Opinion

BIDLACK | Being well read is a virtue — unless you enter politics

Author: Hal Bidlack - September 11, 2018 - Updated: September 11, 2018

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Hal Bidlack
Hal Bidlack

My Editor at Colorado Politics is dashingly handsome (Ed: correct), kind (Ed: to a fault), and is a relentlessly mean taskmaster (Ed: hey, wait a minute…). Therefore, when I sit down to write one of my twice-weekly columns, I know I’m only a misplaced comma away from oblivion. And he really, really wishes I’d write less about Mr. Trump and more about Colorado Politics, which I admit makes sense for a publication called Colorado Politics.

Today, I’m going to make him happy (Ed: we’ll see) and will write about the battle for Colorado’s 3rdCongressional District, currently represented by Scott Tipton. It seems Mr. Tipton is upset at his opponent’s willingness to read widely and to support a progressive publication with (gasp) socialism in it!

I’ve written before on the boogeyman that the word “socialism” has become to a good number of those on the right. The word “socialist” has become twisted by a Republican Party that seeks to vilify the word while ironically ignoring the socialism they embrace daily, such as the Post Office, the interstate highway system and, oh, I dunno, the U.S. Army.

Thus springs forth last Saturday’s excellent article on the faux outrage of Mr. Tipton at his opponent, Diane Mitsch Bush’s interest in and small support of, what was labeled (get the kids out of the room) “a left-leaning publication.”

It seems Ms. Bush’s internet browser history included something called “In These Times,” which started out in the 1970’s as a hard-left publication run by a guy who (kids still out?) was a commie decades before, though he left the party in the 1950s. And even more horrifying, at least to Mr. Tipton, Ms. Bush was listed as a donor to that publication.

There’s a great deal wrong with Mr. Tipton’s alleged outrage.

First, and most egregiously, Mr. Tipton – through his spokesman – said “Diane Mitsch Bush is a socialist who actively funded an anti-American magazine, [A]nyone who funds socialist propaganda … should be disqualified from public office.”

Think about that for a moment. Mr. Tipton is arguing that reading and funding (to stretch the definition of “funding”) a publication he disagrees with is un-American. Thus Mr. Tipton exemplifies much of what is wrong with American politics today – that to disagree is not simply to be “wrong” but rather, is to be un-American. And that attitude, dear readers, is the truly un-American view.

As an aside (Ed: stop doing those!) during much of my own time as an active-duty military officer, Mr. Tipton was founding and running a successful small business in Cortez. Good on him for that. But I find that I am less inclined to listen to those hectoring about how my own views on Americanism are wrong and what views are the only “correct” ones from those who have never worn the uniform. Ok, back to the main story…

And so today we find that one’s reading habits are yet another metric by which those on the far right will judge patriotism. Well, there are a few problems with this. First and foremost, as Mr. Jefferson among other Founders noted, a widely-read and informed electorate is the only true protection against tyranny, which of course leads me to a lengthy discussion of Mr. Trump (Ed: no, we’ve talked about this…) Fine…

My liberal friends might be shocked to see my browser history includes sites such as the Washington Times, the Wall Street Journal, and (gasp) Drudge. Being widely informed is important folks. I suspect that had Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Madison lived in the era of the internet, they would have read Marx and Lenin along with Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. Reading widely is not an indication of un-Americanism, rather it is a quintessential characteristic of being an American.

And if the greater sin is donating small amounts of money to help keep a publication afloat, one that has as its motto that it is: “dedicated to advancing democracy and economic justice, informing movements for a more humane world, and providing an accessible forum for debate about the policies that shape our future,” I would ask Mr. Tipton if he has ever donated to the Republican Party? You know, the political party that supported – get ready for it – Joe McCarthy??  That’s the problem with throwing mud; you can get splattered right back.

Ms. Bush, whom I do not know and have never met, won the “Legislator of the Year” award while serving in the General Assembly, from the Colorado Livestock Organization, hardly a front for commie cows. Ms. Bush is no socialist, though in fairness, I bet she mails letters from time to time.

Mr. Tipton is exemplifying what is truly wrong with American and Colorado politics, and the sad part is, I bet it works for far too many voters.

Hal Bidlack

Hal Bidlack

Hal Bidlack is a retired professor of political science and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who taught more than 17 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.