There was something so familiar about the far-right circus gathered outside the Boot Barn to protest current Colorado Republican Party leadership last week.
Spewing conspiracy theories interspersed with vulgar name-calling brought back memories of the time when I began to distance myself from the party.
Get ready for a stampede of Republicans looking for greener pastures.
Over the past decade I have spoken with plenty of Republicans who clung to hope that they would wrestle control back from the “crazies” or “wing-nuts.” They saw the current climate as one that would eventually pass and wanted to be there to pick up the pieces when it did.
The problem has been that the party has lurched further and further toward extremism and irrelevancy with each passing election cycle. The people hanging on have had to either ignore reality or change their public images. Some had mortgages to pay while others were true believers.
In the end, the conspiracy-fueled, far-right maw swallowed everything. And when there was nothing left, it began to feed on its own tail.
Kristi Burton Brown, the current Colorado GOP Chair, is the perfect example. It is ludicrous that speakers at the Boot Barn accused her of rejecting a conservative platform. Brown spent years as the face of the Personhood Initiative, the most extreme anti-abortion ballot initiative proposed in our state.
Brown’s position was so extreme that Coloradans regularly rejected by more than two-to-one whenever it appeared on the ballot. Despite that abject history of electoral ineptitude, the Colorado Republican Party chose to put Brown in charge of its party apparatus just under two years ago.
No doubt, it was her strident positions, so out of touch with the general electorate, that propelled her into power. Republican activists were on the prowl for a no-compromise candidate after they deemed her predecessor, Ken Buck, Colorado’s most conservative member of Congress, a part of the dreaded “establishment.”
And so the cycle continues.
I am sure that if Republicans nominate and elect Anil Mathai, the loudest, angriest, shoutiest speaker at last week’s rally, it will only be a matter of time before the same rabble would turn on him.
In fact, the only way to convince many of the attendees that Tina Peters tampers with votes would be to put her in charge of the GOP. In two years the same group would likely up the ante on Peters’ current legal problems and accuse her of treason (which, in fairness, is pretty accurate — she did try to kill democracy).
That is just the nature of the Colorado Republican Party.
Only this time it feels a little different. After Republicans lost so overwhelmingly at every level, many of the people who held out hope for a return to normalcy seem ready to call it quits. In a book I read recently, author Cole Arthur Riley described lamentation without hope as despair. She could have been describing this segment of Colorado Republicans.
With any chance to hold any lever of power gone for the foreseeable future, or forever if you agree with my take from a few weeks ago, there is no incentive to keep up the charade. The rationale that someone must be there to pick up the pieces does not hold when the base insists on blowing the entire party to kingdom come every two years.
It is no accident that state Sen. Bob Rankin announced his resignation halfway through his term. An octogenarian pragmatist who saw the writing on the wall, he clearly did not want to spend two long years infighting rather than legislating. Many other Republicans will likely follow his lead, if more quietly and understated as they stop participating or change their registration status.
Those Republicans finally understand — there are no pieces left to pick up. There is just shouting and raging at the Boot Barn.
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