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Democracy amid extremism cannot long endure

It’s past time to defeat extremism at the ballot box

Jan 21, 2024

Two years ago, an op-ed co-signed by six concerned Mesa County residents was published in the pages of this newspaper. That op-ed was the genesis of our organization, Restore the Balance (RtB), and was intended as a clarion call to all Western Slope residents to oppose political extremism across the entire breadth of the political spectrum, from the extreme left to

the extreme right.

Mesa County residents would do well to recall the events that dominated the daily news cycle two years ago today and the months leading up to the creation of RtB. A few months earlier, all of us watched in various stages of horror and disbelief as a U.S. president

summoned a mob to our nation’s capital to prevent what had been the birthright of every American since George Washington left office in 1789 — namely, the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to the next. That, RtB submits, was extremism.

On a day that amounted to an attempted coup of the U.S. government, 3rd District Congresswoman Lauren Boebert was filmed whooping it up and celebrating Jan. 6, 2021, as akin to July 4, 1776. A few weeks later she deemed it appropriate to loudly hector a newly installed president during a state of the union address as if she were just another spectator at a WWE cage fight.

That, RtB submits, was extremism.

As RtB was being organized two and Recorder Tina Peters had become a national news story for clandestinely corrupting the county’s election infrastructure. Peters allegedly did so after

believing that the 2021 Grand Junction municipal election, of all things, was stolen from an alternative slate of right-leaning candidates. When Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland refused to endorse Peters’ conspiratorial beliefs, some elements among the

valley’s hard right suggested a recall of Janet Rowland.

That, RtB submits, was extremism.

All of the foregoing examples of political extremism are the sine qua non for RtB’s existence. Without the incendiary political environment that existed two years ago and which exists in similar forms today, there was no reason for RtB to be created.

Since its inception, RtB has been criticized in a handful of letters to this publication and other forums as a “false front for the Democratic party.” That criticism is an American birthright that

we respect, just as the now-shattered peaceful transfer of power once was an American birthright. But the criticism of RtB as a “false front for the Democratic party” cannot be more disassociated from the truth.

RtB is an organization whose members hail from across the political spectrum. To be sure, Democrats outnumber Republicans among RtB’s membership, and independents out-number both. All have been willing to express an aversion to extremism, which RtB has sought to define as the following:

  • The willful denial of objective reality is extremism, a highly dangerous attribute from which many other forms of extremism arise;

  • A willingness to threaten others or resort to violence to advance one’s political beliefs is extremism;

  • A willingness to traffic in conspiracy theories to demonize political opponents is extremism;

  • A refusal to respect long-held standards for civility and common decency toward others is extremism.

It’s long become a commonplace to suggest that the outcome of every quadrennial presidential race is among the most critical in the nation’s history.

That is simply not true. Some elections are decidedly more critical than others.

RtB is willing to assert that the presidential election year of 1860 was one of those years, a year in which the forces of extremism literally tore this nation asunder. Given the events of Jan. 6, 2021, it is by no means any hyperbole to suggest that the forces of extremism are capable of doing so once again in 2024.

The best way to defeat political extremism is at the polls.

Stand up, speak out and vote.

Come join us or any other organization dedicated to opposing extremism. Together we can make a difference to ensure that our constitutional republic, in the words of a martyred president, can long endure.

— Restore the Balance

Board of Directors

TIM SARMO, chair, is a former regional manager of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. He is also the former administrator of Palisade and Silverton/San Juan County. He was a longtime Democrat but is now unaffiliated.

DENNIS KIRTLAND, vice-chair, is a retired Shaw Construction executive

and former Grand Junction City Council member. He was a lifelong Republican until 2017 but is now unaffiliated.

BERNIE BUESCHER, secretary, is former CEO of West Star Aviation, served two terms in the Colorado General Assembly, and went on to become Colorado’s Secretary of State. He is a

lifelong Democrat.

NORMA WEST, treasurer, is a retired Certified Public Accountant. During her career she specialized in health-care finance, and retired from HopeWest Hospice. She is registered as

an independent.

THEA CHASE is a Palisade trustee, small-business owner and consultant, and former director of Grand Junction’s business incubator. She is a former independent candidate for Colorado House District 54 and remains politically independent today.

JIM BROWN has practiced law in Delta for over 49 years and has been

active on numerous community boards in the Delta and Montrose areas. He is

a former Republican, now registered unaffiliated.

JANALEE HOGAN is retired after a 30-year career in the financial industry and almost 15 years in local government for La Plata County. She is an active community volunteer in Durango serving with numerous nonprofit agencies. She was a life-long Republican until, becoming disappointed with both political parties, she is registered unaffiliated.

DAVE MURPHY is founder of The Alpine Group, an executive search firm,

and board chair of Grand Valley Peace & Justice. He has been a centrist, unaffiliated voter for many years.

GEORGE ORBANEK is the former

editor and publisher of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (1985-2008). He is a center-right independent.

KIRK RIDER is a retired Grand Junction attorney and Western Slope native. He has been active in local affairs for over 49 years. A longtime Republican, he became unaffiliated in


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