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Buck-Bennet Debate in Colorado Springs

September 22, 2010

I watched the debate between Ken Buck and Michael Bennett in Centennial Hall in Colorado Springs on Friday, September 17. Channel 5 televised the debate. There’s not much point in repeating or recapping what was said—you can see that for yourself. Rather, I’d like to record some impressions because I think the differences in style were significant.

Before the debate factions supporting both candidates showed up in front. At first, Buck supporters stood on the street waving signs honk-and-wave style. Bennett supporters mostly seemed to stand around talking to each other; a few did the honk-and-wave thing.

Then something interesting happened. A couple of organizers showed up and gathered all the Bennett supporters in a little circle. They started chanting slogans, some in a call-and-response style, seeming to pysch themselves up. Then Bennett appeared in the middle of the group, addressing them. After a few minutes he walked up the steps and into the hall, surrounded and trailed by his admiring supporters. He had a bit of a detached look and the procession reminded me of nothing so much as some Indian guru walking down the streets of Delhi. Were he wearing a 60s-style Nehru jacket I would not have been surprised. The only thing missing from this almost religious procession was people lining the sides throwing flowers.

Instead, there were Buck supporters with signs chanting “Go, Ken, go!”

The Buck supporters, on the other hand, were more self-organizing. One of the Colorado Springs Buck team members asked people to move to the steps; wanting to get out of the sun, I did but only about half did so initially. People wandered over as they felt the need. The difference was clear: the Bennett supporters needed a leader, the Buck supporters were independent adults.

Inside was interesting as well. While Buck, who appeared seemingly from nowhere, was being fitted with a mike, Bennet was mugging for the crowd. His supporters clapped and he clapped in return, first raising his hands and then lowering them as he put his hands together Hindu-style and bowed.

Reg Quirk from Channel 5 ran a tight ship. There was one outburst from the left as Ken mentioned he had a plan on the table for making Social Security solvent. He was interrupted by a man who shouted, “What’s the plan?” and Ken continued, answering the question.  On the other side, Bennett wanted to know who was behind the funding of the 527s and two individuals near me waved their hands. Quirk didn’t like that either.

Ken was pretty serious, answering the questions and making notes while Bennett was speaking. Bennett, on the other hand, stood leaning on the podium with legs crossed looking at Ken whenever he spoke. Somehow Bennett managed to look bored, bemused, superior and arrogant all at the same time. I really couldn’t tell you what Bennett said. When asked about his being named “Obama’s chose one” he told some story about an 80-year old woman he’d met somewhere. In the best Alinsky style, he tried to make it personal with stories, avoiding any facts at all. In a couple of almost surreal moments, he decried the out of control spending in Washington and tried to position himself as a fiscal conservative. Does he think we don’t have his voting record?

On the other hand Buck was pure Bastiat when he said both sides have to stop rewarding their friends and punishing their enemies at the taxpayers’ expense. Although Bennett tried to look almost conservative, in the end the differences were clear. The loudest applause came with Buck’s summation. He noted that our elected officials had not responded to our calls, emails or faxes. They had ignored the voice and wishes of the people. I looked directly at Bennett, standing there smugly, and remembered the “thank you for your input but I’m smarter than you and I know what I’m doing” replies to my emails. When Buck concluded by saying that we would make our voices heard convincingly in November, the crowd jumped to their feet cheering and applauding.

After the debate, Bennett left pretty quickly while Buck stayed on for quite a while, doing interviews and talking to supporters.

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