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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirFebruary 19, 201815min1264
Jimmy Sengenberger was that way-older-than-his-years, way-ahead-of-the-pack kind of kid you sort of admired and sort of envied — and, admit it, sort of resented — back in middle school. He began listening to Rush on the radio at 12 and was attending Arapahoe County Republican Men’s Club breakfasts by 13. He was putting together high […]

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John AndrewsJohn AndrewsNovember 23, 20176min537

One year after Donald Trump’s stunning victory, I feel even better about having voted for him than I did at the time — based on the totality of what he’s done in these 12 months, and what his enemies have done, and the dramatic contrast of where our country is under the Republicans versus where it would be if Hillary and the Democrats had won.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJune 12, 20177min740

How’s that again? Republicans were the original environmentalists? Conservatives — particularly in the West — should find it easy being green? That’s what John Andrews seems to be telling us.

And when Andrews talks, Colorado’s Republicans and conservatives tend to listen. The former state Senate president, onetime presidential speechwriter, serial think-tank founder and all-around political and moral compass for the Centennial State’s right commands broad respect. All the way across the philosophical spectrum, in fact.

Which is probably why he is the point-man helping spread the word about a new group — dare we call it an environmental group? — that hails from, yes, the right side of the political fence. A mass-email from Andrews today introduces us to The Western Way, which bills itself as a movement of “Conservative stewards of the western environment.”

Writes Andrews in his e-missive:

As Westerners who love liberty, limited government, and the land, it’s high time we stop letting the bicoastal progressives claim heartland conservatives and the GOP want to despoil the environment. What lot of bovine scatology.

Conservatives don’t care about the earth? Please. No one cares more about conserving America’s natural and spiritual heritage than we do.

…throughout our country’s history conservatives have been leaders in preserving natural lands and creating policies that benefit the economy and the environment in equal measure.

Hence, Western Way. Its leadership, membership and even headquarters aren’t yet clear from the group’s slick-but-seemingly-startup-phase website. No contact info; just a page where you can sign up for email newsletters.

However, its core message is straightforward — and represents what many might regard as a breathtaking departure from prevailing conservative orthodoxy on environmental issues.

Consider:

An honest read of the facts and data demonstrates that there are serious problems with our climate and environment.  That is not a political or philosophical statement, it is the only conclusion one can reach based on facts and science.  It is not the role of conservatives to understate the problem in order to balance out extreme interests exaggerating the problem.   Conservatives must fly above the fray and be honest in defining the problems and solutions.

And:

…The evidence for human-caused climate change has converged from multiple lines of evidence, been vetted by skeptical reviews, and presents a consistent and cohesive view. No critical theory or invocation of “natural variability” can claim the same….

Another challenge to conventional wisdom is the group’s premise that conservatives must take back an environmental movement that was originally theirs:

Conservatives have led the most significant conservation efforts in the western United States and yet extreme interests have recently created the false narrative that conservatives do not value the environment.

Conservatives must reclaim leadership on this critical issue by identifying the real environmental and conservation challenges facing our country and driving the most efficient solutions to those challenges.

The website recaps landmark environmental policies by Republican presidents including that champion of public lands, Teddy Roosevelt, as well as Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Is the proposed new face of conservatism at least in part a reaction to the Trump administration’s more blunt approach to rolling back environmental regulations of the Obama administration — and the fierce push-back it’s getting from Democrats and environmentalists? That does seem to figure in, to hear Andrews:

…if we tense up, retreat behind polarized arguments, and let others define the debate, we’re left without a seat at the table. Classic self-sabotage. Enough of that!

The dramatically changed political landscape of 2017 offers a perfect opportunity for Republicans and the center-right to start being environmentally proactive again and advance constructive, conservative solutions.

We’ll have to stay tuned as Western Way’s agenda for action develops, and we figure out exactly what kind of role the new movement will play.

Pending that, we reached out to the more conventional (re: left-of-center) environmental movement for its assessment of what Western Way seems to represent. There wasn’t a trace of snark or even skepticism in a reply from Jessica Goad, communications director for Conservation Colorado. She actually welcomed the development.

“We’ve long made the case that Westerners from across the political spectrum care about issues like creating clean-energy jobs, cleaning up our air and protecting our parks and public lands. From our perspective, more groups coming to the table to work together to protect what makes Colorado great is important and beneficial.”

 


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 4, 20179min430

The Denver metro area — center of government, geographical hub and crossroads of commerce — has its share of think tanks from left to right. They are where ideas are born, nurtured and then, with some luck and a lot of work, handed off to lawmakers to turn into policy.

Relatively new to that scene is Colorado Christian University’s conservative Centennial Institute, shepherded into existence by longtime Colorado Republican political figure and former state Senate President John Andrews. In 2015, having helped secure the endeavor’s future, Andrews handed the keys to Jeff Hunt (see his official bio here). The institute has established itself as a heavy hitter on the conservative political circuit; among other things, it convenes the annual Western Conservative Summit, a national draw for the center-right. And yet, as Hunt makes clear below, the institute is focused on a lot more than conventional politics.

What drew you to your post at the Centennial Institute?

The Centennial Institute allows me to combine my passions for both faith and public policy. I have a Masters in Divinity as well as a Masters in Political Management. William Wilberforce is the person whom I most seek to emulate. He understood that his calling was to be a voice in the public square. He not only worked to end the slave trade in the British Empire, but he was passionate about reforming culture. Similarly, the Centennial Institute combines important public policy work and cultural reform.

You have a background in politics, having worked with U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania in his White House bid as well as with Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in Colorado. Do you see your current post as more about policy and politics or more about morality and faith? Or both?

My role at the Centennial Institute is to represent the Christian voice in the public square. Moreover, it is a strategic objective of Colorado Christian University to impact our culture in support of traditional family values, sanctity of life, compassion for the poor, Biblical view of human nature, limited government, personal freedom, free markets, natural law, original intent of the Constitution and Western civilization.

To answer your question more directly, my post is about shaping culture, morality, and public policy and much less about politics. Leaving politics behind, I appreciate having my weekends and evenings back!

What do you think is the appropriate role of Christianity for faithful Christians in local, state and national politics? Should people of faith keep it a private affair, reserved for worship, or carry it with them into the voting booth and beyond?

Some of our country’s most important leaders were people of faith. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was driven by his faith to advance civil rights, and I believe he was successful in part because the faith community was supporting him. Christians believe that Jesus is the Lord of both this earth and the new earth to come. As such, God directs the affairs of our world. The goal of Christians is not to make our country a theocracy but to influence its direction with our Christian principles. Many of the earliest universities have a Christian foundation. Some of the largest and most successful efforts to serve the poor are operated by people of faith. Christians established many of the earliest hospitals. Christians are driven by their faith to improve the world around them. This includes having a voice in the public square. The more that people of all faith are active in serving our communities, including shaping public policy, the healthier our communities become.

To what extent does Centennial advocate for ideas that transcend specific religious views?

The Centennial Institute advocates for both principles and prescriptions in public policy. We take our direction on our principles from the teachings of the Bible. That is the foundational text for us. When it comes to prescriptions or the solutions we seek to promote, those can rightly be debated, even among people of faith. As Bill Armstrong would say, “I’m firm on the principles but negotiable on the details.”

Give us three words, each of which describes some aspect of Colorado’s political scene as you see it.

Citizen, Neighborly, Libertarian.

I grew up in Colorado and my wife and I chose to move back here from Washington, D.C., to raise our family. Coloradans are neighborly; we care for each other, and that’s something I greatly admire about our state. Our legislature is citizen-based. I think it’s wonderful that we don’t have professional politicians running our state. When I visit the Capitol, I feel like I’m interacting with my neighbors and that’s important for limiting our government and strengthening our civil society.

Colorado is a very libertarian state. We were the first state to liberalize abortion laws, and now we have recreational marijuana and doctor-assisted suicide. When our libertarian friends team up with the progressive left, social conservatives are often left in the wilderness. We have a lot of work to do here to demonstrate the importance of ordered liberty. In the words of Russel Kirk, freedom, order and justice must all work together for the health of our state. We must promote personal freedom, but it’s an ordered personal freedom that contributes to a better community.

Colorado is widely perceived as a purple state, and voter registration bears that out: Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters each comprise a third of the electorate — with unaffiliateds gaining ground. To what do you attributed the surge in unaffiliated voters?

I believe this goes hand in hand with our libertarian leanings. Coloradans are generally not in favor of tax increases, expansive government, or strong regulations. Combine this with the libertarian approach to personal freedom, and people want to remain unaffiliated with either party. The task for the Centennial Institute is to demonstrate that healthy families and ordered liberty create a much better society that ultimately reduces government.

Who is better looking — you or the Independence Institute’s Jon Caldara.

When I first arrived back in Colorado, wrapping up serving on Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign, I went to meet with Jon Caldara. Knowing I was a strong social conservative, he naturally took me to lunch at the LGBTQ-friendly burger chain, Hamburger Mary’s. Classic Jon Caldara move. Perhaps we’ll let them decide!


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John TomasicJohn TomasicFebruary 10, 20176min363

John Andrews is a major figure in the conservative Colorado political ecosystem. He is a former state Senate president, founder of the Independence Institute, former director of Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute and former chairman of its annual Western Conservative Summit. He is also now, after a fashion, a writer of short fiction. His “<a href="http://www.backboneamerica.net/america/2017/2/4/susan-washington-a-love-story" target="_blank">Susan Washington: A Love Story</a>” made it into the Colorado political conversation via Twitter, naturally, but also first through his Backbone America email subscriber list, where it appeared attached to a cover letter.


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Rachael WrightRachael WrightDecember 22, 201613min334

Thirty Years Ago This Week in the Colorado Statesman … A former state legislator was bestowed the honor of an ambassadorship. Former state Sen. Sam H. Zakhem was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain, he succeeded Donald Leidel. A well-known name in Colorado politics, Zakhem is Lebanese by birth, was educated in the United States and served Southwest Denver in both the Colorado House and Senate. From 1967 to 1972, Zakhem was an instructor at the University of Colorado extension and was also a foreign student adviser at the University of Denver from 1972 to 1973. Zakhem served as a state representative from 1975-1979, and as a state senator from 1979-1983. While serving in the Colorado Legislature, Zakhem sponsored pioneering efforts dealing with solar energy, aid to the elderly and tougher penalties for drunk drivers and employers who hire illegal aliens. He then, thanks to Reagan's appointment, went on to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain from 1986 to 1989.