Since I began blogging recently, I have spent a good deal of time at coffee shops.
One of them is Solid Grounds on South Broadway at Arapahoe. It’s a shambling, multi-level store that shares a large parking lot with the South Fellowship church. Given its “.org” domain name, I suspect it’s associated with the church.
I owe Solid Grounds a lot. Back when I was campaigning for office, my manager, Wes Skiles, often convened strategy meetings at the store. And we never lost. So, in much the same way that the crowing cock makes the sun rise, Solid Grounds must have made me a winning politician.
But it’s not just the location and domain name that makes me think that Solid Grounds has a Christian connection; it’s not uncommon to see pastors and other folks I recognize from current or past church affiliations.
One of these, Charlotte Smith, came into the shop the other day. Charlotte still has the blond, wispy hair I remembered from the days we worked together on the Missions Committee at Grace Chapel. Her complexion is fair to the point of being pasty.
“Charlotte,” I said, “great to see you. Long time. How have you been?”
“Good, she replied. “Are you still in the legislature?”
“No. But it’s a question I get a lot,” I replied. “I was termed out a few years ago. Do you still go to Grace Chapel?”
“Yes, we’re still there. Where do you go?” she asked.
“We go to Greenwood Community. How’s your family?”
“Good. I still teach at a Christian School.”
Charlotte is faithfully committed to seeing the Gospel preached throughout the world, especially in the Philippines. In 2001, when we were on the missions committee together, she was the one who first became aware that New Tribes missionaries, Martin and Gracie Burnham, had been taken hostage by the Islamic terrorist group, Abu Sayyaf, in the Philippines. Charlotte, as I remember, had a personal connection with the Burnhams. After a standoff that lasted a year, Martin was killed during a rescue attempt; Gracie was shot in the leg.
“Our son is at West Point,” Charlotte continued. “Mike Coffman helped him get in.”
“That,” I replied, “is a quite an achievement. I just hope we’re out of all these crazy wars in the Middle East before he has to go.”
“Well,” she replied, never one to back down, “if we’d just finished the job the first time, we wouldn’t have to worry about it.”
I hoped she didn’t mean that we should have turned the desert to glass, but I left it at that.
“Our daughter,” she continued, “got married recently. She owns her own house painting business. And her husband owns a business repairing sprinkler systems.”
“That’s good,” I replied, but was thinking that was a somewhat unconventional career choice for a woman. “I hope she’s careful.”
“She is,” Charlotte replied. “She’s very good at what she does.”
To describe Charlotte and her family as “salt of the earth folks” is an understatement. They’re also the kind of people Democrats like Barack Obama are likely to dismiss as “clinging to their guns and Bibles.” And, truth be told, many establishment Republicans probably feel the same way; they just don’t say it out loud.
Of course, I’m pleased that Charlotte’s son has been accepted at West Point; he has the opportunity to get a great education. But if he’s killed or maimed for life helping the American empire pursue its imperial goals in distant wars that should be none of our business, I would consider it a tragic waste.
But despite that, I’ll concede that Mike Coffman may have done Charlotte’s son a favor. I certainly hope it turns out that way.
But I can guarantee you he hasn’t done her daughter or son-in-law any favors.
I was a delegate at the 6th Congressional nominating assembly where Coffman was nominated for his 5th term in Congress. The venue was the large auditorium at the Heritage Christian Center in Aurora. When Mike took the stage to accept the nomination, it looked like he was running for Secretary General of the United Nations-rather than the US Congress. The platform was packed with every conceivable ethnic group, including women in hijabs.
At the assembly, Coffman had all the money, all the organization, all the years in D.C., all the support of the Arapahoe County Republican establishment.
But despite this, his acceptance speech got a tepid reception.
Coffman’s opponent at the assembly, Kyle Bradell, was a 20-something, completely unknown newcomer who took the stage with exactly one supporter-who also gave the nominating speech.
In his acceptance speech, Bradell basically talked about one issue: ending illegal immigration. And how Coffman has flip flopped on the issue to keep his cushy job as the district has gone from being solidly Republican to hotly competitive with redistricting.
In sharp contrast to Coffman’s speech, Bradell’s fiery address got a rousing reception from the rank and file Republican activists in the seats.
And the proof that Bradell’s support was more than just applause deep? Despite Coffman’s apparently overwhelming advantages, he managed to keep his long shot, wildly underfunded opponent off the August primary ballot by a mere 3% points.
I voted for Bradell with a clear conscience. Why? If you can’t trust what Coffman says on immigration, how do you know when you can believe him? In my estimation, he’s most likely to be looking out for just one person in the Washington swamp: himself.
But maybe, you say, things changed as the 2016 moved into the fall and Donald Trump secured the Republican Presidential nomination. And Coffman locked up the nomination for the 6th.
Well, yes, they did change. But for the worse. Mike Coffman was the first Republican member of the House to release a paid ad claiming he would “stand up” to Trump if he were elected. Here’s what he said about Trump in his TV spot that ran in English and Spanish: “Honestly, I don’t care for him much.”
Funny talk from a guy who, before his district became competitive from redistricting, sponsored legislation in 2011 to make English the nation’s official language. And suggested that voters who couldn’t read their ballots “should pull out a dictionary.” And now he’s stooped to running bilingual campaign ads. And making a big deal of learning Spanish by watching Spanish language soap operas. If this isn’t pandering, what is, for heaven’s sake?
But what does all this mean for Charlotte’s daughter and son-in-law?
Just this. A house painter or a sprinkler repairman were never going to be wealthy in this country. But they were honorable, blue collar occupations that gave their practitioners, with hard work, the opportunity to enjoy a middle class life style and raise a family.
No longer. The unprecedented waves of immigrants, both legal and illegal, currently washing up on our shores haven’t hurt attorneys, CPAs, Wall Street money manipulators, and others like them at the top of the income distribution. Their incomes are rising nicely, thank you.
But those relatively low skill, low income native born American workers, like Charlotte’s daughter and son-in-law, are falling ever further behind.
Does Mike Coffman care? If asked, he would no doubt say that he is “fighting” for small businesses like those owned by Charlotte’s daughter and her husband.
But, as is true with everything, actions speak louder than words. What actions would really help native born individuals like Charlotte’s daughter? Limiting immigration-of both the illegal and legal variety.
But what is Coffman actually doing? More pandering. Putting up bilingual websites that tout his efforts to sponsor legislation granting citizenship to illegals who are doing jobs that would otherwise go to native Americans like Charlotte’s daughter and her husband.
I have no idea how voted Charlotte in the 2016 election. Heck, maybe she voted for Hillary-but from what I know of her, that would be far out of character for her.
But I do know this. Charlotte’s family fits the profile of the The Deplorables that supported President Trump and which Hillary Clinton so contemptuously referred to during the 2016 Presidential campaign.
Again, Mike Coffman is unlikely to repeat the mistake of saying out loud what Clinton thought of people like Charlotte’s family. After all, you don’t survive nearly 30 years as a career politician by making foolish mistakes.
But Mike doesn’t have to say it out loud. Just look at what he’s doing.