SOME TIME AGO, I PRAISED PETE COORS AND BLASTED KEN SALAZAR because of their respective comments on the Iraq War resolution.
That said, I’m very happy that Ken Salazar won his race, which may in fact hold some very important lessons for Democrats as they try to chart a new course to become a party of the nation, rather than just the coasts.
A very thoughtful political economist sent the following to me this morning but asked that I keep him anonymous:
Steve — To begin with, Colorado bucked the national trend by voting to reelect President Bush while at the same time choosing Democrat Ken Salazar to fill an open U.S. Senate seat and his brother John to fill an open U.S. House seat.
Salazar is a good man, the sort of centrist who could play well in the “red states”. But few people outside of Colorado seem to have noticed that the Democrats also managed to overturn Republican majorities in both houses of the state legislature.
This unexpected turn of events was engineered by a small group of wealthy local Democrats who were fed up with the Republican-dominated legislature’s fixation on social issues (“guns, God, and gays”) and its failure to address chronic budget shortfalls and provide adequate funding for higher education.
The wealthy Democrats targeted a handful of “extremist” Republican incumbents representing swing districts and quietly funneled $2 million to their Democratic opponents. They also poured money into a few carefully targeted open seats.
The Republicans were completely blindsided by their efforts. As a result, the Democrats now control both legislative chambers for the first time since 1960.
When asked about the priorities of the newly elected legislators, one of the key Democratic fundraisers told the Rocky Mountain News, “I don’t think the Pledge of Allegiance is likely to rise to the top. Or prayer in the schools.”
The lesson for national Republicans (if any of them are paying attention) should be clear: Allowing far-right social conservatives to dominate your legislative agenda may eventually result in a backlash.
Here is another piece about the lessons Colorado may hold for what hopefully will be many Democratic Party re-orientation retreats.
Just ignore that Bill Richardson is quoted a lot in the piece.
Remember, he says that he is not chasing higher office — don’t let him.
— Steve Clemons