Photos of elected officials doing elected official things circulate among politics watchers. People talk about them for a while and then they fall off the radar.
Gov. John Hickenlooper last fall showing off his Trump-Sanders socks.
Ted Cruz in the shining moment when he took the stage after sweeping the Colorado Republican Party presidential nomination, captured by someone in the scrum at the instant when he leaned over the crowd and pressed the flesh with fans, a look on his incredible face that wrote a million captions in the mind of the viewer.
The shot The Statesman’s Ernest Luning took of Hickenlooper with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on stage in Denver in August, their arms around each other, their hands raised in the air waving triumphantly amid a crowd of supporters. It’s a snapshot from the future of a parallel universe in which some butterfly never flapped its wings. Ah, what could have been!
“The Deal” was taken last week, but with each passing day, it has become more riveting.
Senate President Kevin Grantham poses with House Speaker Crisanta Duran.
He’s a conservative Republican from Canon City, a tall man and a throwback gentleman in his manners who considers what he says and says what he means. He wears cowboy boots and an impressive goatee with mustaches that in the photo are twisted out straight at the ends. He’s wearing a suite of gray and black.
She’s a long-haired Latina, probably at least a foot and a half shorter than Grantham. She’s also a Democrat from Denver and, in the photo, she’s wearing American flag red and blue.
The photo is meant to be funny — and it is funny. The two legislative leaders are clearly having a celebratory moment, because they have been through something together, and they’re coming out the other end of it.
Grantham and Duran have been on and off negotiating for months over how to raise billions of dollars to make long-overdue transportation upgrades in the state. The interested parties include, well, almost everyone in the state — frustrated constituents, the most influential business and economic groups, the most and least hardcore ideological political groups, every lawmaker at the Capitol, most every elected official in the state, and a large swath of the bureaucrats who work for the state, cities, towns.
Duran holds up an envelope. The bill that is the product of her negotiations with Grantham is meant to be inside. It’s a mock taunt to politics watchers and everyone else dying to know what they have come up with after all these months. The envelope is scrawled with words written in marker: “The Deal. Inside. Top Secret.”
Grantham hams up a skeptical posture, his arms crossed over his chest, his mouth shut tight, his eyes staring sidelong at the camera. Duran is laughing, her large white teeth shining, her eyes focused beyond the camera lens.
In the days since the photo was issued by the state Senate Republican office, Republican legislators have lamented the way the bill was dropped into their laps with little introduction or preparation, the fact that they were kept out of the loop in the negotiations. Many have said they can not support the bill the way it has been presented. They say that maybe Grantham traded away all the chips that matter, that Duran has won and Colorado has lost, because the bill will never pass.
But there is a long way to go. Lawmakers are only half way through the legislative session. Grantham, in agreeing to terms and coming out with a bill, meant mostly just to get something on paper to begin wider negotiations in earnest. He meant for lawmakers to reshape the proposal as it moves through the building, for both sides to work together to make something they can vote for in the end and sell to constituents.
But this photo.
It seems to be saying one thing now. Grantham has eight weeks to make it say something else.