Cory Gardner is on the hot seat.
When he was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2014, Republicans hailed Gardner as the face of a new GOP: young, charismatic, moderate, open to ideas and working with his colleagues to get things done for the American people.
Today, Gardner appears to be nothing more than a case-study in how quickly the Washington Swamp can corrupt a once-promising politician.
Six years ago, Gardner ran a powerful television commercial that chastised his opponent for breaking promises, being “rigid on the party line” and running a campaign “too tired and too mean” based on a “brand of politics that divides us.” Gardner concluded, “When my party is wrong, I’ll say it. When something is broken, I’ll fix it.”
Since Donald Trump’s election in 2016, Gardner has failed to live up to that pledge. Trump’s entire political brand is based on broken promises, mean comments and dividing the country into warring factions. And when reporters ask Gardner to speak up and say something, he ducks their cameras.
Instead, Gardner remains in lockstep with so many of his Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill: craven, doe-eyed and silent in the face of Trump’s bad behavior and divisive rhetoric. Gardner either agrees with everything Trump does or is too terrified to keep his promise to Coloradans.
Gardner seems cowed by nothing more than the threat of an ugly missive from Trump’s Twitter feed or fear of backlash by the most extreme members of his party.
This is bad for Gardner’s reelection prospects, bad for Colorado and bad for America.
Rather than finding a way to be a leader in Washington, Gardner has become one more senator for whom the job is performative. Rather than speak out for Colorado values he promised to protect, he seems content to deliver the party line in the most unintelligible way possible; feigning ignorance, exasperation or outrage depending on the day.
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As President Trump’s impeachment trial continues this week, Gardner is publicly proclaiming impartiality. But he will not answer questions about whether or not he and his colleagues should hear witnesses or if all available evidence should be introduced into the proceedings.
Just more 2020 Gardner trying to skate along the razor’s edge he’s created for himself.
If Cory Gardner kept the promises he made in 2014, he’d likely be relatively popular and facing a tough, but manageable reelection campaign.
But like so many Republican politicians today, he put avoiding short-term political gain ahead of obeying his oath of office. He put the whims of Trump ahead of the Constitution and his constituents.
Given Colorado’s diverse electoral make-up, with unaffiliated voter registration recently surging ahead of Democrats and an atrophied Republican party, Gardner should have spent more time focused on what his home front looks like than living in the bubble that is the Beltway and Capitol Hill.
Like so many senators before him, Gardner forgot that his constituents are not in Washington, but in Denver, Grand Junction and Yuma.
That is why The Lincoln Project, recently launched by a group of current and former Republicans, will hold Sen. Gardner and others like him, accountable at the ballot box this November. He’s forgotten that he is a servant to Coloradans and the Constitution, not the president of the United States.
The country deserves better than politicians who so readily sell their oaths for cheap praise from a president whose actions are a direct threat to the underpinnings of our Republic.
Abraham Lincoln famously wrote to Mrs. Lydia Bixby of Boston, who’d lost five sons to the Civil War, about “laying so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.” For Cory Gardner, keeping his promises and upholding his oath seem like minor costs in comparison.
Reed Galen is an independent political strategist and Adviser to the Lincoln Project. You can follow him on Twitter @reedgalen.