The more interesting part of the riot between Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams and Rep. Leslie Herod isn't what you see being conservative against liberal, reckless use of a label and two officials in a war of words and meanings. It’s what you don’t see.
There's a lot of history and context to unpack.
The same evening law enforcement agencies screened a horrific mass shooting, including a murdered officer, in the nearest county, Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams saw himself at a meeting of Keep Colorado Free & Open, a group that cares about public health annoyed, an irritated audience to orders related to COVID-19. Erik Maulbetsch of the Colorado Times Recorder watching right told the story of what happened next.
A woman in the crowd seemed to be talking about a revolution in a taped exchange. Reams had a hard time. His job is to enforce the law and not encourage a crowd to break it. At a moment like this, a distraction would come in handy.
As they say, to be chased by a wild animal you don't have to be the fastest when the second longest is enough.
Reams gave them Herod as Public Enemy No. 1 and assured him that he would be at least No. 2 if the people wanted to demand to defend themselves against the laws he was sworn to defend.
“I guarantee you, Leslie Herod made a name for herself down at the State Capitol. In my eyes she is a terrorist, "said Reams, reported Maulbetsch. "She is a terrorist against the citizens of Colorado. Your record speaks volumes.
"If there is anyone you should have a reason to leave office for, it's Leslie Herod, because she absolutely runs bills to remove law enforcement from your daily life to keep law enforcement from protecting you . " And it turns the state upside down. It is on record. How many others can we take in and then who do we run against? That is the ultimate question. "
That doesn't haunt you, sheriff. The revolutionaries at the meeting want less government, and more law enforcement is no less government. It's more government.
Right, Herod sponsored a major law on criminal justice last year. She is also responsible for the new whistleblower protections for healthcare workers, restoring the right to vote for probation officers, and reducing some drug offenses from crime to misdemeanor.
Besides, it's not her first violation of the law. Last year, she teamed up with El Paso County's Bill Elder after Herod checked his lobbyist and asked for her source of information in a committee meeting. The Republican sheriff demanded that she be disciplined by the Democratic leadership. It wasn't her.
Reams invoked identity politics to get out of a traffic jam. The thing is, he's helping Herod more than hurting her. His supporters would never vote for them anyway, especially since they don't live near their Denver neighborhood.
Herod was elected to the house by an 85% majority in 2016, the greatest victory of any member of a house in a race. Republicans didn't bother to run a candidate against them in 2018 or last year.
Demonization is the oldest trick in the political book, and both sides can team up on it. Take Andrew Jackson. His nickname in 1828 was Jackass. What did Old Hickory do? He made the donkey the symbol of the Democratic Party.
Herod sees the naming as modern, Trumpian, a product of the times, the localization of a national trend, to highlight those who look different when they start to change something. Herod heads the Black Caucus at the Capitol, and she is the first openly lesbian colored woman to serve in the building. As a straw man in Weld County, she makes a good cartoon candidate.
I asked Herod in an exchange of text why she got under the white skin of some Colorado conservatives.
“Women of skin color are making bold changes across the country, from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York to Rep. Park Cannon, Georgia, on labor rights, voting rights, and here in Colorado, public safety and access to guns use common sense to reform, ”she wrote back. "Too often we have been targeted by other officials threatened by the attraction and promise of our demands for a safer, more equal and more prosperous future for all of us."
She said she won't break her step because of the sheriff's sneaky. In fact, if you match her with AOC, Kamala Harris, and other women of color who mess things up, she's going to take it. Herod shared the campaign phase with Harris on his way to becoming the first female vice president and first female vice president of color last year.
"Politicized comments and dangerous dog whistles are not going to distract me from this critical, life-saving work, but they are not harmless," she wrote. “Too many women, colored people and LGBTQ people like me have suffered from such attacks. But we will not be put off. I am proud to be in the sorority boldly calling America to keep its promise of equal justice for all. "
I probably know Herod better than most people. She won't back down, I can tell you.