Liddick: Can conservatives unify? (column)
April 16, 2018
Turanga Leela, on whom I've relied for a lot of political commentary, has just the phrase for the Republican end of the Colorado Governor's race: "Oh, Lord…"
At least we know who won last Saturday — but we also know that the whole business was the quintessential definition of FUBAR.
Let's review: we had Walker Stapleton, a two-term state treasurer and party stalwart, who didn't want to bother with the hoi polloi of the party, so chose to petition his way onto the ballot. And couldn't manage to effectively gather the 10,500 — 1,500 per congressional district — valid signatures to get it done. This is the guy the big Republican wazoos want running the state? That says a lot, not much of it good.
In the other corner, we had state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, a candidate with some grass-roots oomph and a decent resume including state officeholding.
Then it became a dogpile. Coffman struck first, dredging up the story about Stapleton's 1999 drink-drive conviction. And she paid the price: once a shoo-in, she was buried in Boulder, gaining only 154 of the more than 2,500 delegate votes cast. One can only hope that the merchants of slime, the single-issue monomaniacs and moneymen get the message that Colorado Republicans might be a bit tired of the screaming about candidates' personal failings. It's a truism but only because it's true, that we aren't electing a Pope here.
After this, and the June primary to follow, Republicans will have to count the wounds inflicted and calculate their seriousness. Quickly. Then feelings need to be soothed, tempers tamped and the thirst for scorched earth put aside,
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because Colorado is this year, and will be in 2020, a key to winning strategies. A deeply purple state, it will be a center of attention and subject to plays from both sides of the aisle as it was in 2016. One can only hope for a somewhat better result this time around in both local and national contests. But to achieve that, there will have to be a rarely-seen willingness on the Republican side to put aside petty squabbles and personal grievances for the duration — to put the interests of the party and the state at the head of the effort. Evidence to date suggests this will be difficult.
Some of the criticism of Stapleton has centered on his putative qualities as a party apparatchik whose turn it is to run; on his well-heeled contributors and his Bush connections; in short, his appearance as just another political hack. But the same might be said of Coffman, whose argument that she was "more attractive to unaffiliated voters" struck the usual nerve among conservatives, to whom she appeared more than a bit RINO-ish.
This last is indicative of a serious form of Republican fratricide: tests of ideological purity. The problem with arguing about who is "conservative" and who not, is that the discussion very quickly devolves into comparing economic plans to the writings of Ludwig Von Mises, or determining whether a candidate's view of the social contract is closer to Locke or Sébastien Faure. But most ordinary people don't care about these angels-on-pins disputes. They want meaningful work at decent wages, and the liberties that make both possible. They want security in their persons, papers and effects; equality before the law and the other rights guaranteed by the Constitution. They want a government that is the ultimate protector of these rights, not the ultimate threat to them. So elections — for state office, for Congress, for the Presidency, for mayor — come down to a simple question: Who among the candidates is most likely to be a conservator, and who a usurper, of rights? That should be the subject of the moment, every moment from now until Nov. 6.
In one sense, whomever wins the Colorado Republican nomination will have the good fortune to oppose the nominee of a party which, over the past few years, has demanded that corporations be "fair" in sharing their profits with all and sundry; that one's health care be paid for by anybody else; that "corporate greed" not be a factor in decisions about exploitation of raw materials; that "social justice" be the measure for any economic effort undertaken by government, from the tax code to building permits; and that, broadly stated, everyone has a right to immigrate to the United States. In fact, the above were all part of the party platform in 2016.
Against such lunacy, Colorado Republicans have an excellent chance at victory come November, if only they can manage to purposefully unify behind their eventual candidates. If only.
Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily News.