Shawn Mitchell

Colorado lost a liberal happy warrior last month when long time lawmaker and activist leader Ken Gordon died suddenly. President Obama could learn a thing or two about sincerity and decent politics from Ken. That thought struck me after the president’s recent “pivot” to income inequality reminded me of a friendly debate Ken and I had 15 years ago, about which, more later.

The idea the president is pivoting to inequality is too rich. Redistribution is the organizing principle of his presidency. Taking from the Americans he calls “the haves,” the “fat cats” and giving to those he calls “the poor” and “have nots” has been his constant goal. It’s his guiding star, raison de etre, his highest priority.

He declared his intentions plainly when he told Joe the Plumber we’ll all be better off if he can spread the wealth around. He designed his health law, auto bailout, Gulf spill clean up--every major initiative of his presidency--with the intent to force money from wealthier people and institutions to less wealthy ones. His drop dead requirement in last year’s fiscal cliff negotiations was imposing higher taxes on “the wealthiest Americans” If he hasn’t been out there trying to redistribute his way to a more equal America, what exactly has he been doing?

Pivot shmivot. He’s desperate to talk about something other than the debacle called Obamacare, so he brazenly announced “a new direction.” His media cheerleaders locked arms and did a high kick while relaying his nonsense.

It’s not working, by the way. Inequality is soaring on his watch. It’s going up because government managing the economy doesn’t work. It doesn’t lift the poor. It chokes the investment, startups, expansions, growth and opportunity the poor need to get jobs and climb the economic ladder.

Which brings me back to my friend, Ken Gordon and our debate over liberty and equality. I was a newly elected state representative and he was leader of the House Democrats. Speaking at an orientation for new legislators, Ken said something like this: “I tell my Democratic colleagues that they shouldn’t judge Republicans harshly, and I ask you Republicans the same courtesy. We all want good things for society: happy families, lots of jobs, safe streets, good schools, a clean environment. We just believe different things about how to get there.”

Turning philosophical, Ken added: “I think the difference between the parties is, for Republicans, the highest value is freedom, but for Democrats, the highest value is justice. Republicans will sacrifice some justice for freedom and Democrats will sacrifice some freedom for justice.”

Shawn Mitchell

Shawn Mitchell was elected to Senate District 23 in the Colorado General Assembly in November of 2004. Shawn is an attorney at private practice in Denver and Adams County.