The swift, ugly responses to progressive Colorado candidates and office holders distancing themselves from the Denver Democratic Socialists of America had a familiar pattern. DSA looks and sounds an awful lot like the left’s version of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.
Obviously, this is not a policy comparison. To the extent they discuss the same issues, the two groups occupy polar opposites on the political spectrum.
But tactics and influence? It is not hard to see the similarities.
It began with Denver DSA issuing a controversial statement following the coordinated terrorist attacks by Hamas in Israel. The focus on violence against Palestinians, without a mention of the violence against Israelis was tone deaf. The release ended by putting an antisemitic slogan used by Hamas in bold.
That is courting outrage for the sake of confrontation. Even progressive darling U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called similar statements by the New York DSA chapter “bigotry and callousness.”
I watched RMGO do the same for years. For example, when asked about the number of bullets the Aurora theater killer had with him, their executive director replied, “I call 6,000 rounds running low.”
What disgusts most rational people serves as a rallying cry for the extremist members of both groups. The more patently offensive, the better.
Over the past few election cycles, Denver DSA has asserted itself as a political force within the state, particularly in Denver. As the Republican Party has become increasingly irrelevant, the primary political tension has shifted to the ongoing struggle between centrist Democrats and far-left activists. The closer to Denver and the more liberal the voters in a district, the more often that conflict appears.
That is how RMGO came to prominence more than two decades ago. RMGO cultivated a list of the most ardent Second Amendment supporters and marched them into districts across the state. In the beginning, they targeted safe Republican districts to install their acolytes as elected officials. RMGO understood that whenever the overall voter registration substantially favors Republicans, the primary becomes the only election that matters.
Because primary turnout is always significantly lower than a general election and because the largest proportion of the primary electorate favors the most ardent positions, it created a perfect environment for RMGO. Gradually, they used a few election wins every cycle to build power and expand. Eventually, they became a dominant force across the state.
The Denver DSA plan looks like a mirror image.
One of Denver DSA’s first major wins came in 2019 with the firebrand Denver City Council candidate Candi CdeBaca. Running in an overwhelmingly liberal district, CdeBaca counted Denver DSA among her staunchest allies. They helped her shock onlookers everywhere by beating former City Council President Albus Brooks, cutting his political career unexpectedly short. That is the kind of win that makes people sit up and take notice.
Denver DSA galvanized an army of like-minded volunteers and activists to phonebank and knock doors for CdeBaca. Fired up and filled with fervor, Denver DSA zealots provided energy and manpower that most candidates cannot match.
In the years since, Denver DSA backed more candidates. They scored a major victory securing a state House seat for Rep. Elisabeth Epps in 2022, ran a slate of candidates in the Denver municipal election earlier this year, and helped send Rep. Tim Hernández to the state Capitol.
And that has put their bloodlust rhetoric front and center.
During her campaign, Epps received criticism for multiple anti-Jewish posts, including her own “from the river to the sea” missive (Epps was defended by multiple prominent Jewish community members and I have personally seen her at a seder dinner — hopefully giving credence to her claimed desire to find a two-state solution).
Hernández began his term in office with an interview where he repeatedly refused to condemn violence as a legitimate political tool. He followed that up by attending a pro-Palestine demonstration in Denver and refusing to condemn the terrorist actions of Hamas. Following days of public outcry, Hernández eventually issued a public apology.
That both were caught up employing the language used by Denver DSA should be telling. It gives the group’s extremism legitimacy for too many people on the left. That in turn increases their political influence.
How long before we see Denver DSA cracking a whip on any legislator who dares to question even their most outlandish positions? That is what RMGO became most famous for doing, taking down Republican officeholders like former Rep. Cole Wist over his temerity to back commonsense red-flag laws.
Denver DSA is not to that point yet. But if Democrats are not careful, it will not be long before they are.
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