(Editor’s note: This is second in a series by former Colorado Senate Majority Leader and State Treasurer Mark Hillman. The first, on why Colorado Republicans must commit to winning before they can govern again, is available here.)
Everyone knows that Republicans and Democrats hold fundamentally different views of government.
For Republicans, government is a necessary inconvenience that should be limited to a few essential functions like national defense, public safety, highways and public schools. To Democrats, government is an essential service that should do all of the above, plus right every wrong, assist with every difficulty, and protect us from ourselves.
Our view of elections is consistent with our view of government. After an election, Republicans want to get on with life and forget about elections until the next even-numbered year. For Democrats (particularly the activist variety), government is life. Planning for the next election begins as soon as the election watch party hangover wears off.
It’s no wonder Democrats are winning. We all understand that an athlete or team that prepares year-round will win more often than its competitor that takes six months off.
Republicans face a hard choice: We must either commit to funding a permanent campaign infrastructure to become electorally competitive or we must resign ourselves to paying the cost of living under an oppressive “progressive” government that will constantly meddle in our business, relentlessly expand social welfare programs, turn schools into social justice propaganda centers, and restrict our constitutional freedoms.
It’s not necessary for all of us to become full-time activists, but it is necessary that we consistently support a full-time team to execute a winning strategy for advancing freedom.
And this part is crucial: Just as the Democrats’ Gang of Four (Tim Gill, Pat Stryker, Jared Polis and Rutt Bridges) provided the seed money to build their infrastructure, we need a core group of conservatives and libertarians to make a long-term commitment to stop the Colorado decline before it becomes an irreversible avalanche. We are now near that point.
“Republicans don’t have principled, egoless financial leaders like Tim Gill and Pat Stryker who are willing to provide long-term investments,” Jon Caldara observed in The Blueprint.
To date, no one has stepped forward to prove otherwise. A few have tried, only to be dissuaded by Democrats’ legal shenanigans and, sometimes, by harassment from other Republicans.
That must change now because it’s nearly too late.
Republican financial leaders must agree on one thing: the overriding goal is to defeat “progressive” Democrats. Those leaders should then select one or two proven strategists and turn the job of implementation over to them – with established metrics to measure success or failure.
This is not a job for the Colorado Republican Party which, like its Democrat counterpart, has been emasculated by voter-approved fundraising restrictions. The Republican comeback requires an enduring structure – not one that changes every two years.
Success won’t be immediate. After all, Democrats have funded their model for 15 years. Republicans can’t erase that head start. The first step is to stop our backward slide and then strategically build our way back.
Democrats wisely recognized that national trends would sometimes work against them. However, with a permanent infrastructure in place, they were positioned to maximize their gains in “blue wave” elections and minimize their losses in “red waves.” Republicans must prepare for the same political realities.
Think about it: In 2000, Democrats celebrated when the only power they had was a one-vote majority in the State Senate. Republicans controlled everything else. Now, Republicans would celebrate if our only power was a one-vote majority in the State Senate – even if Democrats control everything else.
The way forward for Republicans requires decisive financial leadership. Grassroots conservatives must also participate, whether by volunteering to do outreach or sponsoring paid activists.
The one thing we cannot do is to do nothing. That path leads to repeating recent failures, becoming politically irrelevant, and leaving Colorado a hopeless haven where government sucks the life out of everything that once made our state a beacon for freedom and opportunity.
Mark Hillman served as both Colorado Senate Majority Leader and State Treasurer. A version of this article first appeared at MarkHillman.com.