Outside of regional strongholds, Colorado Republicans are wandering in the political wilderness. Although reaction to Democratic overreach at the federal and state levels might give Republicans some advantage next year, in many ways Republicans here are not making it easy for centrist voters to trust them with power again. Here I want to point to some of the problems and encourage responsible conservatives and Republicans to help fix them.
The latest problem for mainstream Republicans are unhinged comments by political activist Joe Oltmann suggesting that the governor and various other Democratic politicians should be executed. He also said he “wants to send the mainstream media to the gallows.” Oltmann has strong Republican ties. He claims that “Kristi Burton Brown, currently the chair of the Colorado Republican Party, served as the president of Oltmann’s FEC United group as recently as November 2020,” as the ideologically progressive Colorado Newsline reports. And prominent Republican and former prosecutor George Brauchler has publicly called Oltmann a friend, though one he disagrees with on elections issues.
To her credit, Burton Brown issued a strong statement condemning violence: “I have never and will never advocate for violence against those I disagree with. It’s completely unacceptable. Just as we did on January 6th, Colorado Republicans condemn all violence in the pursuit of political ends. Period.” Other Republican leaders need to emphasize to voters that theirs is the party of responsible liberty and the rule of law and that they will not tolerate calls for violence.
Oltmann also has been involved in conspiracy mongering about election fraud, something that has earned him a defamation lawsuit by a former employee of Dominion voting systems. Well-known Republican activist Randy Corporon also has made a name for himself with such conspiracy mongering, as have others.
Meanwhile, the Republican Mesa County clerk has given a platform to election conspiracy mongers and those promoting violent rhetoric. Charles Ashby reports: “Mesa County officials are taking seriously recent threats of violence from voter-fraud conspiracy theorists…As a result of threats uttered in a recent Zoom meeting between several of them, including Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters and Garfield County resident Sherronna Bishop, the county is in the process of beefing up its security just in case…The comments were made, in part, in response to search warrants that were executed Nov. 16 by the FBI and state and local law enforcement on Bishop, Peters and two others as part of an ongoing investigation into possible wire fraud and tampering with a protected computer.” These alleged crimes are associated with Peters’s election conspiracies.
Too many leading Republicans have played coy about election conspiracy mongering, and some have actively promoted it. Thankfully, some Republicans have spoken strongly against it. For example, Fremont County Clerk Justin Grantham said on the topic: “The misinformation being spread has led to multiple threats on Clerks including myself. Serious threats have happened in your own district due to the misinformation. This has forced a remodel of the Chaffee County Clerk’s Office to protect her and her staff from threats of violence.” It is way past time for Republicans to put an end to such dangerous lunacy.
Another problem is that casual sleights against immigrants and Muslims have become far too common among Republicans. Recently Rep. Lauren Boebert called Rep. Ilhan Omar—a Muslim, an immigrant, and a member of Congress from Minnesota—part of the “Jihad Squad” and insinuated she is a terrorist seeking to blow up the U.S. Capitol. That Omar has employed bigoted, anti-Semitic tropes is no excuse for Boebert to play anti-Muslim tropes for yucks at political rallies. This is not merely a spat between two political attention-hounds; Boebert echoes well-worn bigotries to the effect that Muslims are inherently violent and out to undermine the U.S. government.
Boebert did take a step to make amends, saying, “I apologize to anyone in the Muslim community I offended.” And the conservative-leaning Gazette editorial board called her out, writing that Boebert’s remark “was wrong, it was beneath the office she holds and she knows it.” But many other conservative and Republican leaders blew off her remarks.
I am certainly not trying to imply here that Colorado Democrats are without their problems. For example, Denver school board member Tay Anderson, who was “flirtatious” with high school girls, recently was chosen as board vice-president. Seriously, what in the hell was the board thinking, and why have other Democrats not spoken out against the move? Still, Republicans need to clean up their own messes and not play games of what-about-ism.
Republicans who wish to again be taken seriously by the majority of voters in this state need to firmly commit themselves to reality, and knock off the baseless conspiracy theories about elections and other matters; to decency, and show respect for all Colorado communities and residents, including immigrants and Muslims; and to responsible governance, and decisively expel those who call for or sympathize with political violence.
A Republican Party committed to the dignity and rights of the individual, to justice and the rule of law, and to general sanity can win again, and more, will deserve to win again.
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