans with a gimmicky plot that had little relation to the rest of the season.

Granted, that’s a recent thing. Once upon a time, the national party conventions were the ultimate bargaining table. History could be made with a quick deal that swung enough delegates behind your candidate. A potential president might emerge to find half his cabinet already filled from backroom promises or standing on a party platform with a few curious planks to bring in the stragglers.

These days, thanks to the greater weight of primary elections, everyone knows who the major-party nominees will be long before Day 1 of either convention. The event is no longer a bargaining session – it’s a week-long ad meant to generate a “bump” in the polls. And with one convention following hard on the heels of the other, the bumps have been getting smaller and shorter-lived.

It’s a thunder burst. Flashy. Noisy. But not really good for anything except a moment’s brief attention.

The lasting work in any storm comes from the rain. The sustained effort that actually grows something.

That’s where we come in.

Elections don’t need conventions. But they do need informed voters. Individuals who pay attention for longer than a few speeches and sound bites. Citizens who care not just about who wins, but about where we’re going  and why.

Grass needs rain. Democracy needs us.

I know, it sounds idealistic. It always has. But if enough of us dedicate ourselves to repairing what’s broken and even building something better, a difference can be made. Not easily. Not without a struggle. But not without hope, either.

The rumbles have died down. The flash has left the sky. But the real work is still ahead. Our work.

It’s time for us to take our part in the storm.

Long may we rain.

Inside Out

If anyone is feeling a little confused these days, you have my complete sympathy.

On the one hand, coronavirus news has flooded the airwaves, the front pages, and the social media outlets from here to the asteroid belt. (I’m happy to say that Ceres has yet to report its first case.) In among the unceasing reminders on how to wash our hands – our kindergarten teachers must be so disappointed – we’re constantly told to do our bit to make sure the virus doesn’t spread. “Stay home if you’re sick.” “Isolate.” “Quarantine in place.”

Introverts everywhere, our hour has come.

On the other hand, this is also an election year. And so we’re also being bombarded with images of campaign rallies on every side, urging people to let the nation hear our voice. “Get up.” “Get out.” “Show your support.”

So we desperately need to engage … and we desperately need to separate.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s definition of a first-rate intelligence – the ability to hold two conflicting ideas in the mind simultaneously and still function – is making more and more sense.

I know, we’ll work through it. Not just because both elections and public health are necessary. But because frankly, this kind of chaos and tension is nothing new for us.

We’ve been dealing with this for generations.

It’s a phenomenon that Bill Bishop addressed 16 years ago in a book called “The Big Sort.” Given the ability to live where they want, he noted, people mostly choose to live near people like themselves. By itself, that doesn’t sound like a bad thing. After all, who doesn’t want to get along with the neighbors?

But politics in a democracy depends on multiple voices engaging and finding common ground. That’s one thing when you may be constantly brushing against friends and neighbors who hold different perspectives and maybe challenge your views. But if more and more of the people you encounter are ones like you, where your beliefs and assumptions are taken for granted, that skill of engagement and compromise has less opportunity to be used.

What doesn’t get used, withers.

The process had already been accelerating with the increased mobility in the decades since World War II, when the internet and social media came along and sent it into hyperdrive. People had more power than ever to choose their “neighbors,” to choose their news sources … in a way, to choose their reality.

And when that reality finally collides against another, when the bubbles burst, the result becomes not compromise but conflict.

I don’t want to paint too rosy a picture of American democracy or too dark a picture of the online world. There’s always been a certain amount of conflict within the process, and even outright violence. (You could ask Alexander Hamilton, for example … but better do it quick, he’s got a duel at dawn.) And the same internet that can isolate has also introduced friends that would have never met, opened up experiences that would have been unreachable for many, and allowed outright explosions of imagination and creativity. It can and does allow for increased connection, even when isolated by disability, circumstance, or, yes, illness.

Politics and the internet are tools. They can be used for good or ill. And right now, they’re throwing one of our most basic conflicts into stark relief.

The need to engage. The desire to separate.

Long after the coronavirus has been dealt with, that clash will still be there. And it’ll still be the real challenge. These days, even under a quarantine, one can stay within the walls of their home and still be connected to the world.

But the quarantines of our minds – now THAT’S a barrier. And one we’ll have to resolve for as long as we’re living together on this planet.

Though I hear Ceres is very nice this time of year.

Threats and Deadlines

I don’t anger easily.  But every once in a while, somebody will push the wrong button and Bruce Banner will turn into the Hulk.

Right now, I can feel my skin turning green.

The last several days have seen windows shot out at a newspaper office. They’ve seen a bomb threat at a newspaper printing plant. And most famously, of course, they’ve given us the reporter that was knocked down by an angry Congressional candidate (now Congressman). Incidents aren’t automatically a pattern, of course, but these sorts of incidents put my teeth on edge.

I spent too long in the profession to react any other way.

I worked as a newspaper reporter for 16 years. It’s a fascinating profession that can tap you into the beating heart of a community. It also means you can wind up on the edge – or in the middle – of a number of risky situations. You may be witnessing a fire, a police standoff, a tornado, even a 500-year-flood that’s swallowing up the roads as you watch.

And once in a while, the risk comes to you instead.

I was one of the lucky ones. Over my career, the worst I ever ran into was occasional harsh words (amidst many kind ones) and one flaming bag of dog poop left on my front porch.  But it can get worse very easily. Newsrooms aren’t high-security areas, and more than one paper can tell stories about the angry reader who got within three feet of a reporter’s desk before anyone knew he or she was there. Those sorts of moments leave you anxious afterward, and watchful.

And sometimes watchful isn’t enough.

The Committee to Protect Journalists publishes a list each year of reporters and media workers around the world who have been killed as they did their jobs. They’ve tracked over 1,800 since 1992, including over 800 murders. Small numbers in a global sense, perhaps, but sobering as you read the names and stories of each, and realize how quickly a situation can turn bad.

Why make the list? Because press freedom is important. Because someone has to be able to tell the stories that a country needs to hear, without fear of reprisal or intimidation.

Don’t get me wrong. I know the press corps isn’t full of Woodward and Bernstein clones. We all know the ones who are superficial, or lazy, or heartless enough to ask “How do you feel?” to someone who’s just lost their family in a hurricane. We know the mudslingers and the loudmouths. Crackerjack reporters are still out there, doing more with less every year, but as in any profession, they often share space with the mediocre and the outright bad.

None of that justifies a blow, or a threat, or a shot in the night.

It’s OK to get angry at the press. I’ve been there myself. It’s all right to be upset with an outlet, or a media chain, or even the entire institution. Sometimes anger is justified, a necessary step in order to bring about change. It’s true of government, so why not of its watchdogs as well?

But when that anger crosses the line into violence, that’s it. The story is over. At that point, you are not my friend, nor any friend to democracy.

It’s been said that politics is based on the conviction that talking is better than fighting. Arguments need not bring warfare, disagreement need not provoke violence. That’s an ideal, of course – our country has seen the process break down into duels, riots, and even civil war – but it’s a vital one to hold.

And once held, it must be defended. Or else the conversation cannot happen at all.

I hope these are isolated incidents. They’re certainly good reminders. No rights are guaranteed; they must be claimed anew each day or they become simply words on paper. Someone will always test the boundaries and the boundaries must hold.

At its best, our country is a Banner achievement.

Don’t let Hulk smash.

The Next Duty

When I lived in Emporia, Kansas, the week of Veterans Day was always one of the highlights of the year. During the week-long celebrations, all of us would be reminded that we owed our veterans three basic things:

1) To care for the veterans we already have.

2) To create as few additional veterans of war and conflict as possible.

3) To take the nation they protected and continue to make it something special.

The first point continues to fuel many a speech and editorial, often with a nod to the needs of the aging VA hospital system. The second remains a common desire for those in and out of uniform, especially after this country spent so many years fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But with Election Day now falling into the rear-view mirror, maybe the final item is worth looking at once more. What kind of America are we building?

I know, we’re all sick to death of campaign speeches. And campaign mailers. And television ads. And telephone surveys that ask for “just a few moments of our time.” (As my old math teachers might have said, “a few” times several calls per day equals “a LOT.”) This isn’t meant to join that particular chorus, and I think all of you might run me out of town if I tried, after dipping me in tar, feathers, and a burning copy of the film from the last Oakland Raiders game.

But the fact is, there’s still a job ahead of us.

True, the most basic job is done. And many of us tend to think of voting as the greatest duty we owe our country, to fill in the bubbles, drop off our ballots, and then either cheer or curse at the results before getting on with our lives.

But it doesn’t stop there. It never did. It’s a necessary first step, but there’s a lot of staircase left to climb.

Yes, we’ve chosen our leaders. Yes, they can make choices that help or hurt a lot of us. But most of what this nation can be is on us.

Do we lift up the weak or chase them from our doorstep?

Do we greet our neighbors with love and acceptance or with jeers and mockery? Do we even know our neighbors when we see them?

Do we carefully watch the steps of those we’ve elected and call them to task when they need reminding? Or do we just hand them the keys and go back to sleep?

Do we look for ways to build, to welcome, to aid, to defend? Or are we more interested in tearing down, in separating, in spurning the unworthy and attacking the strange?

Our answers will do more to define America than any war or legislation ever could.

The Christian songwriter Don Francisco once wrote that God didn’t care about the height of church steeples or the loudness of hymns, but whether the people inside cared for their family, their neighbors, and the rest of the world:

Are you living as a servant to your sisters and your brothers?

Do you make the poor man beg you for a bone?

Do the widow and the orphan cry alone?

I have heard from many people who are afraid of what might happen next, who find their future uncertain. So much of that is in our hands. What we say. What we do. What we’ll tolerate and what we’ll rise up to oppose.

What answer will we give?

The words of the African-American poet Langston Hughes, written more than 80 years ago, still echo:

O, yes,

I say it plain,

American never was America to me,

And yet I swear this oath —

America will be!

Today and always, we must build the America our veterans swore to defend.

What America will it be?

Riding Out the Storm

The Snowpocalypse returned to Longmont on Wednesday. If you read social media at all, I’m sure you saw the shock and horror.

“A blizzard in March? Really?”

“Go home, Mother Nature, you’re drunk.”

“Happy spring, everybody!”

The thing is, if you’ve lived on the Front Range for longer than a couple of years, you know that this is what happens in a normal March. You’ve heard (probably ad nauseum) that “this is the snowiest month of the year.” We know what to expect, and when.

And yet, when the storm hits, it still fascinates us. Like an old sweater or Christmas decoration, we drag the jokes out of storage to be displayed for another year. Heck, I’ve told them myself. When you go from a 70-degree day to 15 inches of beautiful springlike weather literally overnight – well, as Willy Loman once said, attention must be paid.

So we let ourselves be amazed. We cast aside the other fears and demands of the world to focus on digging in and then digging out, sprinkling appropriate touches of profanity as we struggle to remove the concrete-heavy snow from our driveways and sidewalks or navigate the slushy, soon-to-be icebound roads.

Once again, we’ve survived the end of the world as we know it.

And in an election year, that should feel mighty familiar.

Granted, most of us, if given the choice between surviving a presidential campaign season and a blizzard, would probably pick the blizzard. Especially this campaign season.  There seems to be a feeling, on left and right, that this is the year the Great Democratic Experiment meets its greatest test. Elect the wrong man/woman/alien from Planet Mongo, we’re told, and it’s time to flee to Australia – Canada may just not be far enough.

I’ll be honest. I share in some of that feeling myself. I’d have to be Superman not to be touched by all the fear and worry in the air—and not only did I live my cape in the dry-cleaners, I genuinely feel that some of the candidates for office are worthy of our fear and worry.

But you know something? We’ve been here before. For any given value of “here.” Maybe not with these people, maybe not with this exact set of fears, but we have survived an awful lot, in terms of potential leaders and actual ones.

We’ve seen populist leaders lead movements with the fervor of a revivalist preacher, bringing anxiety to those already in power. (Hello, William Jennings Bryan. Or, from a more authoritarian side of the spectrum, Huey Long.)

We’ve seen political parties fracture and break under the stress of the day’s issues, opening the door to a “plurality president” who might have otherwise never set foot in the White House. (Check out when a Democratic split gave us Abraham Lincoln, or a Republican one Woodrow Wilson.)

We’ve had presidents who were drunks. Presidents who were conspirators. Even presidents who took action to silence enemies, or permitted the deportation or imprisonment of entire populations. (Look up John Adams and the Alien and Sedition Acts, Andrew Jackson and the “Trail of Tears,” or FDR and the Japanese internment.)

I’m not saying we should yawn or say “oh, well,” at any of this. Some of the things that have happened are truly horrifying. Some of it has even led us to swear at different times “Never again” and justified our vigilance as voters and citizens.

But my point is that we have survived all of it. Admittedly, sometimes by the skin of our teeth. But we have carried through. And we have continued to try to create something better.

We can do it again.

Yes, be aware. Yes, fight like crazy for  the vision of this country you want to see. No, don’t be blasé about what could happen if the person you’re most worried about seizes the controls.

But remember also – we can still survive. And we probably will. Especially if we look past the elections and continue our energy, awareness, and determination to build this country long after the final ballot has been counted.

We can be ready. We can be prepared.

And with enough of both, we can weather the storm.

Primary Importance

Not long ago, an offbeat-science webcomic called “What If?” dealt with the question “What would happen if one tried to funnel Niagara Falls through a straw?”

The answer, naturally, was nothing good. Even if such were physically possible, the author noted – which, naturally, it isn’t – the resulting high-pressure stream would have the power of a small star. “(I)ts heat and light would quickly raise the temperature of the planet, boil away the oceans, and render the whole place uninhabitable,” author Randall Munroe wrote.

In other words, too big a flow plus too small a container equals a big mess. Which is something that any Colorado county clerk’s office should be able to attest to after Super Tuesday.

You’ve seen the news stories. If you went to the caucuses – particularly, in this state, the Democratic ones – you may have experienced it yourself. A voting system built for small, orderly numbers of people was pushed way past its carrying capacity. Some voters got to stand in long lines. Some wound up meeting outdoors due to fire codes. Some waited more than an hour to begin the two-hour long sessions and still wound up turning people away.

The participation, admittedly, was exciting. But for many, it was also infuriating. More than one voter told local media that they couldn’t even find a place to get out of their car and vote – and even on the Democratic side, the eye of the hurricane here, the number of actual participants still added up to about 14 percent of active voters, according to one report.

Is it just me, or is something off about that?

Yes, caucuses have a quaint, traditional feeling to them. Yes, among those who participate, they do allow for a very personal sense of community engagement and discussion. Yes, they’re typically less expensive than a primary election.

But if what you want is for people to be heard – a lot of people, as many people as possible – then caucuses just flat out don’t work.

They don’t work for the chronically ill or disabled who might be able to spend a few minutes at a voting booth or on a mail-in ballot, but not two hours at an evening meeting. (Count my wife Heather among those, by the way.)

They don’t work for late-shift workers who can’t take two hours or more away from their job to caucus and debate.

They don’t work for single parents who can’t find a babysitter. For families without a car who don’t have evening bus service. For a number of people in a number of situations, particularly in groups that could be called “the least of these.”

And when the numbers get too high, they simply don’t work, period.

Simply put, as a means of encouraging democracy, a caucus system is better at leaving people out than inviting them in.

Colorado used to have a primary election. Isn’t it time to revive it?

Sure, it costs more. Sure, you maybe lose that sense of neighborhood debate. But gaining increased access to the ballot box is worth it all. Lines may still be long, but they’re no longer insurmountable. No one has to be left out because of limited circumstances, either their own or the polling place’s.

A caucus may have sounded like a good idea to some in 2003. But I don’t think there can be any doubt about its fitness now. It’s like running a Stanley Steamer in the Indy 500 – simply the wrong vehicle for the job.

Just as at Niagra Falls, we’ve simply come to the last straw.

Fight Fire With Firing

I don’t usually get political in this space. But I’m hoping you won’t mind this time. Not when the aim is getting rid of politicians.

Yeah, I thought that might get your attention.

These days, politics in this country has gotten pretty tiring at the national level. Republicans and Democrats have drawn the battle lines and never the twain shall meet, lest one of our nation’s leaders be tainted with the sin of compromise. It’s quite possible that birthday greetings to a sixth-grade class would require 17 appearances on Fox and MSNBC, three filibusters, and a 19-day government shutdown until a majority could be found to agree on the “birthday” part. (“Happy” is clearly tied to either Obamacare or Wall Street and will have to be set aside until the next federal budget.)

Most of us are tired of it. And we all possess the ultimate term limit for a tiresome politician: vote for the other guy. But it takes so much effort to make even the smallest dent, like firing BBs at a tank.

Enter the Fire ‘Em All movement.

Now, I’m not a lawyer. I know this sort of thing probably isn’t doable without major rewrites to the Constitution, the U.S. code and the Boy Scout Law. But even just contemplating it can feel pretty good, and stranger things have happened – after all, (opposition president of your choice) made it into the White House, didn’t he?

It goes like this:

1) On every ballot for national office – the House, the Senate or the Presidency – there shall be an option called “Fire ‘Em All.” (“You’re Fired” has already been claimed by certain representatives of the National Alliance of Tangled Toupees.)

2) At the end of an election cycle, all votes cast in all federal races shall be totaled up by party: how many Republicans, Democrats, independents, Greens and so on. “Fire ‘Em All” shall be counted as its own party.

3) If at any time, “Fire ‘Em All” is among the top two choices nationally, the terms of all elective federal officeholders – again, House, Senate or Presidency – shall end on the next Jan. 20, regardless of how much time they would have normally had left to serve.

4) Replacement officeholders shall be nominated and voted on in the time between the announced results and Jan. 20. (Yes, this gives a little over two months to elect everybody. Whatever shall we do without a year and a half of campaign ads?)

5) Those chosen will serve the remainder of the term they are replacing, unless ousted by another “Fire ‘Em All” vote before then.

6) Individuals who have been ousted due to a “Fire ‘Em All” shall be ineligible to run for federal office for at least three election cycles.

7) Sports Authority Field shall immediately change its name back to Mile High Stadium. Just because.

Yeah, it’s a nuclear option. It clears out the good, the bad and the indifferent alike. But the sheer appeal of the idea should send a warning to Washington that it’s time to learn seventh-grade civics – or at least fifth-grade etiquette.

With or without a Fire ‘Em All button, we hold the power. And when we choose to exercise it, no amount of money or influence can stop us. This just makes it more efficient – and satisfying.

You really want to start from scratch? Go for it. Set down the disgust and resignation, and build the change you want to see.

It’s time to get fired up.

Who else gets fired is up to you.