In today’s look at dumb things political parties do — and I know the list never ends — I give you the Colorado Republican Party and dare anyone to top it.
If you saw the story in The Sun, you know that the ever-shrinking state GOP is attempting to revive its longstanding plan to grow the party by, yes, insisting on making it smaller first. Maybe they’re inspired by Elon Musk’s fine work at Twitter.
State chair Dave Williams and his leadership team are taking varied approaches. They are not only conducting party purges — the latest target being Roger Hudson, deputy chief of staff for the Colorado House GOP, who tweeted that the “bankrupt” state party can no longer even afford to pay the rent for the party’s offices. The party officially responded by calling Hudson a liar and saying he supported the “mutilation and chemical castration of kids.”
But purging apostates takes time. And who doesn’t qualify as an apostate these days when the U.S. House Freedom Caucus is giving the boot to Marjorie Taylor Greene?
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The state GOP wants to move more quickly. The principal goal of its revitalization program is to block hundreds of thousands of unaffiliated voters, who represent 47% of the Colorado electorate, from taking part in Republican primaries.
OK, that may sound counterintuitive, and also not very smart, because political parties are supposedly in the business of trying to win elections, and last I checked, the smaller party — you know, the one that gets fewer votes — generally loses. And, just spitballing here, it seems that shutting out unaffiliated voters, who would still be able to participate in state Democratic primaries, might not be the best way to win them over in the general election.
In other words, kicking out the unaffiliated would be a very large gift to Colorado Democrats, one so big that even Clarence Thomas would have to declare it.
But if you listen to Williams and the other far-right members of his caucus, they don’t necessarily see it that way. And not only because they’re mostly election-denying Trumpists who believe any election they lose — which, in Colorado, is most of them — must be rigged.
No, it’s because ever since 2016, when Colorado voters decided to allow unaffiliated voters to participate in partisan primaries, the party’s, uh, purity has been compromised, allowing RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) to run free and worse. And there’s also the chance — conspiracy alert here — for conniving, Soros-backed Democrats to cross over en masse, spoiling the GOP chances by helping to nominate weaker Republican candidates. In 2022, 434,000 Republicans and 231,000 unaffiliateds participated in the Republican primaries.
You’ve seen the results. Republicans keep losing. And now there’s not a single Republican holding statewide office.
Of course, they were also losing before 2016 — Republicans have won only one top-of-the-ballot race in ever-more-blue Colorado since 2004 — but we shouldn’t let facts get in the way. I mean, I can remember when Republicans nominated Dan Maes for governor all by themselves.
And as for unaffiliated voters, they aren’t actually all that independent. As many as 80% of them are so-called leaners who identify with one major party or the other, including the Republican Party, and not, say, the No Labels party.
Still, Williams ran for party chair on the promise to change the primaries back to the way they used to be or, even better, get rid of them altogether. The state GOP had already tried a federal lawsuit to end Colorado’s scandalous mixing of voters, but that failed. The leaders tried to get the Republican state central committee to change the rules. That also failed. Now Williams hopes to hire John Eastman — yes, that John Eastman, the old CU visiting professor who devised the loony scheme to try to keep Donald Trump in office — for another try. That is, if Eastman isn’t disbarred first.
So now, in the latest plan, GOP leaders want to change the state party bylaws so that a nonvote by a member of the central committee becomes a “yes” vote in any action that requires 70% of the votes to pass. That sounds complicated, but stay with me.
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Proposition 108, which is the one that opened the primaries to unaffiliated voters, allows parties to opt out of primary voting if at least 75% of central committee members vote to do so. The problem is that many members don’t show up to vote, meaning that getting to 75% is all but impossible.
That’s why conservative commentator Chuck Bonniwell made the proposal, to make the impossible merely improbable. To change the bylaw would require a two-thirds vote in the GOP central committee’s Aug. 5 meeting in Castle Rock. That’s probably going to fail, too.
If they did pass it, then Republicans would presumably revert to the caucus and assembly method of nominating candidates, which would all but assure that only the most right-wing candidates get nominated. And if you think being a far-right-winger in Colorado is the way to go, then remind me how Lauren Boebert won her reelection by only 500 votes in the 3rd Congressional District when national Democrats failed to even try to win there.
You remember the last election, in which Republican Joe O’Dea lost to Michael Bennet in the U.S. Senate race by 14 points. Williams considered O’Dea a RINO. But how about Heidi Ganahl’s 19-point loss to Gov. Jared Polis? Did he think the furry vote beat her?
Meanwhile, you may have noticed that in the presidential primary that Trump and main rival — so far, anyway — Ron DeSantis have basically forsworn policy arguments in favor of all-out culture warfare, with each trying to out-right-wing the other. But severely restricting abortions — or restricting them at all — doesn’t work in Colorado. Anti-LGBTQ legislation doesn’t work in Colorado. Banning the discussion of race and gender in schools and/or banning books doesn’t work in Colorado. Limiting voting rights doesn’t work in Colorado. Pretending that elections are rigged doesn’t work in Colorado.
Let’s go back to House GOP deputy chief of staff Roger Hudson, GOP leadership’s target of choice. In a tweet, Weston Imer, a Williams ally, warned Hudson that “KARMA IS A BITCH! Every single liar in this party will get theirs, don’t even worry.”
In his tweet about the party being bankrupt — and there’s mounting evidence for that — Hudson offered the idea that it was time to build a party “that reflects the BIG aspirations of Coloradans, the BIG tent of Reagan …”
And yet, the Colorado GOP keeps thinking small. And smaller. And, if they keep heading that way, they might get so small they could all fit in a pup tent.
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