Where had I seen this movie before? Or was it a book? Maybe even a history book. But this story was blurred and not instantly knowable.
There I was election night in the bar at Jimmy’s downtown, trying to make sense of what I now knew (finally) to be true: that Aspen is a one-party town and that you bucked the Politboro at your own peril.
Where had I seen this before? Of course: Communism, Kafka, cockroaches, and “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.” Or Kim Jong Il or Lenin or any previously revolutionary movement that coalesces around the idea of power in a single, invincible party.
The Baathists of Saddam Hussein, you say? Not a bad historical analogy if you prune away the murders and mutilation. A single party controlling the dialogue and stamping out dissent and owning the media outright. You run against the party in power at the risk of your own life. Totalitarianism requires total submission. Live free or die is for another state of mind.
Ask Rick Magnuson. He stuck his neck out in the ultimately hopeless race against Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis, the incumbent sargeant-at-arms for the Bath party, and he paid for it with his reputation. The state-controlled media rose up against him. The grinding party apparatus wore him down like a drone in “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.” The single-party system crushed him like a bug until his scuttling claws grew silent.
Or consider Rachel Richards and her victory in the Pitkin County Commissioner’s race against Jim True—was there ever a more beautifully ironic name for a candidate running against the Bathists? She, too, is a Bathist, moving from seat to seat, always running with the blessing and support of the iconic Mick Ireland, the Lenin of Aspen who brooks no dissent.
Communism? Of course. For what else can you call a movement that spends $35 million for Burlingame to afford you and other proles a hearth and home? There is no other possible way to describe a movement that will buy a movie theater for the people, or a weight room, or the Marxist dream vehicle, the Hybrid bus.
“[Magnuson] brought up issues without any factual basis,” Braudis told the Aspen Times while denying any need for change in his totalitarian regime. “Rick would have done himself credit by backing off on fictional statistics.”
In the one-party Bathist state there is no need to ka-ching with facts: the Sheriff was never once able to dispute anything his challenger said with actual factual data. In the one-party state, there is no need for facts, because the state produces the facts as needed. Power is the only fact that matters, and the people in such an election vote the way the state wants the election to go. There was never a better candidate in an election that Saddam Hussein in Iraq before his statue fell on its keister in Bagdhad.
No matter. Short of an armed invasion greeted as liberation, the state of Aspen is safe in the one-party state. To see it otherwise is to deny reality. To see it as anything but truth itself is to believe that we actually live in a democracy.