Single-issue fixation loses bigger picture

When I was a young picky kid, my mother went through a healthy cooking phase.

Never a natural in the kitchen, she set about to prepare for my sister and me wholesome meals chock full of the finest healthy ingredients the ’80s had to offer. This resulted in many a disappointing family dining experience, but none was so memorable as the tofu-and-wheatgerm soup experiment. It contained three ingredients: the aforementioned two, plus water. Imagine how delicious this was to my second-grade palate.

What followed was a decades-long tofu hatred that has only recently subsided.

For those 20 or more years, though, I regarded anyone who liked tofu – or, heaven forbid, offered it to me – with suspicion, albeit diminishing as I matured.

I was single-issue obsessed and had I been given the opportunity to make a political statement about tofu or anyone who liked it, I would have seized it. I failed to see nuance when it came to tofu: If you liked it, you were off my list permanently, regardless of any other more endearing qualities you might have. Good thing I eventually came to see the world more broadly.

Not so for gun fanatics. Unfortunately, their single-issue obsession – one steeped in a similarly irrational philosophy as mine – is gaining traction in Colorado politics.

Tuesday’s recall of Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, and Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, show that enough Colorado voters were sufficiently impassioned by these lawmakers’ positions on one issue as to revoke their elected office. That is pretty dramatic and pretty irrational.

Morse, Giron and every other human on the planet are far more complex than their views on gun issues – or any single issue.

Disagreeing with someone on one of those positions is fine, and should certainly factor in to voting decisions in primaries and general elections, but throwing the baby out with the bathwater whitewashes the many shades and tones that color the political process. It is a temper tantrum, plain and simple.

In throwing it, voters dismissed two committed lawmakers who have done much for their constituents and for shaping Colorado policy.

Morse was a dedicated supporter of increasing renewable energy use in the state, and successfully shepherded to passage Senate Bill 252, which doubled the rate of renewable energy that large electrical co-ops must provide by 2020.

He also passed the Colorado Working Families Opportunity Act, which extends the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Colorado Child Tax Credit to more than 370,000 low- and moderate-income families. These two measures alone will have a far greater – and more meaningful – impact on life in Colorado than any of Morse’s gun-related votes.

Giron’s signature legislation for 2013 was Senate Bill 3, the ASSET measure, which extends in-state tuition at state colleges and universities for any student that attended high school in Colorado for three or more years and is working to attain legal immigration status. That bill will have profound implications for many immigrant families and their children, for whom higher education was not previously financially attainable, as well as the state’s long-term economic health by investing in student success and achievement for all Colorado learners.

These are limited examples of Morse’s and Giron’s wide-ranging interests and causes, but they illustrate how much more there is to consider when casting any vote for any office-holder.

Tossing good lawmakers from their seats based on one position is reactionary and embarrassing – kind of how I now feel about my uninformed tofu hatred of yore (For the record, my mom got a pass because after she tried the soup, she agreed that it was disgusting). As I now understand, the stuff is not bad, and those who like it – even in its stripped down, wheatgerm-only version – aren’t, either.

Making principled decisions at the voting booth is responsible participation in democracy; using a laser-focused litmus as the gauge for all such decisions does not qualify. Lawmakers, like all of us, should comprise more than one angle – and voters should, too.

Megan Graham is a Herald editorial writer and policy analyst. Reach her at meg@durangoherald.com.

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