The mood on Main St. as midterm elections loom
Eagle, Colorado, a town struggling to surmount recession, offers a window into why America seems so sullen heading into what could be a hinge moment in politics.
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Bill Heicher is no crank. A former Colorado Division of Wildlife biologist, he has worked in the government and understands how hard it is to effect change. But he says what's happening now is different. "The politicians are not [in Washington] for the good of the people," he says. "They are there for themselves. And there is a helpless [feeling] out here that there is nothing we can do."Skip to next paragraph
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That last point is not insignificant. The discontent in the electorate doesn't seem as singularly focused as it was in 1994 – the year the Republicans swept into power with their Contract with America and the election many Republicans like to draw allusions to today. Even the tea party movement, the motivated and loosely affiliated grass-roots groups calling for change, is far from a cohesive force with a common agenda and common political aims.
In Maricopa County, Ariz., an "Immigration Nation" community in Patchwork Nation, the movement is primarily about people pouring illegally across the border. In Ronan, Mont., a "Tractor Country" community, gun rights draws much of the attention. In Nixa, Mo., an "Evangelical Epicenter," conservative Christian values are the focus.
Tea partyers in all those locations would probably cite government spending and taxes as major concerns, which are Republican issues. But they are not issues exclusive to 2010. To those I talk to in Patchwork Nation communities, neither party has easy answers to the bigger problems that vex America.
The end result: The Democrats, as the party in power, may well take a big hit this fall. But no matter which party occupies the most seats in Congress next year, it is not likely to mollify a restive electorate.
Time to reset the dial
Certainly not all is despair in the land, or in Eagle. As the larger world changes, many people here are changing along with it. Call it the enduring American trait of reinvention.
In Gypsum, 20 minutes down the road, there is a new public golf course, Gypsum Creek, that only became a public course when the old facility, the semiprivate Cotton Ranch Golf Club, went into foreclosure. Cotton Ranch was not the most expensive place to play in the area, but with initiation fees of $15,000 to $30,000 and annual dues of $3,000, it wasn't cheap, either.
Now anyone from the tricounty area can play the championship course, designed by famed architect Pete Dye, for $49 a round. That's 18 holes with a cart. You still have to supply your own swing, though.
"Some of the former members were upset when the city first bought the course," says Matt Hanson, the general manager. "They wanted their fees back. But eventually it became accepted. What else was there?
"We are meeting our goals now, in terms of golfers. The costs now make more sense. People are reevaluating their lifestyle. The recession has taught everyone a little bit about how to manage their money, I think."