Heidi Ganahl took the fight to Jared Polis during their recent debate in Pueblo. She looked confident and sounded articulate and optimistic. She jabbed Polis over education, crime, drugs, energy, the pandemic, and taxes.
It’s hard to believe we were watching the same candidate who inexplicably went on the show of political nihilist Steve Bannon, and picked election conspiracist Danny Moore as her second. The sort of energy Ganahl showed in Pueblo is hard to keep up especially given the brutal poll numbers she’s facing.
Ganahl’s spirited late push notwithstanding, some people already look past the race for governor to 2024. Polis has repeatedly said he has no interest in running for president. The problem is that’s just what someone hoping to run for president would say while still running for governor. Even if Polis does not throw his own blue shoes in the ring, I find it hard to believe he’d say no to an invitation to join a ticket.
George Will is the latest pundit to fuel such speculations. I think Biden will run again. Will is not so sure, understating, “The apogee of his career has not coincided with the peak of his personal abilities.”
Will likes that Polis has a “knack for leavening his high-octane progressivism with departures from that church’s strict catechism.” Polis “chose to make a mint from capitalism rather than overthrowing it,” Will writes. He started charter schools, true. Will errs in crediting Polis for a public-school choice system that precedes him. Polis bucked a state-run healthcare scheme. He favors freer trade.
Will thinks Polis’s promise for renewable energy by 2040 rings hollow. He seems to frown that Polis “delivered all-day [taxpayer-funded] kindergarten” (for some). If Will does not see Polis as an ideal candidate, he sees him as perhaps the best we could hope for in these bizarre times.
But if Polis does not always speak from the progressive catechism, he often goes out of his way to appease the progressive priests. I fear Will and other national figures have let themselves become blinkered by Polis’s libertarian rhetoric and have lost sight of his tax-and-regulate record. Polis has rubber-stamped the progressive agenda far more often than he has sought to moderate it.
In my recent paper for the Independence Institute, I summarize: Polis “has created new bureaucracies, imposed price controls in emergencies and for prescription drugs, enabled local governments to impose rent control and other controls on new construction, enabled local governments to impose higher minimum wages than the state imposes, imposed new delivery and transportation fees, interfered with employment negotiations and contracts, imposed costly ‘green’ mandates for new buildings, loaded down insurance premiums with costly mandates, forced many businesses into a costly and bureaucratic recycling program, and initiated what may turn out to be the largest assault on the rights of gun owners in Colorado history.”
Sure, Polis has done some pro-liberty things. He signed bills to shelter “free-range” parenting, to protect sex workers when they report violent crimes, to allow composting of human remains, to let restaurants to sell take-out alcohol, and to end the so-called “trans-panic” defense. He stood against state-wide restrictions on vaping. He signed some reformist bills on criminal justice that I think are mostly good. Those who think women have a right to get an abortion can look to legislation that Polis signed and an order he gave protecting women’s choice. (Many conservatives put those in the negative column.) This is hardly a complete list.
Polis often talks about liberty. For example, recently he Tweeted, “Here in Colorado, we believe in freedom . . . to be who you are, marry who you love, participate in our democracy, decide what you do with your own body.” I do not deny that Polis has a liberty side.
But if you review all the taxes and regulations that Polis has imposed during his term—many of which have not even taken effect yet—you will discover that prayers to a libertarian Polis will be answered mostly by someone who whispers sweet liberties even as he signs his autograph to the hard-left’s intrusive bills.
Ari Armstrong writes regularly for Complete Colorado and is the author of books about Ayn Rand, Harry Potter, and classical liberalism. He can be reached at ari at ariarmstrong dot com.
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