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Never since the passage of our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in 1992 have I been more optimistic about the possibility of Coloradans winning back the lost personal and economic freedoms stolen by the government leviathan.
And no, I have not been ingesting the state’s newly deregulated psychedelic mushrooms.
I make this observation after taking an inventory of the political condition of our state, as I have worked in Colorado politics for well more than three decades.
As I wrote in my last column, the Colorado GOP is a lost cause for the next several years. This is a painful but necessary process, like an addict going through the hell of withdrawal, to realign candidates to the new political truths of the state.
Though difficult to swallow, conservatives will need to come to terms with electoral reality.
Colorado is a pro-choice, if not downright pro-abortion, state. Saving the unborn will have to come from the demand side, changing the hearts of pregnant women, not the supply side of banning the procedure.
Colorado is a pro-cannabis state. That genie isn’t going back in its bottle. Colorado is a pro-LGB (lesbian, gay, bisexual) state. Colorado is an environmentalist state. Colorado will never vote for former President Donald Trump.
These are difficult realities for some. And though not permanent–nothing in politics is–they will not change precipitously.
But in her bones Colorado is not pro-tax, pro-regulation, pro-crime or pro-woke. The leftist regime in power is severely out of touch with voters. And it’s harder to blame conservative boogey monsters for the ills of the state when they haven’t been in power in decades.
Coloradans will want economically conservative, yet socially accepting candidates. Over time, and after more painful election cycles, like 2024 will be, new Republicanish candidates, perhaps unaffiliated, will figure this out.
It will be easier for Republicans to dump their social, moralistic and Trumpy baggage than it will be for progressives to dump their economically devastating, command-and-control mission.
Colorado’s economy will be the driver for the “Colorado Rebound” in years to come.
The worst way to lose is slowly, giving time for people to acclimate to the decline. California is the example of this. The economic policies that plague California started in the 1960s and grew slowly and increasingly after.
Now, about 60 years later, the devastating impacts are crippling California: an effective income tax of 14% for the state’s most productive; energy prices and brown-outs spiraling out of control; and talk of a wealth tax are some of the reasons for the grand California exodus.
California is dying of a slow-moving, metastasizing economic cancer caused by governmental overreach. And even now, most voters there don’t realize the patient is terminal. The cancer has grown gradually over generations, making it opaque. Colorado faces a similar fate, but what took California six decades is happening in one decade here. It’s not just great-grandparents here saying, “I remember when …” Young people will remember an economically vibrant, safe and clean Colorado.
The economic destruction being caused by the progressive establishment will soon begin to be felt in earnest, though it will still take many years to feel its full force. Policies take a long time to achieve the full brunt of consequences.
Denver’s minimum wage of $18.29; the first year of the state’s Family Medical Leave and Insurance program’s payouts; costly unreachable energy mandates; the regulatory murders of the oil and gas, ranching, farming and mining industries — these are just a few of the reasons Colorado will economically leapfrog California into an economic wasteland, losing quickly.
We are witnessing how Colorado is becoming repellent to investment. For several decades, Colorado was the “go-to” place for people fleeing California, New York and Illinois, making our population explode.
That Colorado rush is over. People are still fleeing those failed big-government states, but according to the demographics, they’re not moving to Colorado nearly as much. We’re basically treading water population-wise.
When Colorado isn’t the place people want to come, you know things are going bad. And, fortunately, going bad fast. In the future (six to 10 years) voters will be desperate for palatable economic conservatives to undo the harm inflicted by progressives.
The question is whether conservative donors are willing to fund the long, boring work to make winning possible, but that’s a topic for another column.
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.
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