The cordial and polite reception from his constituents, both Democrats and Republicans, that U.S. Senator Michael Bennet received in Steamboat Springs this week strikes us as the way town hall meetings were meant to be conducted.
In contrast, we deplore the reception U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner received in Colorado Springs, Greeley and Lakewood this month when he was booed and cursed. There were times when his efforts to answer questions could not be understood over the crowd noise, according to a story in the Denver Post.
We editorialized earlier this summer that, in an era when the constituents who turn out to town hall meetings are angry and more interested in venting than seeking answers, it would be helpful to run those meetings the way we run political forums in Routt County. After Bennet’s meeting in Steamboat this week, we have renewed hope that won’t be necessary.
And, of course, Gardner was in Steamboat Springs earlier this summer and did not host a town hall meeting (the three meetings on the Front Range represented his first solo town hall in in Colorado in a year). He met with agriculturalists in Routt and Moffat counties and with Democratic Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger. Ironically, he skipped a luncheon meeting with local Republicans at a restaurant where constituents were standing outside waving signs emblazoned with political messages.
However, in the context of this opinion piece, we are unconcerned about which senator from which political party has been most willing to stand up in front of his constituents and field their questions.
Instead, we are concerned, in a nonpartisan way, about what appears to be the increasing decline of civil political discourse in our politics.
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Bennet spoke about the value of pluralism in our political process during his appearance in Steamboat this week. And we take that as a reference to value of living in a pluralistic society — one that is diverse, where the people within that society have different beliefs and tolerate one another’s beliefs, even when they don’t align with their own social and political views.
The hallmark of the legislative branch of our democracy has been that our senators and U.S. representatives are able to perform their duties in a collegial way, even when they are in disagreement, and even when one party controls the legislature by a significant margin.
Compromise is not a dirty word.
One of the best moments during Bennet’s town hall this week came about when the senator went out of his way to greet the former chairman of the Routt County Republicans, Chuck McConnell, who was proudly holding a Trump/Pence campaign sign, The two men exchanged a hearty handshake, which helped to set the tone for the town hall discourse.
We hope Sen. Gardner will return to Steamboat Springs in 2018 for a town hall meeting, where the audience members will behave as though they live in a pluralistic society.
We’d like to shake his hand.
At issue: The disparity in how constituents greeted Sen. Michael Bennet in Steamboat Springs this week and the lack of civility with which Front Range constituents treated Sen. Cory Gardner.
Our view: Both our Democratic and Republican U.S. senators deserve to be greeted with respect and engage in civil dialogue when they stand in front of their constituents.
• Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher
• Lisa Schlichtman, editor
• Jim Patterson, evening editor
• Tom Ross, reporter
• Beth Melton, community representative
• Bob Weiss, community representative
Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com.