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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


A thousand apologies, dear readers, for the absence of posts over the last two days, but I’ve spent most of them on planes travelling indirectly from Birmingham, Alabama to Aspen, Colorado, for two different DLC training events. And as you can imagine, the transition from The Heart of Dixie to Ski Country has been pretty jolting from a cultural as well as geographical point of view.
Not being a skier (where I grew up, you pretty much had to be a Republican to indulge in skiing, golf or tennis–bowling was the Democratic participatory sport of choice and financial necessity), most of what I knew about Aspen before arriving here was derived from the various accounts of Hunter Thompson’s Freak Power campaigns in 1969 and 1970, which culminated in the Gonzo Journalist’s near-election as sheriff of Aspen County. The most memorable plank of the Freak Power platform was to change the name of the community to “Fat City,” theoretically forcing private enterprises using the name “Aspen” to adopt the new monniker, a very early example of negative branding, I suppose.
I haven’t been into the town proper yet, and thus don’t know if Thompson’s prophecies of a natural wonder consumed by “greedhead” development have been fulfilled over the last three decades, though I’m reasonably sure The Doctor did not anticipate the Latte Town phenomenon of private capital being harnessed to a cultural outlook not unlike his own. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Thompson’s own name and likeness emblazoned across the gates of trendy local businesses, just as his Rolling Stone co-conspirator Ralph Steadman has lent his unsettling art to Colorado microbrew bottles and ads.
Politically, if Colorado wasn’t exactly being swept by Freak Power in the 1970s, it was trending sharply Democratic, as reflected most notably by the Senate victory of Thompson’s ol’ buddy Gary Hart in 1974. And thirty years later, even though George W. Bush won the state handily, the down-ballot races here were a notable Democratic success story, with Dems picking up a Senate seat, a House seat, and regaining control of both Houses of the state legislature. This performance, moreover, gives local Democrats high hopes of toppling Gov. Bill Owens (if he runs for another term) in 2006; Owens is perhaps the national Right’s true favorite for the 2008 presidential nomination.
After a couple of days of conversations here, I hope to be able to offer some comparative observations on Red State Democrats in the South and the West. I won’t be spending any time on the slopes, and if there’s a bowling alley in these parts, it’s well-hidden.
CORRECTION: Bill Owens is actually term-limited, and cannot run for another term in 2006. And his “availability” as the national Right’s presidential champion in 2008 is currently being clouded by rumored problems with his marriage.

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