The Colorado ballot this year is about four things and four things only: Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Cory Gardner and John Hickenlooper.
The ballot issues — wolves, taxes, abortion, casino gambling and charity bingo, to name a few — are riding a wave of money, but they're not driving the agenda this year.
Debates, state and presidential, were insult contests, leaving only the question of who you hate less. The stage props of this spectacle were balancing commerce and the planet, making people's lives better.
Trump has yet to deliver a plan for his second term. His main man, Sean Hannity, served it up on a silver platter during a June town hall on friendly Fox News: "What are your priority items for a second term?"
Trump could have said finish the wall and collect from Mexico or deliver that $2 trillion infrastructure plan he talked about four years ago or offer another tax cut.
No, he said this:
"Well, one of the things that will be really great. You know, the word ‘experience’ is still good. I always say talent is more important than experience. I’ve always said that. But the word ‘experience’ is a very important word. It’s an — a very important meaning.
“I never did this before. I never slept over in Washington. I was in Washington, I think, 17 times. All of a sudden I’m president of the United States. You know the story of riding down Pennsylvania Avenue with our first lady, and I say, ‘This is great,’ but I didn’t know very many people in Washington. It wasn’t my thing. I was from Manhattan, from New York.
“Now I know everybody. And I have great people in the administration. You make some mistakes like, you know, an idiot like [former national security adviser John] Bolton; all he wanted to do is drop bombs on everybody. You have to drop bombs on everybody. You don’t have to kill people.”
Snopes felt the need to verify whether that was an accurate response. It was.
Meanwhile, Biden wants to build it back better and make this a contest of character, meaning his. But it's not clear who's swinging the hammer, the party's moderates or its aggressive progressives. To deny there's a power struggle in the Democratic Party is to be full of, as Hickenlooper might put it, "horse excrement."
Speaking of the once happy-go-lucky governor who eschewed negative politics, Hick went dark. I was reading the issues page of his campaign website. It started with a dig:
“Washington is a mess,” the site states. “Why aren’t Washington politicians tackling climate change? Why aren’t they doing anything to lower prescription drug costs? Why do they work only for big corporations, not for the small businesses and entrepreneurs who are the heartbeat of Colorado’s economy?”
So his platform is not that. Got it.
You also might ask why Hickenlooper didn’t do more to solve those problems as governor.
Republicans, spare me your smirks.
The GOP couldn’t put out a party platform this year. Party brass blamed it on the pandemic and an abbreviated convention. Could I interest you in a good deal on the Royal Gorge Bridge?
To understand what really happened you have to go back to the herky-jerky 2016 convention in Cleveland, when the Ted Cruz-backing Colorado delegation walked out over Trump.
The party of Trump was not yet a thing, but it was on its way. Back then Gardner called Trump a buffoon, you might recall. Gardner’s popularity slipped below Trump’s in Colorado, and conservative talk radio in Denver was talking about a primary challenger. The top Yuman changed his tune on the buffoon.
Next Tuesday he may be taking the Trump hearse to his political grave, if the polls and voter mood hold.
A party platform, though, is chock full of tangible issues and viable solutions fashioned from long-held party principles. The establishment edict, however, rubbed the Trump campaign the wrong way four years ago.
Gay rights was one of the fault lines. Trump perceived he had support in the LGBTQ community four years ago. He is loath to insult anybody he thinks supports him, and national polls at the time showed better than 2-to-1 support for gay rights, including almost half of rank-and-file Republicans.
He had Mike Pence, an evangelical superstar, as his running mate, but the thrice-married nominee attended same-sex weddings and just that spring criticized a North Carolina law about which bathroom transgender people must use.
“We have the most pro-gay nominee of the Republican Party ever in Donald Trump, and that’s what matters,” Chris Barron, a gay conservative strategist who once led the Log Cabin Republicans, told the Washington Post in 2016. “Platform fights are like the fourth game of an NFL pre-season — the stars don’t play, the games don’t count, and if you win, it’s irrelevant.”
Politics, though, is not football.
Football has a veneer of sportsmanship and rules both sides have to play by. If Trump gets a second term or Biden the one he's long wanted, we have to assess which one can solve the real problems before us, whether we like the guy or not. Besides a D or an R, they haven't given us much to work with.