Don’t jump. It’s not worth it. Step back from the ledge so we can talk about this.
The Colorado Republican Party’s central committee will decide Saturday whether to commit suicide. Given our preference for a two-party system, rather than a state controlled by a lone Democratic Party, we hope the central committee chooses life.
Colorado’s Proposition 108, approved in a 2016 statewide vote, opens Democratic and Republican primaries to the state’s 1.2 million unaffiliated voters. Each unaffiliated voter can choose to vote in one of the primaries, without joining a party. The law contains a suicide provision, in which a party can close its primary with the support of 75 percent of central committee members.
Open primaries provide the opportunity for each party’s candidates to sell their ideas to nonparty members, who are essential to winning general elections. This law could improve the quality of Colorado’s political process.
Conventional wisdom views the state’s unaffiliated voters as a bloc of moderates who consider either party too extreme. Party loyalists worry about “selling out” to moderates if unaffiliated voters participate in primaries. Moderates hope this is true.
The assumption is likely overstated, and possibly backward.
Though attractive to some moderates, unaffiliated status also attracts a growing number who consider each party too moderate and compromising.
Consider former Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, a staunch conservative who two years ago called the state GOP “Democrat Lite” and registered unaffiliated. As the Constitutional Party’s nominee in 2010, Tancredo took 36.1 percent of the gubernatorial vote, and held the Republican nominee to 11.1 percent. Tancredo returned to the Republican Party this summer to consider seeking its nomination for the 2018 governor’s race.
On the left, unaffiliated registrants include Bernie Sanders fans dismayed by the Democratic Party’s nomination of Hillary Clinton. Significant numbers of Donald Trump voters registered as unaffiliated after feeling disenfranchised by the Republican Party at the 2016 Colorado Republican State Convention and the Republican National Convention.
The unaffiliated rolls probably consist of greens, socialists, hard left-wingers, hard right-wingers, libertarians who lean left and right, constitutionalists, and other nonmoderates who don’t support the tradition of each party’s establishment insiders choosing nominees for general elections.
Under the new system, created by all assortment of voters, each party should try to maximize support among those who have chosen independence. They should find this support among moderates and extremists alike.
If the GOP’s central committee opts out of an open primary, it will arrogantly tell 1.2 million voters it has no interest in them. Those voters are certain to return the message by trouncing all Republican candidates in general elections. The party will be a joke to all but a few.
State Republican Party Chair Jeff Hays strongly opposes opting out, also calling it “suicide.” He called for a vote because a few central committee members asked for one, and Hays respects the right to vote. The committee should extend similar respect, with regard to open primaries the public demanded.
Republican values don’t include concentrating power, as seen in dictatorships, among establishment insiders. Republicans believe in the ability of individuals to accept and support winning candidates with ideas that uphold the rights of individuals to pursue life, liberty and happiness.
Central committee voters should do the right thing Saturday and trounce this bad idea with a landslide vote to embrace the new process duly enacted by a fair and legal vote. That would tell unaffiliated voters the Republican Party’s candidates want to win their support.
Colorado needs two major parties with competitive ideas and candidates. Let’s hope one doesn’t self-destruct Saturday.