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Choosing Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado to share the Democratic Party’s ticket would weaken the modest progressive gains made during the DNC’s platform struggle and set the tone for what a Hillary Clinton presidency might value. (Photo: KDVR)

Progressive Strides Undone If Hickenlooper Chosen as HRC Running Mate

Donna Smith

As we approach Friday’s announcement by the Hillary Clinton camp of their selection of running mates, Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado is apparently one of the people who has been under consideration. Choosing Hickenlooper to share the Democratic Party’s ticket would weaken the modest progressive gains made during the DNC’s platform struggle and set the tone for what a Hillary Clinton presidency might value. 

Those of us who live in Colorado know Hickenlooper well.  His abilities as an entrepreneur have been long celebrated.  The governor served as Denver’s mayor in the past, and during that period, many of us appreciated his willingness to hear from and really listen to his constituents.  I recall many years ago during one of then Mayor Hickenlooper’s listening sessions which he held frequently, my husband and I met with him to discuss the need for healthcare reform.  He was remarkably well informed and engaged, and he shared with us that he and the mayors of Boulder and Aurora were discussing some ways to create better access to care for all.  It was encouraging to know.

Once Hickenlooper became Colorado’s governor, his willingness to hear from all Coloradans waned, and his commitment to honoring the will of the people in his state seems to have evaporated.  On the issue of healthcare and access for the hundreds of thousands of us who cannot afford the outrageous health insurance premiums, co-pays and deductibles, our governor seems to have lost his way.  He has forgotten us in favor of those who buy political favor.  This November, voters in Colorado will be able to vote on a constitutional amendment that would provide universal access to care and much more affordable costs using a model similar to Medicare for all.  Amendment 69, ColoradoCare, would cut my monthly costs to less than half of what they are now.   But Hickenlooper joined the Chamber of Commerce and the other usual suspects in voicing his opposition to the healthcare ballot measure.  I was saddened but not surprised. 

Then if we look at the critical issue of the climate emergency and the intense amount of fracking activity in Colorado, it is truly breathtaking to have witnessed Gov. Hickenlooper’s direct interference and disdain for the will of the people of Colorado.  The communities of Longmont and Fort Collins had voted to ban fracking while several other communities worked to impose restrictions on fracking.  Those who drive north from Denver along I-25 can see fracking sites dotting the landscape that used to allow sweeping views of the majestic Front Range of the Rockies.  Our children now walk alongside fracking sites and the tanks holding the fracking water/fluids.  

Instead of protecting the rights of those communities to follow the will of the people, Gov. Hickenlooper sided with the oil and gas industry, and the fracking bans were overturned in the Colorado Supreme Court.  In a statement, Hickenlooper said he appreciated the Supreme Court's guidance "on balancing private property rights and local government jurisdiction of oil and gas operations in Colorado."

“Governor Hickenlooper’s policy decisions indicate he is in his own form of climate denial.  We laugh at the Republican party’s denial of climate science, but accept the climate denial of our own.  The Governor either doesn’t know the truth about fracking and the climate emergency, or somehow allows himself to look away, to deny the truth; to disconnect from the suffering of the citizens of Colorado, and from the responsibility and implications of his denial on the lives of future generations.   If our President and Vice President are able to lead the nation and the world in facing the climate emergency – they must be honest and courageous.   Gov. Hickenlooper seems to be neither,” offered Progressive Democrats of America’s Russell Greene, the California delegate to the DNC platform committee who successfully pressed for platform language on climate emergency mobilization.

While I join Russell in his assessment of my Governor’s failure to lead on this issue, I also add the deep concern about Hickenlooper’s ability to so willingly override the overwhelming needs and wishes of the people of this state.   Coloradans support universal, Medicare for all style health reform by a broad majority, and Coloradans support protection of our environment by a broad majority.  Governor Hickenlooper seems to have become more distant from the will of the people as his political position elevated.  Would a Vice President Hickenlooper somehow return to a more populist stand on these or any other issues?  That’s hard to imagine.

While the Bernie campaign leadership is trying hard to help us celebrate a more progressive platform, many of us who worked diligently to support the truly progressive, transformative agenda Bernie advanced during this primary are not convinced that the DNC establishment yet fully understands the power that broader agenda had to inspire.  Choosing Hickenlooper as a running mate would be another signal of the disconnect the DNC has with a large segment of its base – a very vocal, engaged segment of the base.  A Clinton-Hickenlooper ticket would be a sure sign that the will of the people, the needs of the people, the health of the people and the commitment to future generations has been purchased by Wall Street.

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Donna Smith

Donna Smith

Donna Smith is the former executive director of Progressive Democrats of America and currently a Medicare for All campaign surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders.

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