We’re not the only ones who have lamented the lack of any genuine effort in state politics by Republicans in the last year or two.
It’s not partisan politics to point out that statehouse Republicans, short of former Rep. Don Marostica, have done little besides criticize Democrats while refusing to offer any viable solutions of their own. It’s exactly this kind of single-minded focus on political attacks, at the expense of actual governing, that cost the GOP its majority in 2004, and they still haven’t learned that Colorado voters want their elected officials to actually try to make things better in our state.
But while Republicans haven’t changed much since that 2004 election disaster, the news media covering the legislature has slowly begun to start asking more pointed questions. It used to be that GOP leaders could spout their criticisms of terrible Democrats without being asked about their own proposals, but that time has passed.
Speaking of violating the constitution, it’s fascinating to see some of these Republicans so worried about violating the constitution now that they’re in the minority.
Case in point: redistricting. Republicans had the majority in 2003. Not content with holding five of the state’s seven congressional seats, they rammed through a redistricting bill in the final days of the session (after assuring Democrats there would be no redistricting bill). They were warned it was unconstitutional. It later was declared unconstitutional and became known as the midnight gerrymander.
Republicans in the tax-credit debate have gotten to speak their minds. Democrats struggled to be heard on the redistricting bill. Here’s just one excerpt from news stories about the redistricting battle.
On Tuesday, Rep. Frank Weddig, D-Aurora, one of the most soft-spoken members of the House, shouted and pounded the table during a State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee meeting after committee chairman Rep. Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, refused to let him speak…
… The tension was so thick during the committee meeting that the clerk wept as she took the roll call of members’ votes. Three Democrats on the committee refused to vote in protest. Democrats say Republicans have been abusing the process to an unprecedented degree to limit debate and shove their bill through, ratcheting up tensions to levels higher than anyone at the Capitol can remember…
…Cadman, by the way, is now a state senator.
We first started to notice this change last fall, when then-gubernatorial candidate Josh Penry got into a bizarre run of spouting off one inaccuracy after another in criticisms of Gov. Bill Ritter and his handling of the state budget crisis. As we noted then, even his hometown Grand Junction Sentinel couldn’t refrain from calling bullshit on some of Penry’s partisan grenades.
We understand the Republican strategy of trying to pin the state budget crisis on Democrats — we really do understand what they are trying to do in order to win back some seats. But you can’t just keep leveling the same attacks over and over and over without backing them up with some version of “and this is what we would do instead.”
Perhaps Republicans have misjudged their rhetoric; when times are tough, nobody wants to hear others complaining all the time. In tough times, people want solutions — or at the very least suggestions of solutions — and not simply empty rhetoric. The reporters who cover the legislature, particularly those like Bartels who have been around that block before, are negatively impacted by the state budget just like everyone else; they just happen to know more about it than the average voter.
Republicans have a great opportunity to win back some long-lost seats in 2010, but it’s very clear (at least to everyone else) that they aren’t going to get there by doing what they are doing now. “Our plan for fixing Colorado is better than the Democrats’ plan” is a much better message than “The Democrats suck.”
It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that people don’t want to know whose fault it is — they just want to know who is going to make it better.