Peas in a Pod

August 11, 2002

by John K. Bates

Despite my many strident complaints about the Republican Party, I have not - yet - changed my official voter registration. Partly, this is born of laziness; I do not know how to change my registration, and if doing so involves a trip to the county government office, I would just as soon not bother. But my reluctance is also partly due to the desire to vote as often as possible. If I were to switch to independent or to Libertarian, I would not have a primary contest to vote in.

Why is this important? I have long said that people who can vote should vote every chance they get. It is the smaller elections where, due to lower turnout, we have a bigger voice. It is also the smaller elections, and the primaries, where we sometimes have more of a real choice in either policy matters or in candidates. Indeed, the quadrennial presidential contests are generally the least important elections (in terms of the influence we wield), yet they are the only ones many Americans bother to participate in. Which is very sad.

Anyway, I now reside in the new (created by census apportionment) 7th Congressional District of Colorado, a nice change from the 6th District, home of the horrible Tom Tancredo, Republican betrayer of both gun rights and common sense in the wake of Columbine. Since the district is new, there are lots of candidates fighting for it. In addition, the Colorado legislature deliberately tried to create a balance for the district between Republicans and Democrats. It is likely, therefore, that this could be one of the most fought for congressional elections in the nation this fall.

The result of all of this is four candidates to choose from. Ideally, this is a great situation: Out of four men (no women this go round) I should be able to find a variety of views. Maybe one of them will campaign on a genuine conservative platform of smaller government and lower taxes, with specific cuts or plans in mind (Steve Forbes may never have won anything, but he excelled in this regard. Everyone knew what his plan was). Maybe one of them would stand up against Draconian “Homeland Security” plans, or at least make the case for common sense at our airports. Or maybe, just maybe, one of them would have the guts to stand up to President Bush and the rest of the GOP leadership and remind them that Republicans are supposed to be the party of smaller government!

Alas, it is all too much to ask. In reading the campaign literature of the four candidates, there are few differences between them. Indeed, it is more instructive to note how much they sound alike. For in the year 2002 at least, the GOP elephant should be replaced with a parrot.

On taxes, everyone is uniform: “Fully support President Bush’s plan to cut taxes” (Bob Beauprez). “Reduce the tax burden” (Rick O’Donnell). On defense, every candidate embraces the Bush administration’s approach to Homeland Security. Joe Rogers boasts that he “was the first to call for a Homeland Security office in Colorado” (he lost my vote with that boast), while former United States Ambassador to Bahrain, Sam Zakhem, states that we must continue to support our military and support President Bush’s initiatives in the Middle East. Mr. O’Donnell and Mr. Beauprez both state their support of President Bush and our troops. These are all easy, generic promises. In fact, across all the issues, from taxes to defense to Social Security, there is a common theme: Playing it safe. Everyone wants to reduce the tax burden, improve education, protect social security and support the president. There is little variation and no originality, as if every script and every promise is being written and orchestrated by the RNC.

Actually, it is a near certainty that this is exactly what is happening. With a wide-open race in a balanced district, there is no doubt millions of national campaign dollars will flow to Colorado. Anyone who thinks they can be a candidate and have any thoughts or ideas other than what the national party wants is fooling himself. There is simply no room in today’s GOP for mavericks, or for anyone who has an independent mindset. The proposals of all four candidates might as well have been written by Karl Rove, and they quite likely were. In a race that should involve choice and a furious debate of very important issues, there is no debate here. There is only parrot talk.

Because of my travels, I always vote absentee. So the question becomes, whom did I vote for? Of the four, the only one who was somewhat different was the aforementioned Sam Zakhem. He is the only one actually talking in some detail about privatizing Social Security. He also has served as an Ambassador to Bahrain and attended college in Cairo, knowledge that is very important in that part of the world. Of all the candidates, he seems the one focused most on taking the battle to the enemy, rather than inconveniencing Americans here at home. And most importantly, he is the closest thing to a maverick on the ballot. The Colorado GOP did not want him on the primary ballot, and we can be sure the national party does not want him there either. That in and of itself is a reason to vote for someone when all four candidates are peas in a pod. And so yes, I did vote for Sam Zakhem. It will be interesting to see the results next week.


John K. Bates is a part-time freelance writer who works in the energy engineering field and lives in the Denver, Colorado area. He enjoys many outdoor pursuits and the company of his family of three cats. His columns can also be seen on

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For more of John's articles, visit his archives.

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