This year’s Colorado Republican Assembly was a discouraging experience for this conservative Republican who has been attending since I was 19 years old. It wasn’t discouraging because some of my candidates didn’t do as well as I had hoped. That goes with the territory and, if you have any class or character, you learn to roll with the punches.
In my early years, I often voted for the candidates who served up the most red meat. I remember when former State Sen. Charlie Duke ran for U.S. Senate. I can’t recall if I voted for him or who his opponents may have been, but I liked his advocacy of the Tenth Amendment and its limitation on federal powers. I later discovered that Charlie was a bizarre character who really couldn’t even get along with his own colleagues and, sadly, passed away estranged from most of his own family.
In 1992, I cast my vote in the presidential primary for Pat Buchanan, who ran a brief insurgent challenge to President George H.W. Bush because he’d broken his “read my lips, no new taxes” promise. Many others who are now considered “establishment” did the same.
So, I know what it’s like to be enthralled by rhetoric and oblivious to the reality that winning in November by appealing to millions of voters requires much different tactics than winning amongst 4,000 of the reddest red-meat Republicans.
What discouraged me this year isn’t that other people of good will are going through that same learning process but that a significant faction within the GOP simply doesn’t possess good will. It’s impossible to attribute good will to people who yell profanities at those who disagree or who stand to give a middle-finger to our state chair when she rules in favor of a majority that simply wants to do our job within a reasonable time. If those people also cheer for “Christian values,” then I trust that their consciences will eventually be pricked.
The state chair is elected in the spring of odd-numbered years by members of the Republican State Central Committee. From that point, her job is to organize the party for its next general election. She doesn’t do that in a vacuum or in secrecy. Clearly state party kept the statewide campaigns in the loop as rules for this convention were made.
Those who showed up with their own pre-printed, “watermarked” paper ballots and their own counting system, which no one else had authenticated, never asked themselves, “Why would someone trust our system sight-unseen when we aren’t willing to trust a voting system which everyone has seen?”
I’ve read social media posts in which they accuse our state chair of “corruption” because they didn’t get their way. No, there were at most 1,600 of these out of 3,772 delegates, so our chair was ruling with the majority.
If you truly believe that we cannot have secure voting without paper ballots, then make that case to the State Central Committee when it meets early next year to elect a chairman.
Next, several people who nominated or seconded candidates professed disappointment with politicians who talk like conservatives but then don’t act like conservatives when elected. We all know that some politicians “grow in office,” an uncomplimentary description of those who forsake their principles to please the media or lobbyists. But that group, in my experience, is a very small one.
No elected official can please everyone all the time. Even Donald Trump split with his base over COVID vaccines. We elect people to study issues and apply their own judgment. But in this age of anti-social media, ranting and raging has replaced thoughtfulness and dialogue, so people ignore a checklist of solid votes in order to obsess on one area of disagreement.
In my opinion, that’s what happened in CD4 where Bob Lewis emerged as a last-minute candidate, his supporters lampooned Congressman Ken Buck for not voting to censure Liz Cheney, and Lewis won topline. Buck has been a solid conservative vote, and he thinks for himself rather than follow the herd. If his detractors had a solid case against him, they would have run a broad campaign over the past few months rather than stage an ambush at the convention.
The other reason some believe that those they elect are forsaking their principles is because state and federal governments are continually assaulting conservative principles.
Think for a moment: why is that happening?
The answer is simple: because Democrats are winning elections and Republicans are losing elections. That happens, in part, because our Republican delegates have a bad habit of voting with their emotions and putting people on the ballot who have little appeal to voters who aren’t activist Republicans.
Elections are fundamentally about addition. The only way to win in November is by adding unaffiliated voters and disaffected Democrats to your Republican base. Instead for a bewildering faction of delegates, the goal seems to be driving other Republicans out of the party for being insufficiently servile and telling non-Republicans that we don’t care about their votes. Maybe that makes you feel better in April, but it’s a lead-pipe losing strategy for November and helps Democrats achieve their goal of turning Colorado into California.
Finally, a bewildering number of delegates proved to be easily manipulated by hucksters. That’s not a statement I make lightly and certainly not with any pleasure.
Consider the vote for Attorney General, where our party’s nominee faces as incumbent Democrat who already has $2.3 million in the bank. Republican John Kellner, the elected district attorney for Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties, has been campaigning for months and is obviously a strong candidate.
But at literally the last moment, delegates proudly wearing colors of state Rep. Ron Hanks’ campaign nominated a complete unknown, one Stanley Charles Thorne, and smeared Kellner under false pretenses. Thorne acknowledged that he was running only because someone called him “36 hours ago” to ask him to be a candidate. He wasn’t licensed to practice law in Colorado, a legal requirement for be Attorney General, and those who nominated him didn’t bother to find out if he was even a registered Republican – which he wasn’t.
In short, Thorne was not eligible to be elected or nominated. Yet 1,520 delegates voted for this imposter because he was “anti-establishment,” thereby demonstrating their abject gullibility.
I’ve long preferred our grassroots caucus-and-assembly process because it’s how I was first nominated 24 years ago. But when such a large share of delegates disregards their serious responsibility to put credible candidates on the ballot, I can’t help but question why a credible candidate should invest time and resources courting these delegates rather than securing their position on the ballot by circulating petitions and focusing directly on voters who can help them win in November.