Kelly Sloan

Kelly Sloan

On a national level, Tuesday was a surprisingly good night for Republicans. At the time of writing this, the presidential race remains undecided, and impossibly close — far closer than most had predicted. Even if Biden pulls it off (at it still appears likely he will eke out 270 electoral votes, legal challenges notwithstanding) it is a far cry from the general popular repudiation of Trump that most of the polls, the media, and the Democratic Party told everyone was inevitable.

The Senate, meanwhile, looks for now to remain firmly in Republican hands, and, in perhaps the biggest surprise of the night, the GOP managed to pick up a significant handful of seats in the House. On top of all that, Trump performed extraordinarily well among Latinos and blacks, the former especially.

All in all, across the country people seemed to indicate that despite (or in some cases because of) the figure at the top, Republican policies were preferable to the dreadful alternative.

Except in Colorado.

It was pretty much as bad a night for the Centennial State as expected, perhaps even more so. It is difficult to overstate the misfortune and counter-productivity of the loss to the state of a senator the caliber of Cory Gardner. Jefferson County, with the sole redeeming exception of Rep. Colin Larson, is now officially Democratic, essentially Boulder South — meaning, given its earned reputation as the state’s political bellwether, that Colorado is now as firmly blue as Oregon. The Democrats, to the surprise of few, retained their majority in the House, flipping one seat and losing another, and are expanding their majority in the Senate. Similar stories with the CU regents and, ominously, district attorneys.

As usual, the picture is a little more mixed when it comes to ballot measures. But here, too, the axiomatic conventional wisdom of the last several cycles — that Coloradans vote for liberal candidates but conservative issues — no longer quite holds true. On the bright side, voters (wisely) approved a reduction in the state’s income tax, and a measure that requires voter approval of fee-based enterprises, putting at least a temporary end to the legislative practice of bypassing TABOR through legerdemain — simply labelling “taxes” as “fees.”

Yes, but on the other hand, those same voters countermanded that economic relief they granted themselves by simultaneously approving an egregious state-based family leave program that is likely to cancel out (at best) the tax savings they voted for, and will help ensure that small businesses never regain their footing post-COVID. Not to mention they also voted against a measure to ban late-term abortion and for the bypassing of our constitutional process by approving careless entry into the National Popular Vote compact.

It’s striking that the closest initiative on the ballot is the one to re-introduce a species of non-native wolf to northwestern Colorado. Coloradans apparently had a harder time trying to decide whether or not to airlift predators into lamb and cattle pastures in the northwestern part of the state, than whether they ought to allow an infant to be killed a minute before it is born or to let California pick our presidential electors for us.

Other paradoxes dominated the election; money was clearly a factor for much of it in Colorado. Democrats outraised and outspent Republicans by enormous amounts, and that went for ballot measures as well. The Democrats' campaign finance behemoth, ActBlue, churned out enough money for local Democrats that they didn’t know what to do with it all. Millions poured into the National Popular Vote campaign, most of it, logically, from out of state. The dump truck-full loads of cash did what they were supposed to do, and powered liberal victories.

Well, except where they didn’t. Like CD3, for instance. Newcomer Lauren Boebert overcame an immense fundraising deficit compared to Diane Mitsch-Bush. Millions of dollars flowing into the coffers of the candidates hoping to unseat Mitch McConnel and Lindsay Graham didn’t do much good in those races either.

Polling was, again, a casualty of this election. The major pollsters, nationally, still have not figured out how to ply their trade in the current day and age. They had best figure it out in short order if they wish to remain a relevant part of the game, assuming it is not too late.

Two final thoughts on Colorado; the urban-rural divide has, if anything, become more pronounced. The left-wing evolution is still mainly contained to the Denver Metro area, and doesn’t need to expand further. The West Slope, eastern plains, Colorado Springs, and even, increasingly, Pueblo, are all resistant to the revolution, but it matters little — the bulk of the population is in the Boulder-Denver metroplex, and that’s that.

And that population is increasingly younger, the millennial-types attracted to Denver by mountain biking, brew pubs, legal drugs, and whatever else attracts young people. This younger demographic doesn’t have much life experience, get their information from social media, and like the allure of free things and the elimination of consequence and inconvenience. They are not especially attracted to history, tradition, and institution. They will vote to lower their own taxes but raise someone else’s if there is something in it for them. And they are moving into the suburbs, displacing the older, more conservative Coloradans who are either dying or moving away.

Are things bound to stay this way in Colorado? For a while, yes, probably. But, as Richard Weaver said, ideas have consequences, and those can’t be avoided forever. For the time being I am struck by that most relevant quote of H.L. Mencken’s: Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

Kelly Sloan is a political and public affairs consultant and a recovering journalist based in Denver.

Kelly Sloan is a political and public affairs consultant and a recovering journalist based in Denver.

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