Now that the dust has finally settled on the 2010 political campaign in Colorado, it's time to assess the results and find the way forward. Unless we learn the lessons from this and past elections, we're doomed to continue along the same path. Although this diary is about Colorado, it could apply to many other states. There are probably many that won't agree with my assessments.
We had mixed results here in Colorado. We picked up two House seats, but lost the Governor's and Senate races. We picked up statewide offices for SoS and Treasurer, and we regained control of the State House, but lost our initiatives to remove some liberal judges and assure healthcare choice.
The Governor's race was a perfect storm, and enough ink has already been spilled over that race. Suffice it to say that we need to find a way to encourage better candidates to run and stay in the race so we aren't stuck with such inferior choices that eventually leads to doom. We didn't remove some liberal judges, but the numbers improved and I think we can eventually get there with more voter education (more on that later).
Of greater interest to me was evaluating the Senate race and the healthcare choice initiative. It is my belief that we failed due to the large number of single-issue voters in Colorado that do not understand the minds of the voters. I'll begin with the Senate race.
The two primary reasons for Ken Buck's loss were allowing Michael Bennet to run against his own record and paint Buck as an extremist. There will be many that will argue there were other factors, such as a lack of GOTV effort at the end and pulling money for races in other states at the last minute. Certainly a lack of funds contributed to allowing Bennet to successfully run against his record, but none of these other factors affected the left's success in getting voters to believe Buck was too extreme for them.
Single issue groups have always put out candidate questionnaires, but these have become much more specific lately. While I think it's very important to know where a candidate stands on the issues, there's a fine line between getting answers and giving ammunition to the opposition. While it may feel good to get all the answers that you want, if in the end it actually helps elect those opposed to your cause, what good does it do?
This brings me to the Personhood Amendment. Ken Buck supported this initiative early in his campaign, and his opponents eventually used it to make clearly false statements about him, but this perception stuck. I voted for this amendment, but I also knew it would be a polarizing force, and was an attempt to take too large a bite off the apple at one time. This leads me to the healthcare choice initiative.
Any other election, this would've easily passed. Unfortunately it ended up being a victim of something as simple as a number. Amendments 60 and 61 (and referendum 101) were poorly-written and didn't even have the support of the base, and therefore had no chance. Add to this Amendment 62 which was too much of a reach, and people just decided to vote no on the 60s.
I'm not a fan of voter initiatives in general, as it goes against a representative form of government. It would be better that voters held their representatives accountable and replaced them when they overreach. That doesn't seem to be the case often, and I prefer that voters live with the consequences of their inaction. That said, initiatives like 63 that are intended to specifically reverse government overreach (i.e. Obamacare) are ones I can get behind.
I know a lot of people aren't going to agree with me, and they're going to continue to pursue their narrow agenda, and thereby continue to elect Democrats that are completely opposed to their goals. Sure, they'll feel good about themselves, and convince themselves that they're sticking to their principles, but I believe there's a way to do that and still make progress in the right direction too. My proposal contains two parts.
The first part is getting the various groups to find areas where they can work together, instead of focusing on differences. Just to suggest and example that I've seen in a few places, the defunding of Planned Parenthood. This would appeal to several groups, social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and even libertarians. Social conservatives want to see the number of abortions reduced, and fiscons and libertarians don't see this funding as something the government should be involved with. I believe that candidates that come out in favor of such ideas would find wide support and avoid being labeled as extreme. I'm sure there are many other ways the different factions could find ways to work together.
The second part of this proposal is to get groups to focus their energy on education. One of the complaints I often hear from people about the first part of my proposal is that they're being forced to shut up and get in line. I'm not advocating this at all. What I am saying is, that we should look for areas where we can make progress now, and concentrate on educating others on areas where we can't so we can make more progress in the future. We should wait until the climate is more favorable, rather than forcing candidates to voice a position on issues that are currently unpopular. There are some good organizations out there already doing this type of work, such as the Independence Institute. They're focused on education about fiscal issues, transparency, education, and others.
I believe if we continue down the same path of forcing candidates into corners, we will continue to lose elections. I believe there's a better way forward, one of mutual cooperation and respect. We find ways to work together where we can, and wait and educate where we can't. If we don't, we will continue to elect Democrats and lose even more ground. I don't see how that's in anyone's best interest.