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Littwin: Does the Colorado GOP’s path back to power go through Denver or under it?

Some Republicans have begun slamming Denver, one calling it a “toilet,” apparently hoping to shift voters their way. Does anyone really think that will work?

“Nobody ever goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” —Yogi Berra, when asked why he no longer went to a popular restaurant. 

If you read the papers  — or, even better, the websites — you’ve seen that a few Republican state legislators have decided that the party’s best way back to power in Colorado is through Denver.

Mike Littwin

Or at least through Denver’s sewer lines.

Now, it seems to make sense for Republicans to try to lure at least some Denver voters to their side because, not to get too technical here, that’s where the people/voters live. And if you want to trace the decade-plus-long descent of the GOP in the state, you should start with the Denver suburbs, where one-time swing voters have become increasingly unlikely to swing very far to the right. 

That was never more clear than in 2020 when Democrats basically swept the statewide offices, the state legislature, and, of course, the presidential race, in which Joe Biden beat Donald Trump by an incredible 13 points. The shellacking was so thorough that it seems to have caused at least one county clerk and recorder to lose her mind. Or maybe Tina Peters was just always like that.

Anyway, you’ve hit bottom, and so what do you do?

Well, you blame Denver — since it is run, like most of the rest of the state, by Democrats — and blame Democrats for allowing Denver to have turned into a “toilet bowl.”

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That’s what Rep. Matt Soper, a Delta Republican, said. Other Republicans have gone with “a city out of control.” Or a city “on a downward spiral.”

It’s early. I’m sure the insults will improve. On the other hand, you think “Denver Stinks” bumper stickers are the way to go?

Certainly there are many toilet bowls in Denver. With more than 306,000 homes (with the median price of a standalone house in the city at $745,000), you multiply that by 2.5 or so toilets and, well, you do the math.

Because it’s a “toilet bowl” in Denver, Soper explained, you don’t feel safe. “You feel safe in our part of Colorado,” he said.

He’s talking, of course, about Denver’s homeless problem, which is serious, just as it is in many cities across the country, and which, by the way, could use a few more public toilets. If Soper wants to help with the issue, I’m sure he could come with a bill or two addressing mental illness and addiction leading to homelessness in the next legislative session. 

It’s tough. Apparently putting change in parking meters didn’t do the trick. I worry, though, that the solution Republicans like George Brauchler would support would be to lock more people into jail, as we saw with the recently passed bipartisan fentanyl plan. 

And as for safety, well, no one seems to understand why homicide rates have soared the past few years all across America after decades of decline. Some of the so-called experts want to blame it on the pandemic, which certainly is the source of a lot of depression. You try finding a shrink these days. Maybe that explains Tina Peters’ predicament.

Yes, Denver has problems, many of them, starting with growth and affordable housing and gentrification, just to name a few. The 16th Street Mall badly needs renovation. But if downtown is all that scary, how do you figure that more than 30,000 fans come to your typical Rockies game? That’s the Rockies, people. Imagine what they’d draw if they ever had a winning team or, for that matter, if COVID ever goes away.

▶︎ Read more of Mike Littwin’s columns.

Many of the issues facing Denver are related to the fact that people do seem to want to move to the city and its suburbs, and from all over the country. Which is more than you can say for the rural parts of Colorado. According to the last census, Colorado was the sixth fastest growing state in the country while 16 rural counties actually saw a decline in population. 

Everyone knows the story of the enormous shifts from rural to urban in Colorado. Go to any session of the legislature and you’ll hear complaints from rural representatives about how the Front Range — where, remember, the people live — gets all the attention and where they don’t understand or care about rural Colorado. 

No one is sure what to do about it — although you may remember the not-altogether-successful secession movement. But GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Lopez says he has a plan. He says that, if elected, he is actually prepared to propose that Colorado dump its old Supreme Court-approved, one-person, one-vote style of government and change statewide elections to a system resembling the Electoral College.

In his plan, no county would get less than three electoral votes and no county would get more than 11, which would ensure, because of the number of small rural counties in the state, Republicans would always win. That’s not how they do it in democracies. That’s not how they do it in democratic republics. 

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The actual Electoral College has allowed two recent presidential candidates — Trump and George W. Bush — to win the seat without winning a majority vote. Of course, when the Founders came up with that bright idea, women couldn’t vote. Blacks couldn’t vote and, in any case, counted as only three-fifths of a person. Native Americans couldn’t vote. I think you can see a trend line here.

Thomas Jefferson, a slave owner, wrote those great words about all men being created equal, but there’s equal and then there’s equal. I mean, how many people in Jefferson’s time had an indoor toilet? 


Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.


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