When I moved to Colorado from Florida a few years ago, I was excited to be leaving the state known for its hanging chads and decidedly Republican majority for a more progressive climate. The progressive climate of the Denver Metro area included two large college campuses in Boulder and Fort Collins, a booming nonprofit industry (the main reason I was moving to Denver), and lots of medical marijuana.
I had moved to Denver right after Obama was elected and a year later people were still talking about the wild party that happened when the Democratic National Convention came to town. That was then, and now the political climate, not unlike the environmental climate suffering from concomitant forest fires, has gotten a little hazy. Less visual slogans and advertising, more student uproar, and a post-Occupy environment have affected the Rocky Mountain swing state.
I work right next to the Colorado Democratic Party office, and I notice that it looks empty all the time. It could be that their office works different hours than the hours I am usually walking around the Santa Fe Arts District. Maybe they have a lot of ground to cover and don’t have time to sit inside behind a desk. I can say personally that I have yet to see any campaigners that aren’t working for a specific agency, besides the one high school student who was signing people up to vote at the Civic Center fireworks just a few weeks back. I haven’t seen quite so many signs in the store windows (a handful of Obama signs were left over from the 2008 campaign, but have since been removed). There are no billboards downtown. There used to be a few “I’m a Mormon” billboards, and there were news stories about billboards comparing Obama to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but there aren’t any in the downtown area that my car-less demographic and I frequent. There are no bumper stickers, besides some peeling “Hope” decals. I don’t listen to the radio, but the music sites I frequent aren’t spamming me with election ads; maybe the Google bots have pegged me for a non-voter since I registered as an Independent. I don’t see anything, and one might question whether this election is still even happening.
Earlier this year Obama visited the University of Colorado - Boulder campus to talk about the rising student loan interest rate. He poetically rallied the students to see his hope that congress would act to stop the increase of more than 3%, and the crowd responded enthusiastically. Unfortunately the fervor of the students turned inwards when dismay took hold of the country as we all received notice that we had new, higher student loan interest rates. It’s confusing, and most of the coworkers and friends I talk to have shut themselves off from the campaign talk because we know that’s all it is: talk. We can all sit around with our buddy, the President, and accidentally spill yogurt on him and laugh it off, but at the end of the day people’s shoulders shrug as we scratch our heads and ask, “What happened?’.
Oh, and then there was that big Occupy Movement that took hold of the capital last fall. Since the tents were dismantled, the city has become increasingly indignant to the policy-makers’ response to a collective sentiment that most people nationwide could relate to. Denver passed a ban on outdoor “camping” in their last legislative session, effectively making it illegal to be homeless; then the cops returned with teargas when a march of protesters met up with the popular First Friday artwalk crowd; most of Civic Center park has remained fenced off from public use months after any tents were still standing. While the community was very positive about Obama’s reproach to our legislature’s inability to legalize civil unions, again we see someone who wants to be our friend but has little say in what actually ends up affecting our daily lives. While the people were happy that the president declared a National Emergency for those areas attacked by raging fires, I think the haze is still too thick to see ahead if a substantial turnout will show up to the voting booths.