April 11, 2011

Posted on April 11, 2011 at 19:38 PM

On being tired of choosing between the lesser of two evils…

On March 18, I had the severe misfortune of attending the El Paso County Democrat’s St. Patrick’s Day Gala Dinner. It wasn’t my idea. I was just trying to humor a member of our Area Labor Council, who believed the dinner would be a worth while event for Labor to support. He was wrong.

At $80 a plate, the event was nothing more than an opportunity to rub elbows with the elite crowd within the party (like those who can afford such extravagant dining price tags, with a live auction to follow, etc.) In my opinion, and with very little exception, the Gala would have been virtually indistinguishable from a similar sized gathering of wealthy Republicans.

As if there hasn’t been enough reminders lately, those in attendance reminded me of what I hate the most about our political system – money (and how those who control both political parties are those who have most of it.) Again, with very little exception, these are the people who do not understand the needs and concerns of the average working American and they do not care. These limousine liberals, just like their counterparts in the other party, are the ones whohave time to volunteer, and money to donate to charities (like the El Paso Dems) and support the fine arts… However, when it comes to average working Americans (and especially Labor) they are mostly clueless. They would prefer that, when us commoners are seen and heard from, it’s in the context of a television news story taking place somewhere else – like Madison Wisconsin.

In fact, both opening speakers (Senator Michael Bennet and County Chair, Kathleen Ricker) extolled the virtues of the working class and expressed their support for the ongoing struggles of the public sector workers in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and wherever else the downtrodden were being trodden upon. (Of course, they also extolled the virtues of the military – the bravery, the sacrifice… While, in the shadows of Ft. Carson and Cheyenne Mountain, there was no military presence, no complimentary appreciation table, at all.)

It was right around this point in the program (when I had barely finished my tiny but adorably presented salad) that something very disturbing was pointed out to me in the Gala’s program. Much to the dismay of everyone at the Labor table, listed among the evening’s scheduled festivities was something called the El Paso County Democrats Norm Pledger Lifetime Achievement Award. This wasn’t the disturbing part. Norman Pledger is an IBEW Local 113 and Colorado Labor legend. By the time everything’s said and done, he should have at least a dozen awards named in his honor. What got us upset was the choice of this year’s winner: Chuck Murphy. Perhaps you need to be from Colorado Springs and maybe, even more specifically, work in the construction trades to understand what a poor choice this was. Murphy Constructors is one of the biggest general contractors in town, here, and it’s not just a nonunion outfit but strongly antiunion. Those who work for Murphy Constructors, oddly enough, do not have the rights of collective bargaining that claim to be so cherished by Democratic politicians (and County Chairs.) Apparently, Chuck Murphy gives the Democrats a lot of money and is quite the philanthropist. Easy for him, I say, considering how much he doesn’t have to spend on things like decent wages, health care, pension, etc., for those who have helped him make his millions – easy for a lot of rich people to be thought of as pillars of society that way…

After the initial shock, Local 113 President (and Area Labor Council President) Mike Ham thought the best thing to do was to let somebody know what a horrible mistake had been made – at the very least, to have the award presented without Norm’s name attached. When made aware of our displeasure, the County Chair didn’t see what all the fuss was about. Though a blatant lie, she claimed that Norm was aware of the atrocity and fine with it. (Shockingly, he was quite upset when he was made aware, the next day, and had not even received an invitation to the event where an award was being given in his honor.) Things got tense. Words were exchanged. Personal space was violated. Labor was disrespected and we were treated in a very rude and condescending manner. Bottom line: no part of the Gala would be compromised by a bunch of dumb Union people.

We were basically told to sit down and shut up – that if we continued to make a scene, we would be removed by security. Nobody tells proud (or dumb) Union people to sit down and shut up… We hate that more than just about anything. The entire table, which included Colorado AFL-CIO Executive Director, Mike Cerbo, got up and walked.

Jail didn’t seem like a good idea to anyone, and I didn’t want no stupid Lamb Wellington anyhow…

Their excuse was that they didn’t know but the truth is closer to wouldn’t’ve cared. We knew it wasn’t exactly our crowd, in the first place, but it was still a real wake up call (to the general ignorance and hypocrisy of the party that claims to be on our side.) Honestly, and this is epidemic, people are more aware of far away distractions (the splinter in someone else’s eye) than they are about what’s going on in their own back yards.
We were glad to get out though, almost relieved. Personally, I don’t function very well in such settings and that’s OK. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, as it only proves I have a soul.

The experience left me so disillusioned, though, that I think I’m done with partisan politics for a while. I’ve said for a long time that it’s not about Democrats and Republicans but haves and have nots, and Chuck Murphy winning the Norm Pledger Lifetime Achievement Award is perfect proof – money does whatever money wants and never has to apologize… My new line of thought… Make less than $150,000 a year? Not crazy enough for the tea party? Join the American Workers’ Party today. Finally, a political organization for the other 80% of the population!

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