Who's the worst of all?
In his essay "The Second Rape of the West" published in 1975, Edward Abbey observed that when Westerners with certain attitude problems start talking, the conversation often features their representatives in the U.S. Congress.
"Look at Senators Garn and Moss of Utah, Senators Goldwater and Fannin of Arizona, Governor Rampton of Utah, Congressmen Steiger and Rhodes of Arizona, and about half a dozen others in our Western Dirty Dozen. Don't they qualify, from the conservationist point of view, as sons of bitches, too? [Montana rancher Boyd] Charter and I had a bit of discussion about this, each of us maintaining, out of regional loyalty, that his own politicians were the worst."
And in any such conversation, I can more than hold my own. That's because I live in Colorado's 5th Congressional District, which is dominated by right-thinking Colorado Springs, 100 miles away from my little mountain town.
The 5th was formed because Colorado got an additional representative after the 1970 census. It has always elected a Republican. Our current representative is Doug Lamborn, first elected in 2006 after a stint in the state legislature, where he proposed that 14,140-foot Mt. Democrat be renamed.
Lamborn consistently ranks as one of the most conservative members of Congress. But that's about the only way he's consistent.
Recently he sent out a franked (i.e., mailed at taxpayer expense) message to his constituents. It was a full-color 8.5"x11" card. One side informed us that "Government does not create jobs." Turn it over, and read that proposed cuts in defense spending, manfully opposed by Lamborn of course, could cost Colorado 17,000 jobs -- most of them in and around Colorado Springs.
Either government creates jobs or it doesn't; Lamborn tries to have it both ways.
But logic isn't one of his strong points. He appears to subscribe to the Oil Shale Myth, which holds that America could easily produce billions of barrels of cheap oil if only the oppressive federal government would quit "locking up" shale lands and repeal some onerous environmental laws that stifle mining and refining.
That there are shale deposits in private hands, and that to date the free market that Lamborn so admires has not come up with an economically viable method of extracting fuel from these rocks despite a century's worth of effort-- those facts seem to have escaped Lamborn's notice.
So it may be decades before there's any chance of the federal government collecting royalties from oil-shale development. But that's in reality. In Lambornland, the shale royalties will soon flow to help repair America's roads and bridges.
I'll grant that there might be some boondoggle aspects to the development of wind energy. But I'm willing to bet that wind provides more jobs than oil shale, and yet Lamborn supports subsidies for shale and opposes the wind-production tax credit.
Most Friday mornings I drink coffee with some other small-town curmudgeon. Recently there was some discussion after we learned that we would stay in the 5th District despite redistricting in the wake of the 2010 census.
The topic was the proper pronunciation of our representative's name. Most of us liked "Lame brain." There was a suggestion of "Lamb brain," but it was pointed out that this would be "an insult to sheep."
So I continue to wonder what crime I ever committed to deserve being in Lamborn's district, even though it means I can often win an argument about who's got the worst representative.
Ed Quillen writes from Salida, Colorado.
Essays in the Range blog are not written by High Country News. The authors are solely responsible for their content.
Image of Doug Lamborn courtesy his office.