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What we learned from the midterms

Nov 27, 2022

By STEVE MANDELL


The recent elections in our 3rd Congressional District may be a turning point. But where it is leading is far from settled. Nevertheless, there are four lessons from the recent election worth exploring.

Colorado’s Third Congressional District is a microcosm of the divide in the U.S. Red counties, blue counties. Lauren Boebert won a majority in fourteen counties while Adam Frisch won a majority in thirteen. Frisch flipped two counties (Alamosa and Huerfano), while Boebert flipped none. Enthusiasm for Boebert shrinks. In 2020, Boebert received more than 60% of the vote in nine counties. This time, only five counties delivered those results (Delta, Dolores, Moffat, Montrose, and Rio Blanco). In contrast, voters gave Frisch more than 60% of the vote in eight counties (Costilla, Eagle, Gunnison, LaPlata, Ouray, Pitkin, San Juan, and San Miguel). Mesa County Republicans are turning. It seems clear that Boebert, along with Tina Peters, pushed more Mesa County Republicans to either vote for Frisch or stay home. In 2020, Boebert’s margin in Mesa County was 24,861 votes. Yes, the turnout was greater in 2020, but the turnout declined by 19%, while Boebert’s margin declined by 55%. 2. Republican Party divisions will continue and intensify. Western Slope Republicans are divided over Trump. Mesa County Commissioner Cody Davis, says “It’s OK to move on from Trump,” noting that “What we witnessed via exit polling and results is that unaffiliated voters, overwhelmingly, do not like Trump.” (Sentinel, Nov. 20). Montrose County GOP chairperson Scott Riba echoed Davis’s concerns, saying, “The premise that Trump turns off independent voters is true.” But Riba wasn’t ready to ditch Trump completely, saying he wants to know, “…which other candidates officially declare before deciding whom to support.” However, given Trump’s cult following, it is likely that many of the conspiracy-minded, true believers are not ready to move on. They won’t give up their Trump hats, Trump pillowcases, their Trump presidential socks, or their Trump talking pen. We shall see if Republicans, as they’ve done many times before, backtrack and capitulate to Trump in order to keep the support of his base. 3. Trumpism is more than narcissistic personality. It is a rejection of Western Slope tradition and values. Moving on from Trump and his narcissistic personality is different from moving on from Trumpism. Those advocating disposing of Trump say they will keep Trump’s conservative values and policies, discarding only the crazy. But the Trump policies they most admire have little in common with the values Western Coloradans have practiced for years. Westerners value individuality and independence. They believe the federal government should stay out of our personal lives. Yet the current Supreme Court is establishing a morality police state that pries into our personal lives and relationships. There is a long tradition here of accepting personal responsibility. While political extremists talk about freedom, they deny the responsibility to the community that comes with it. They think freedom means being able to harass and threaten violence upon election workers and educators. They believe freedom of speech is a one-way street. 4. The voice and influence of moderates is growing. The razor slim Republican control of Congress gives leverage not only to folks like the extremist Freedom Caucus, but also to moderates. As Politico’s Katherine Tully-McManus reports, the Problem-Solver Caucus, a congressional group seeking bipartisan cooperation, is “suddenly a sought-after group, with everyone from the Freedom Caucus to Democratic senators reaching out.” The Problem Solvers caucus is growing with almost 90 members, including new recently elected members who declared their intention to join. One possibility, Tully-McManus reports, would see the Caucus “only endorsing bills that have both Republican and Democratic co-sponsors when introduced.” The influence of moderates on the Western Slope has grown as well. More than 2,500 people, mostly from western Colorado, have signed the Restore the Balance pledge to speak out against political extremism and support candidates — regardless of party — who will be best at opposing it. (Note: I was a founding member of Restore the Balance). A year ago, it was difficult to find a Republican willing to speak out publicly. Today, Republicans and former Republicans are not only speaking out, but reaching out to like-minded Republicans across the 3rd District. The bottom line: We can feel better about the fact that resistance to extremism is growing. But the authoritarian threat to democracy is real and serious. Lauren Boebert still holds power. Extremists have made gains in other parts of the country. It will take conservatives, liberals, and moderates, working together, to overcome this threat.

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