ONE OF MY STATE’S SENATORS ISN’T GOOD AT SENATING
by Todd Hartley
We just got an abject, though illuminating, lesson in party politics here in Colorado courtesy of our two U.S. senators, Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet, with regards to the Senate confirmation of Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos as secretary of education.
I mean, I guess everyone in America got the lesson, seeing as how the Senate split 50-50, with 50 Republican senators voting in favor of confirming DeVos, and all 48 Democrats and two Republicans, both women, voting against it. But I think the party divide was more amplified here in the Rocky Mountain State.
We’ll start with Bennet because he’s easy. A Democrat, he voted against the confirmation, which was eventually settled by Republican Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaking vote for DeVos. During a marathon talking session before the vote, Bennet made news by calling DeVos’ nomination “an insult to schoolchildren and their families.”
That brings us to Gardner, a Republican. If you were paying attention, you may have noticed that Gardner also made news recently when it was reported that his office was being deluged with calls and emails urging him to vote against DeVos, and Gardner’s response was to claim that the only reason for the deluge was that lots of “paid protestors” were calling and emailing.
It’s possible that a handful of people may have made money by protesting, but it seems a little far-fetched to me. It certainly doesn’t explain the fact that, according to a statement on the Change.org page “Tell Senator Cory Gardner: RESIGN,” Gardner’s own aide admitted that 99.4 percent of callers to Gardner’s office asked for him to vote against DeVos.
I have no way of knowing if that’s true, but I looked at hundreds of responses to Gardner’s Facebook post regarding the nomination and none of them were positive. Living here in Colorado, it sure seemed to me that the vast majority of people were opposed to DeVos.
So basically, in no way was Gardner representing his constituents in this matter, and he knew it. That seems very clear to me from everything I’ve seen before and since DeVos confirmation. Gardner chose to ignore all the phone calls and emails and came off looking like a condescending jackass with his “paid protestors” comment.
The irony of the whole affair is that some unknown Republican operative actually did pay people to lobby in favor of DeVos, according to Vox.com. Whoever it was set up accounts on internet sites that reward people for completing tasks or filling out surveys. Then they created a paying task that allowed people to contact members of Congress, but only to send notes in favor of confirming DeVos.
The last piece of damning evidence against Gardner is that DeVos and her family contributed between $46,800 and $49,800 to Gardner’s 2014 campaign when he was first elected to the Senate. I personally believe that Gardner was just toeing the Republican line with his vote and the money had little to do with it, but it still doesn’t look good.
Anyway, unfortunately, the lesson I’m learning from all this is that our democracy as we like to think of it is dead. We no longer have elected officials who represent the people who elected them. Instead, we have senators and representatives who are bought and paid for by big-money special interests and who will vote for party over people every time.
In the words of the Detroit Free Press, of all Donald Trump’s cabinet nominations, “none seems more inappropriate, or more contrary to reason, than his choice of DeVos.” The only reason she was chosen, as Sen. Bernie Sanders noted, was because her family contributed tens of millions of dollars to Republican campaigns. DeVos herself didn’t dispute that point during her confirmation hearings.
So why would Gardner vote in favor of her when he knew that most people in Colorado were opposed to her? Because he doesn’t answer to us. He only answers to the Republican Party, and right now the Republican Party’s platform seems to be to rubber-stamp Trump’s cabinet nominations no matter how inappropriate and contrary to reason they may be.
So in closing, I’d like to congratulate Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Maine’s Susan Collins, the two Republican senators who voted against DeVos, for having the guts to cross party lines. But as for Gardner, he may be a good man on a personal level, but he’s a bad politician, and hopefully he’ll get voted out in 2020 after a single term. He certainly doesn’t deserve a second.
Todd Hartley made millions protesting when Hostess threatened to stop making Twinkies.