Capitol Hill in Denver isn't Washington D.C., but it is a place where change is possible. It runs on hope. It is driven by people who believe change in possible. Its natural instinct is to reform.
And, the natives of this power center couldn't be happier when Denver Post columnist Al Knight, a conservative crummudgen, is talking about the merits of Governor-elect Ritter's Colorado Promise positions on ethanol. The subject of the story, and not its content, is the message. Democrats are setting the agenda now. The punditocracy, in turn, is responding to it.
His arguments are interesting too. Knight opposes ethanol is large part by decrying huge federal subsidies for corn, maintained by Republicans, which are currently one factor that makes E-85 cost competitive. At the same time, Knight is arguing that ethanol may be a problem because it is driving up the cost of corn which impacts supermarket prices.
Al Knight doesn't connect the dots, but his criticism of the Colorado Promise invites a win-win solution. The obvious conclusion is that some of the $25 billion a year in farm subsidies which Republicans have maintained over the past twelve years in Washington, might be unnecessary is ethanol demand made rural corn production more profitable.
Moreover, this is no coincidence. While Knight is stuck in old mindsets, Ritter's agenda has very much focused on ways to make the rural economy profitable not by clinging to increasingly economically unsustainable business models, but by finding new profit centers many of which are rooted in a new energy economy.
If it works, Democrats might have a formula for winning back the rural voters it held fast during the very rural oriented New Deal, but subsequently lost as the parties differences on rural economic issues dissolved, and conservative religious sentiment on social issues in rural areas and a general hostility to regulation and taxation of small businesses became the driving force behind the transition to the Republican party. There aren't all that many farmers in the electorate, but the intensity of their tendency to vote against Democrats makes them a force to be reckoned with. Ritter and both Salazars in Colorado have started to break this monolithic opposition to Democrats.
Of course, it also adds hope to your day when the Governor-elect is having his coffee at the table over from you in your neighborhood coffee shop, as he was this morning (although nothing in this post is a result of that coincidence) and lives in your state house district. While I don't always see eye to eye with him, I can be very comfortable that he is aware of the reality I see and live in every day.
Ritter is someone who has come from rural roots to live in the City and can see both sides of the fence. That is a valuable thing in a Governor, which is why the seemingly silly debate in the 2006 campaign over who had more cow milking experience mattered.