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  • Cliff Willmeng

We, The Everyday People, Are Going To Save Ourselves



Before the votes were even counted, Proposition 112, the 2500-foot oil and gas drilling setback, met its most definitive opposition—not from an oil and gas front group, or the Koch brothers, or the GOP, or the marketing firms spending millions to defeat it. After a grassroots campaign lasting most of the year, one that had to face off against leading Democratic politicians Jared Polis, Congressman Ed Perlmutter, Denver Mayor Michael Handcock, and countless others who opposed the measure, Governor John Hickenlooper announced his intention to gut the initiative by special legislative session should it pass.  


I wish I could say this comes as a surprise. It doesn’t. The Colorado Democratic Party hasn’t accomplished much environmental work for decades, but it has certainly built the oil and gas industry into the definitive ruler of our state. Beginning with Governor Bill Ritter’s “New Energy Economy,” which mandated oil and gas drilling throughout the state, to the placebo legislation routinely pushed in the Colorado legislature, to the eight years of John Hickenlooper, to Jared Polis’s loyalty to the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, Colorado is now officially a petroleum republic. We didn’t’ become a resource colony because Republicans controlled one or both legislative houses; our downfall is independent of political party. The Democrats had six years of owning both the house and the senate as well as the governor’s mansion—07, 08, 09, 10, 13, and 14. John Hickenlooper isn’t the exception, he’s the rule. 


People breathing polluted air and raising children in a cloud of ozone face a legitimate political crisis. If the Democratic Party is so deeply compromised that it is willing to defeat votes and throttle communities to protect oil and gas investors and CEOs’ multimillion-dollar salaries, who will protect us from the Democratic Party? When the political class can’t be morally persuaded to stop drilling even as the entire planet cooks, who is left to force sanity into American political life? 


The only answer that adequately addresses the problem:  Ourselves. The regular, working people, folks who have always been on the receiving end of corporate power and who have always had to find ways to build strength in asymmetric political warfare.  If corporations exert power through money and their two corrupted political parties, we have to build the alternative. It’s going to look less like an online petition and more like a real movement.


My campaign for Boulder County Commissioner has been based on these ideas, which means I’ve been accused of being “idealistic.”  Me?

  There’s nothing more idealistic than the hope that a system and its administrators are going to break rank and suddenly protect the planet from the same global ecological destruction they’ve accommodated for a century. We can’t bet the safety of future generations on Democratic and Republican politicians.  We are either going to join together to overcome this political class, or we will perish. It’s that simple. 


The world isn’t waiting for us. Time is short. We have the power to build something new, and it will mean breaking old habits, sacrificing our time and energy, and taking real risk. It will mean shifting our resources from the two-party corporate duopoly to build new organizations, brick by brick, together. 


The campaign for Commissioner ends on November 6. The effort to build organization and political power for everyday people and the planet is just beginning.




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© 2018 Willmeng for Grassroots Power