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In response to Donald Trump’s failure to follow the rules at Tuesday night’s debate with Joe Biden — the president interrupted 741 times — the Commission on Presidential Debates says it plans to issue new rules for the next debates, possibly including cutting off a candidate’s microphone.
This feels off to me, as a journalist.
The job of the press, in debate settings, is to ask good questions and follow-ups, and keep quiet when appropriate to make space for dialogue between participants.
It is clear that Donald Trump is not a typical participant. So, what to do about that? I can understand the impulse to impose restrictions meant to thwart the approach Trump took Tuesday night. And the intention is well-meaning: the commission, in a statement, said that “additional structure” would be designed “to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues.”
But by making these changes, the commission risks distorting reality.
The president’s behavior is what it is. The American people should be able to see it and evaluate it for themselves. Evidently it’s not a winning strategy — polls conducted after Tuesday’s debate showed higher marks for Biden — but it’s a strategy nevertheless.
Even if cutting off the mic prompts a more civil, traditional debate, the civility will have been manufactured.
Speaking of debates: The Denver Post will co-host — with Colorado Public Radio and Denver7 — one between Cory Gardner and John Hickenlooper next Friday, Oct. 9, at 5 p.m. Got a question you’d like to ask the candidates? Email Justin Wingerter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Justin has an update on Hick v. Gardner in this week’s Spot, Saja Hindi writes about the prospects for more changes to marijuana laws and Conrad Swanson writes about the ongoing effort to let more than two unrelated people share a house or apartment in Denver.
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Have a question about the upcoming election? Submit it here and it’ll go straight to The Denver Post politics team.
U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, who chairs the Colorado Republican Party, has asked the Justice Department and Federal Election Commission to investigate postcards sent by the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, the latest escalation in a dispute that began with a debunked and retracted television news story.
Capitol Diary • By Saja Hindi
Marijuana policy in a pandemic
The effects of a global public health crisis and economic recession will likely occupy the Colorado state legislature during the 2021 session as it did this year — along with racial justice and police reforms.
Marijuana policy is one of many issues that have largely fallen by the wayside amid more urgent priorities.
But as Rep. James Coleman, a Denver Democrat, told me this week, he’s glad for a renewed focus on state efforts to bridge a social equity gap that he also sees as a coronavirus concern.
Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday mass-pardoned more than 2,700 people who had state-level convictions for up to 1 ounce of marijuana, hoping to clear records for people who were punished for something they did in the past that would be legal now. As we reported in The Denver Post, that came as a result of House Bill 1424 giving the governor that authority.
Advocates say it’s a good first step, but it doesn’t clear convictions in municipal courts, and it doesn’t expunge or seal records.
“This is not a giant step, but it’s somewhere in between baby steps and big steps,” said John Bailey of the Black Cannabis Equity Initiative and the Colorado Black Round Table. “And it is the right step, so we’re moving in the right direction.”
Studies have shown that people who are most often penalized for breaking marijuana laws are people of color, and that creates a barrier to them working in the cannabis industry — an industry that has continued to thrive during the pandemic.
The Black Cannabis Equity Initiative and Colorado Black Roundtable believe that even though pardons and expungements aren’t “the face of social equity in Colorado,” they’re important to recognizing and acknowledging institutional racism and barriers for people of color entering the cannabis industry.
Coleman hopes the next step at the legislative level is looking at expungement, although there are challenges to implementation. Programs in Denver and Boulder to help expunge records have seen little participation from those eligible.
More Colorado political news
- Colorado voters will be able to fix their ballot problems via text in this election.
- Advocates call the threat of ICE arrests targeting Denver a political move.
- Gov. Jared Polis will mass-pardon more than 2,700 for marijuana possession.
- The SCOTUS vacancy heats up the fight over a proposed 22-week abortion ban in Colorado.
#COSen 2020 • By Justin Wingerter
What to expect Friday night
“I’m looking forward to the debates, but which Cory Gardner is going to show up?” John Hickenlooper says at the start of his latest TV ad, accusing Gardner of duplicity on health care, the environment and President Donald Trump.
Gardner and Hickenlooper will share a stage for the first time Friday — a Pueblo Chieftain-sponsored showdown starting at 7 p.m. It will be livestreamed here.
Expect Gardner’s remarks to be heavy on first-term accomplishments, especially funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit, a water pipeline in the Pueblo area. But also expect him to press Hickenlooper on his ethics violations, as well as on health care and environmental policies that Gardner will frame as radically liberal.
Republicans believe Hickenlooper will struggle under the pressure of debate attacks. Gardner is the better debater and is trailing, so expect him to spar with the Democrat whenever he can.
Hickenlooper, meanwhile, is likely to focus as he usually does on health care, Trump and the federal government’s response to coronavirus. On the Supreme Court vacancy, expect more talk about its policy implications than what Hickenlooper sees as Gardner’s hypocrisy.
Gardner knows you don’t always agree
“I’m Cory Gardner,” the senator says in an ad released last week, as he steps out of a shower fully clothed. “You and I may not always agree, but I stay true and work hard for Colorado.”
In an ad released one day later, Gardner looks at the camera and delivers an almost identical sentence: “You and I may not always agree, but know I honestly work hard for Colorado.”
Gardner’s electoral survival rests on his ability to win over Coloradans who sometimes disagree with him and his Republican Party. Polls show Gardner and Trump are not very popular here these days, but also that Gardner outperforms the president, suggesting there are Coloradans willing to re-elect the senator, even when they “may not always agree.”
More federal election news
Mile High Politics • By Conrad Swanson
Two’s company, three’s a crowd – for now
A controversial proposal to increase the number of unrelated people who can live in a home at any given time is already on hold before it hit the desks of all 13 Denver City Council members.
Just when it’ll be brought up again for concrete action remains unclear, though the measure is scheduled for further discussion in a council committee Tuesday.
But it’s not yet dead in the water, said supporting Councilwoman Robin Kniech. Rather, this is a time to adjust the proposal further and find more common ground among council members and Denverites at large.
“This isn’t a choice between this proposal and nothing,” Kniech said. “We always have to be willing to look at a whole range of options.”
Currently only two unrelated people can legally live together in a home at a time, Kniech said. The limit is antithetical to Denver’s goal of providing more affordable housing options.
“That is the lowest in the nation,” she said. “No matter how large the house is, no matter the number of bedrooms.”
Initially the proposal sought to increase that number to eight, but after some workshopping — and complaints from those tracking the process — it was reduced to five, Kniech said.
Not only is it an affordable housing issue, she said, but it relates to homelessness and criminal reform.
A rule change could benefit those living on Denver’s streets and would provide options for those released from Denver’s jail to live in a sort of halfway house with supervision and support, Kniech said.
“We can’t wish away the need for more shelters for those experiencing homelessness or those needing support when they come out of jail or prison,” she said.
It’s not yet clear whether common ground can be reached this year, or at all. Council members Kevin Flynn and Kendra Black have come out against versions of the proposal, and residents have opposed it as well, some going so far as to threaten recall efforts against those who support it.
But that doesn’t worry Kniech. Rather, she said, her focus is on making the proposal as effective as possible.
More Denver and suburban political news
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