(Editor’s note: You can listen to this column, read by the author, here.)
Moses wandered the desert for 40 years. Looks like the Colorado Republican Party might do the same.
That doesn’t mean conservative, libertarian and limited government policies can’t advance while the state GOP stares at its navel for a generation.
The “Boot Barn Rebellion” that happened the other week was to be expected. Hardcore Colorado Trumpy Republicans, rallying outside a Boot Barn store near the state GOP headquarters, blasted others in their party as “whores” and “ass wipes.” If only their Trumpy candidates won the primaries, Colorado Republicans would have won in the last election.
And the initiative to legalize psychedelic mushrooms passed just a few weeks before.
These are frustrated people. They love this state and country. But if their candidates can’t win in an open primary, they can’t win in an open general election.
Here’s a very possible future: The Boot Barn Rebels might elect a new slate of hardcore GOP Central Committee members this spring, who then close their primaries. Meaning that only those who go to the caucuses system, and on to the state assembly, will choose which Republicans get on the general election ballot.
Meaning they’d disenfranchise nearly a million Republicans and more than a million unaffiliated voters who won’t be allowed to vote in a GOP primary. Meaning Republicans will have very Trumpy, stolen-election, hardcore candidates in the general election who will get completely, utterly, stupendously demolished in this very blue Colorado (I say this as a guy who proudly voted for Trump).
In other words, the total extinction of the Republican Party in Colorado will come even faster.
Democrats are wrong to think that “unaffiliated” means Colorado is turning into an elitist socialist state. Yes, this state is wildly socially liberal. But might it still be a fiscally conservative one? My two income tax cuts passed in a row by overwhelming majorities. The only way progressives can get large tax increases passed is to call them fees and do it without voter consent.
There is finally a ripe market for a third way in Colorado beyond just Republican and Democrat, and traditional voting.
I want to offer two warnings before we go “Third Way” crazy.
First, beware of new political movements that are “we’re not them” parties.
Voters are so sick of Rs and Ds they will welcome the first parties of kinda-conservative Dems and kinda-liberal Republicans — in other words, parties that stand for nothing but fence-straddling principle-less happy talkers. The Leaderless Party, “but we’re not Republicans OR Democrats, but something in-between.”
These aren’t political parties. These are bad compromises. These are the bad marriages your mother warned you about.
Let’s remember the late great Steven Covey’s rule: “start with the end in mind.” A true third party should have an ending vision, something unifying. For me it would be the Fiscal Sanity Party — a party that believes in low taxation, property rights, civil liberties and rule of law. Other things we can argue about later.
Next warning, be suspicious of “rank-choice voting.”
Rank-choice voting, or otherwise known as “instant runoff voting,” is being sold as a way to vote for more than one candidate. “My first choice is Bob, but if I can’t have him, I’d vote for Sue.”
It is a complicated system of basically several different elections, but you can only vote in the first election, without any knowledge of who all your choices might be in the next election. We’ve seen how it ties the hands of voters and comes up with perverted results. In overwhelmingly Republican Alaska, ranked choice managed to get a Democrat elected U.S. Congresswoman.
The far simpler and less corruptible multiple-candidate system is called “approval voting,” where voters can vote for as many candidates as they like in an election. Voters don’t rank them in order of preference, they just vote for as many as they like. Whichever candidate gets the most votes wins in the first and only count.
Was our goal to elect Republicans? If so, the future here sucks and sucks hard. Or was the goal to change policy?
Mine was to change policy, which we can still do (God knows Republicans weren’t all that great at it anyway).
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.
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