Friday, August 15, 2008

Rise of Democratic Independents in Colorado

Colorado is an anomaly in contemporary politics, as it is a consistently Republican state that nonetheless has a Democratic governor, legislature, mayor of its largest city, and, soon, two Democratic senators. What brought about this support for the Democrats is a suspicion among voters that conservative ideology has led to the current state of dissatisfaction and economic precariousness. Lately, Democrats have run on positions of fixing the problems, while Republicans generally campaign on the position of being the next Ronald Reagan – that message has gotten tired. It’s not that the state is suddenly liberal. Coloradans are still fiercely independent and conservative in many ways. But while they voted for TABOR (Taxpayers Bill of Rights) based on a desire to approve tax increases, they've seen the problems of the convoluted formula for computing the spending of funds already collected. Voters logically blame the anti-tax crowd for the states' serious financial problems that led voters to suspend TABOR tax rebates in 2005. The subsequent rise of independents in Colorado voter registration actually shows an increase in critical thinking whereby voters are more carefully evaluating the positions of each party. Clearly, no party or platform is always right.

Like Ronald Reagan (a brilliant leader who came at a unique time for his message), most Coloradans are pragmatic people. Support for TABOR on principle became a realistic decision to support referendums to fix it. It is a practical realism and a decision to pay attention to both sides of the debate that has led voters to support the recent economic pragmatism of the Democrats. Simply put, voters are showing they are not for or against any taxes. There are many issues and projects in the state – from roads to schools to parks to public health – that require large sums of money, which must be spent with honest transparency and practicality. For those voters who stay informed, comptroller David Walker’s tour on the country’s financial state has been revealing, and his recommendations are necessary. Walker – an independent who was once a conservative Democrat and more recently a moderate Republican – has clearly pointed out that in order to fix the government’s financial mess so it doesn’t end up on the shoulders of my six-year-old son, we will need to cut spending AND raise some taxes. Reading the numbers objectively, I am OK with that, as are many Coloradans. The sooner conservative Republicans realize this, the sooner they may be able to offer more practical positions voters believe will work for Colorado.

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