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Zornio: Survey shows most Coloradans want political extremism to end. I’m one of them.

Updated: Jun 20

Trish Zornio

The Colorado Sun Opinion Columns

1:30 AM MDT on Jun 10, 2024

Voters are ready for politicians to stop bickering and get back to work. Will candidates meet the need?

Results are in and the message is clear: Coloradans are politically tapped out.

As a political and policy commentator, the growing disdain for extremism comes as no surprise. I, too, have felt the burnout brewing for years, often questioning whether we might ever turn a corner from the toxic direction we’ve been headed in. Now, hope is finally on the horizon.

According to a new statewide survey of voters, token issues such as guns and abortion are no longer the main drivers for most at the polls. Taking their place is a strong drive for good government and democracy, two objectively beige options by comparison. And why shouldn’t voters want less chaos? If most of us acted like our elected officials do these days, we’d be fired two ways from Sunday, too.

These findings are a wake-up call to politicians statewide. Colorado voters are done with the lies and bickering. We’re done with conspiracies, backstabbing and blame games. We’re sick and tired of attention-seekers who do nothing but wreak havoc and a lack of transparency. Flashy is out. Boring is in. We just want good, honest people who will get the job done without making a fuss. Capiche?

That Coloradans would find themselves at the forefront of demanding reasonability in government seems apt. Our state’s top voter affiliation has long been unaffiliated, with registered Democrats a distant second and registered Republicans an even more distant and rapidly dwindling third. But what might good governance and reason look like in 2024?

Some have suggested that Colorado might be ready for an independent candidate to win a major election such as governor or U.S. Senate. As good as that sounds, I’m not convinced. Without a pool of well-established independent candidates to choose from, the heavy hands of our two-party system still feel too great. Plus, an unknown independent candidate is risky by nature — without allegiances to established groups you never know what you’ll get. So unless a powerhouse official is willing to go rogue, an independent win seems less likely.

That said, I do think we could see improvements from existing players while we wait for larger structural change. For example, Aurora councilman Curtis Gardner recently announced he has left the Republican Party over their calls to burn all Pride flags, saying others intend to follow suit. This proves the mass exodus from Republican extremism is far from over, and the party is likely to continue its decline. Given Republicans already sit at less than one-quarter of registered voters in this state, a 10% decline from 10 years ago, this extremism is quickly taking care of itself, annoyingly vocal as it may be.

It’s not only Republicans. A similar, albeit vastly different, reckoning with political extremism is also underway for Democrats. In House District 6, incumbent Rep. Elisabeth Epps finds herself on an uphill defensive after a tumultuous legislative session marred by reprimands from her Democratic colleagues. Rep. Tim Hernandez also finds himself in a contentious primary after some deemed his rhetoric and actions too extreme. 

Whether or not these folks hold on is irrelevant. The tides are turning and voters are sending the message they’ve had enough. I know I have.

Of course, even with less chaos, we will continue to disagree on policy. That’s normal. The difference is that for the first time in years, most voters might once again be ready to disagree without making enemies of each other, a critical skill in good governance not to mention for mental health. Because at the end of the day, we just have to ask ourselves these questions:

Are we or are we not all Coloradans? Are we or are we not all neighbors? Are we or are we not capable of change? 

Perhaps I’ve watched too many Ted Lasso episodes, but I’m starting to believe in voters being curious over judgmental again. Are you?


Trish Zornio is a scientist, lecturer and writer who has worked at some of the nation’s top universities and hospitals. She’s an avid rock climber and was a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate in Colorado. Trish can be found on Twitter @trish_zornio

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