It’s that time of year again, when we all start thinking a little more about what we have to fear.
I’m not referring to Halloween; I’m talking about Election Day. As we count down to next Tuesday, the political operatives have switched into full terror mode, with ads and mailers warning us of the tragic consequences afoot should we elect the other guy.
Remember when the prevailing, albeit facile, political litmus test was whether a candidate was someone you wouldn’t mind having a beer with? Today, two pols hoisting a cold one together gets gleefully twisted into evidence that you’re somehow unfit to lead.
This is only one of the lesser examples of how toxic our politics have become. So before we all make our decisions about whom those leaders should be, let me try to hang some perspective around what is truly scary and what isn’t.
* I don’t fear ISIS as an “imminent threat” to any part of American soil; I do fear policymakers (would-be or current) who don’t seem to know what “imminent” means.
* I won’t fear voter fraud until someone can present any evidence that it’s ever swung a state or national election, or that it’s worsening; I do fear people who are trying to undermine our most basic democratic right in order to combat this alleged threat.
* I don’t fear Ebola; I do fear responding to a potentially legitimate health concern based on public opinion and mass hysteria rather than the thoughtful estimations and recommendations of medical health professionals.
* I won’t fear for my safety in Denver or any other part of Colorado, regardless of how threatening a prison parolee claims to be; I would fear a politician who thinks it’s within a chief executive’s rights to unilaterally decide whether to keep people incarcerated longer than their sentences dictate.
* I don’t fear a politician who’s a deliberate and measured decision-maker; I do fear one who does it without a vision for anything other than getting re-elected.
* I don’t fear the Second Amendment; I do fear the hijacking of it to such an extent that we can no longer agree upon commonsense measures that would make us safer and that the vast majority of people support.
* I don’t fear a war on women. We’ve come too far in 2014 to suddenly revert back to the 1950s; and anyway, it would backfire spectacularly. I do fear a system that doesn’t hold candidates accountable for behaving, voting, or opining a certain way about certain groups or issues and then trying to pretend these actions never happened.
* I won’t fear oil and gas exploration if it’s executed under sensible guidelines; I will always fear the inclination to let the industry—or any industry, for that matter—regulate itself.
* I don’t fear the dwindling influence of the “traditional” family; I do fear the dwindling influence of compassion.
* I don’t fear the prospects of a GOP takeover of the Senate, in Colorado or nationally; I do fear that the politics of payback means that such an outcome will simply gridlock us from another direction.
* I don’t fear the Democrats holding serve; I do fear that them doing so will result in few substantive changes to any aspect of our public policy because they’ll have neither a mandate nor the stomach to wage battles that might hurt them in the next election.
* I don’t fear the 2016 election; I fear that the campaigning for it will begin before our elected officials have had a chance to accomplish anything in 2015—and that we, the electorate, have already accepted that this is a permanent and unchangeable condition.
* I don’t fear higher taxes; I do fear that the additional revenue wouldn’t be spent effectively or efficiently.
* I don’t fear lower taxes; I do fear that the additional income would be hoarded rather than reinvested.
* I don’t fear change or healthy, informed debates; I do fear that we’ve become so wedded to our own narrow worldviews and sense of self-importance that such discussions are no longer possible.
* I don’t fear how, when, or where you vote; I only fear that you won’t.
Follow 5280 editor-at-large Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.