My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


More Colorado Post-Mortems

Outgoing State Senate Leader Jon Andrews has an analysis of the Colorado GOP defeat in the Weekly Standard today. I think he demonstrates a refreshing ability to look at root causes, not simply falling back on "we got outspent." To wit:

But to really explain what happened you have to look at the 3 M's--money, message, and motivation--of which the finances are actually the least important.

It was motivation, above all, that powered this Democrat victory. Democrats were driven and hungry from decades in the political wilderness. Republicans were complacent and soft from too long in power. Their motive for winning was to get in there and do things. Ours, it often seemed, was merely to stay in there. These attitudes translated into discipline and unity for Democrats, indulgence and disunity for Republicans. GOP factionalism was endemic and fatal.

Now, I will take some exception with his assertion that of the "decades in the political wilderness." The Dems controlled the State Senate in 2001 and 2002, which is why the redistricting became such an issue (had the GOP controlled the Senate, a plan which would have rendered congressional districts 3 and 7 safe for the GOP would be in place).

But beyond that quibble, I think Andrews has touched on an important point. It does seem as if the GOP, in many ways, got stuck playing a defensive gameplan, as in defending what has gone on for the last two years. The Dems, on the other hand, had really nothing to lose and endless resources to use, so they could unleash a withering barrage of attacks while still having the ability to articulate a clear plan. Okay. . .so they could articulate A plan. Nonetheless, that is still better than what the GOP had.

In many ways, I think the factionalism Andrews speaks of is a long-term problem for the Colorado GOP. Start with this question: what is a major priority of the Colorado GOP? One of the first things that jumps to mind is school vouchers. Okay, now think of a topic the RMA has been writing about since the election: Bob Schaffer's (and others') involvement in a unequivocally and unapologetic pro-voucher group which launched attacks against GOP candidates. The voucher movement has tried three times (I think that's the right number) to get the public to agree to a voucher program in Colorado, and three times it has been soundly beaten. But that is still what's at the top of the agenda.

It's not that it's a bad idea. It's that it's an idea that's already been beaten, has not been significantly retooled to be more palatable, and, more importantly, IS FROM THE PAST. Just the politics of it are bull-headed and myopic, and refuses to acknowledge the message the public has delivered pretty clearly.

But that faction of the GOP is strong, it's vocal, and it's committed to playing a role in defeating anti-voucher candidates of either party. Not helpful.

Andrews concludes smartly:

The dollar disparity hurt, sure, but it was a symptom of a much deeper problem for Colorado's GOP. A political party is an idea before it's a checkbook, an organization, or a platform. The idea that has inspired Republicans from Lincoln to Reagan to George W. Bush is an optimistic, assertive defense of ordered liberty and traditional values. That idea lost its voice in the Centennial State. Recovering it will be Job One for us in 2005.

Job one, indeed. We will have much work ahead of us just to block the Dem agenda, but strong leadership from the Governor could accomplish this single-handedly. The young GOP leaders-in-waiting need to focus on the future and the message.

And, by the way, this might be a useful lesson for national Republicans to pay some attention to.

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