Before last week’s election, we could have rewritten the first few words of the preamble to the Colorado Constitution from: “We the people of Colorado” to “We the purple of Colorado,” connoting a stand-off between Republicans and Democrats in our swing state. After Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents elected Jared Polis as governor, swept every other statewide office ─Attorney General, Secretary of State, Treasurer ─ added Democrat control of the state Senate to their pre-existing majority in the House, and flipped Republican Mike Coffman’s 6th CD seat in the US House to Democrat Jason Crow, there’s no denying our state’s political hue has switched from purple to blue ─ at least for now.
As another unmistakable sign of Colorado’s blue wave, two incumbent GOP sheriffs were ousted by Democrat challengers in Adams and Arapahoe counties, races not usually that partisan.
As a Republican, I’m obviously not pleased with that outcome but I pretty much expected it. Whether it’s a trend or just an event in Colorado remains to be seen. Nationally, Democrats did well but fell short of the Blue Tsunami they were hoping for. They needed 23 seats to flip the US house and got that, and then some, but their gain was only about average for the party out of the White House in a mid-term election. On the other hand, Republicans increased their majority in the US Senate by two or three seats. The GOP lost control of some state legislatures and governorships but still maintained their majorities in both of those areas.
What we’re likely to see now is grid lock in Congress over most issues that reflect the great public divide. The focus of Democrats will be on crippling and harassing President Trump and, of course, competing with each other for their party’s presidential nomination. In that regard, the prize might go to any number of radical “progressives” in a crowded field; or go to the perpetual standby, good-old Joe Biden; or the political resurrection of Hillary Clinton in whatever guise she chooses this time as Hillary 4.0. A long shot would be a true moderate, perhaps the unassuming, eminently likeable John Hickenlooper perfectly cast as Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Ironically, Hick might be the most electable against Trump in 2020. But getting the Democratic nomination would be a big hurdle what with the fulminating fanatical factions within the party and its barnacles ─ “The Resistance,” #MeTooers,” purveyors of misandry (man haters), anti-Kavanaugh exhibitionists, socialists, Black Lives Matter, Open Borders, Shut Down ICE, antifa, etc. This crowd has no sense of compromise, practicality or reason, just an addiction to rage and revenge.
The blue wave wasn’t a national phenomenon. It was regional. In the 2016 election, Hillary did well in Democrat strongholds, especially the big cities and the most populous states. In 2018, Democrats scored again there, abetted by an anti-Trump wave. That’s why they picked up seats in the House where populations matter. Trump’s strength in the South, Midwest and West held. That’s why Republicans picked up seats in the Senate (where there are only two seats per state). Trump is liked by white men especially of the blue collar variety. He’s disliked by women, especially single women. Married women traditionally lean Republican, although Trump has alienated some of those. What saved Republicans from a midterm disaster is the health of the economy, much better than during Obama’s reign, almost always the first priority among voters.
Getting back to Colorado, where the economy is roaring, the blue wave here was clearly driven by a predictable anti-Trump backlash. Remember, Hillary beat Trump in Colorado by five percentage points in 2016 and Bernie Sanders beat Hillary by 19 percentage points in the Democratic primary here. Colorado Democrats are very liberal, active and angry, and they enjoy protesting. Read their anti-Trump letters in the Denver Post, which also hates Trump.
Trump’s endorsement of Republican candidates helped in some states and hurt in others. Trump publicly mocked Rep. Mike Coffman after he lost, claiming he’d have won if Trump had endorsed him. Nonsense. Coffman beat the odds in past elections winning repeatedly in a district that increasingly leans-Democrat. Although he has a reliably conservative voting record, Coffman has wisely moderated some of his positions to accommodate his constituents, and he separated himself from Trump where he disagreed on some of Trump’s policies and statements. Had Trump endorsed Coffman, Mike would have lost by a much bigger margin.
Colorado has swung between the parties in years past. We’ve often split our US Senate seats with one of each. I’m hopeful that we haven’t gone irretrievably blue. A silver lining in the mid-term setback for Republicans was the outcome of the statewide ballot measures. At the same time voters elected a slew of Democrats, they overwhelmingly defeated several ballot measures that would increase state spending along with sharp increases in taxes and borrowing to fund them; measures that were supported by the same Democrats they voted for.
Democrats now control all the levers of political power in state government. That kind of power can breed arrogance and overreach. Progressive ideology, ascendant in Democrat circles these days, lacks a limiting principle in its vision of a “social justice” utopia. Colorado isn’t California ─ yet. If Democrats go crazy on gun control, taxes, spending, excessive government regulations, anti-fossil fuels, environmentalism, identity politics, nannyism, labor unions, minimum wages and the rest of their we-know-better-than-you agenda, the pendulum may yet swing back.
In the words of T.S. Elliot: “There are no lost causes, because there are no gained causes.”
Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for CompleteColorado.com.