Across the country, the 2010 election will be recorded as an historic defeat for the Democratic Party. From the sweeping wins in state legislatures we discussed earlier for the GOP to the biggest loss for Democrats in the U.S. House in many decades, these midterm elections saw the usual trend of a new President’s first midterm going badly for his party magnified, with a few notable exceptions, into a rout.
That the state of Colorado was one of those exceptions is the result of well over a year of hard work by highly dedicated Democratic campaign staff raising funds and chasing ballots, combined with key individual scandals that broke up the Republican ticket just enough for Democrats to pull out something they can call a victory here. That Democrats were able to win in the highest-profile statewide races, namely U.S. Senate and the governor’s race, but lose three other less prominent statewide contests, shows where Democrats were able to stave off through pugnacity and timely investment their “wave” backed opponents–and where they weren’t.
But above all, the GOP in Colorado blew the greatest opportunity for a sweeping victory that they had since they began losing elections here in 2004. For a host of reasons including the ongoing economic recovery, the fading of recent polarizing battles over economic recovery spending and health reform from memory, and an aging, in many cases already-beaten bench of contenders for high office, the Colorado GOP’s best opportunity to start undoing the long-term damage done to its prospects in recent years was this year; and they failed to take advantage.
Reacting desperately to their failure to thrive on the national “wave” that resulted in wipeouts for Democrats all around the nation, Colorado Republicans pushed every chip in the center of the table in 2010, and we believe it’s going to cost them at the polls in future elections. Republicans alienated Latinos, the fastest-growing bloc of voters in the United States, with Tom Tancredo, and women with Ken Buck. Internal strife, fault lines that trace back to the battle over 2005’s Referendum C and even before, racked the party from the earliest stages of the primaries.
Republicans bowed to the extremist “Tea Party” to win primaries and chase the myth of their influence, and they made insane claims and promises that they cannot possibly keep in the process–like Scott Tipton’s “plan” to cut the government in half, and Walker Stapleton’s blatherings about schools “competing with prisons” for funds. They elected some positively crazy new people in the legislature like Kathleen Conti; who are going to feed material to the Democrats for as long as they are in office, and who they may come to regret lending their brand.
2010 served as a powerful validator of the reasons we’ve been giving for years that success has eluded the GOP: in Colorado, Republicans could win; and have won in past elections by running moderate, trustworthy candidates who don’t seek office on a platform of tearing the civic institutions of this state to the ground. But instead, the GOP in this state has veered toward thoughtless ideologues and wedge-issue obsessed embarrassments in recent years, while Democrats have been able to present themselves as responsible (and restrained) leaders who are serious about governing–and protecting the basic things everybody values. Things that will make even the most fickle and impressionable voter stop and think.
Unless that changes–and it hasn’t since Democrats started winning elections in Colorado a little over six years ago, with the GOP only moving farther right in response–the result will not.