Leaving the party
Colorado Springs, Colorado
SUZANNE GOLDENBERG, US CORRESPONDENT, GUARDIAN: We’re going to see this local politician called Jan Martin. Now, she’s a lifelong Republican, and about six weeks ago she came out in support of Barack Obama. So I want to find out what led her to sort of take this step, and why she feels incapable of supporting John McCain. Colorado Springs is supposed to be the evangelical Mecca, so I’m wondering, really, whether somebody like Jan Martin, a moderate Republican, just doesn’t fit in here anymore, or whether she’s indicative of a larger trend of more traditional, longtime Republicans saying, "Enough is enough with George Bush. I’m not going to vote for John McCain. I’m going to consider other options. I’m going to support Barack Obama."
GOLDENBERG: What’s your journey been like in this election year?
JAN MARTIN, COLORADO SPRINGS CITY COUNCIL: I’m a lifelong Republican, traditionally vote Republican. My grandfather was a Republican state senator representing Colorado Springs in the late 1950s. This year I have not been comfortable with the direction the country has taken; a sort of black-and-white thinking, you’re-with-us-or-you’re-against-us sort of attitude, has, I think, left individuals sort of powerless. You’re either in the "in" group or you’re in the "out" group, but there’s no way for us to actually work together.
GOLDENBERG: Now, John McCain has presented himself as somebody who is a maverick, not cut from that cloth, and indeed, as you know, the evangelicals didn’t like him at first. What did you think of John McCain when he first won the nomination?
MARTIN: I was actually pleased when I saw John McCain chosen as the Republican nomination. Of all the candidates that were running, John McCain represented the more moderate voice. But I’ll tell you what really switched me was his choice of Sarah Palin as vice president. She has no experience. She doesn’t bring anything to the ticket other than Christian values that will attract a constituency that McCain didn’t attract himself.
GOLDENBERG: Have you met Barack Obama?
MARTIN: No. I had an opportunity to go to an event where he spoke.
GOLDENBERG: And was it—?
MARTIN: It was wonderful.
GOLDENBERG: Was that the event that caused you to switch? Or had you switched [inaudible] this?
MARTIN: I had pretty much made up my mind. I really went to the event because I wanted to sort of be in the same room with him to get my own personal sense of how genuine I believed he was. And I came away that evening convinced that he was the real thing.
GOLDENBERG: And so will you be voting for him?
MARTIN: Yes. I made the decision about six weeks ago to join the local Republicans for Obama group.
GOLDENBERG: Are we going to see a historic shift away from the Republican Party, do you think? Are we talking about that kind of historic change?
MARTIN: I think the last eight years have been not a very good time for this country and for individuals, and I think people are looking for a new direction.
GOLDENBERG: This is downtown Colorado Springs. We’re on our way now to meet John Morris. He’s the head of the Democratic Party here in El Paso County. Now, traditionally, a man in John Morris’ position, it would be depressed with an election coming up. Democrats here never expect to pull very much of the vote; indeed, if they get even 40 percent of the vote, they think it’s a win. This time around, though, I’m curious to see what kind of mood John Morris is in, whether he thinks that things are shifting this way.
JOHN MORRIS, DEMOCRATIC CHAIRMAN, EL PASO COUNTY: For years, El Paso County was sort of seen as this sort of black hole of Republican extremism and Democrats shouldn’t pay any attention to it, and Democrats in Denver and the state party, you know, just sort of ignored us down here.
GOLDENBERG: Why was it seen as a black hole [inaudible]?
MORRIS: Well, because the registration is a little over two-to-one Republican, but also a lot of evangelical mega churches, etcetera. That wing of the Republican Party certainly did take over the party organization here in the county.
GOLDENBERG: Somebody like Jan Martin, who’s an elected official?
MORRIS: She is representative of a very significant number of Republicans in the county who believe in fiscal responsibility in government. And, of course, if you look at the Republican Party in the last 20 years, you’ve seen completely the opposite of that. You’ve seen, you know, extremely reckless spending. And so these Republicans are feeling like they haven’t changed; it’s their party that has really moved away from them. And so our job, I think, as a party, as a political party, is to try to speak to those people and offer them quality alternatives. There is a huge enthusiasm on our side for Obama, and they’re spending a lot of time here, they’re focusing a lot of money here. If we perform at a 40 percent level in this county, then we should win the state.
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