Colorado Democrats, you had a good 2018. But heed the wisdom of Han Solo: Great, kid. Don’t get cocky.
Whether or not there was a national blue wave in the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats ran the table in Colorado, picking up not only the governor’s seat, but the legislature, a national congressional seat (five-term Republican U.S. Representative Mike Coffman was ousted with no more than a backhanded “Too bad, Mike” from President Trump), and the secretary of state, attorney general and state treasurer offices. But with great power comes great responsibility, so now that the victory parties have ended, it’s time for the new state leadership to take their seats, pick up their pens and get to work.
But what are the goals for Colorado Democrats in 2019? And how should they work to comport themselves while representing the voters who put them into power? Here are seven promises that Colorado Democrats should work to keep:
1. Be Good Winners
Take a cue from our current president…and do the opposite. The easy part of being a gracious victor is over; saying the right things in the aftermath of the elections is (or should be) duck soup. Now comes the hard part: legislating with fairness and respect, even when you disagree with folks about how to accomplish a common goal.
2. Do More Than Oppose Trump
Another lesson from the recent mess that is American governance: Opposition politics can only take a person and a party so far. After that, one must stand for something, which is one of those things that you hear pundits and politicians talk about on the news, but something we don’t see enough of when the rubber hits the road. The GOP is suffering under the yoke of its own inability to accomplish anything but obstruction right now, and Democrats would be wise to consider it a lesson. Yes, holding the president to the standards of ethical leadership is an important thing for our Democracy. But it's not the only thing.
3. Fix TABOR
There will never be a better time to address one of the most damaging pieces of legislation in Colorado history than right now. TABOR, especially in unintended partnership with the Gallagher Amendment, has strangled the prosperity of the state even in the best of times and has made us far less able to weather the worst. Colorado is the twelfth-richest state in the union, but is 42nd in how much it spends per student for education. And that’s only one example of a plethora of failures that restrict the quality of life of Colorado residents by refusing to pay for the things that make life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness possible.
4. Actually Fix the Damn Roads — and Pay for It With Real Damn Money
For real — not the cynical ploy by Jon Caldara, who claims his losing ballot proposition “won” by helping to defeat Proposition 110, which would have increased state taxes by .62 percent in order to pay for road, traffic and safety improvements sorely needed by everyone in Colorado who uses the roads (so: everyone). Caldara’s proposal also sought to fix the roads but didn’t want to pay for repairs up front, guessing that there’d be a huge windfall of tax money as a result of the Trump tax plan. Funding dramatically overdue infrastructure issues isn’t something we should be playing politics with, and while no one loves tax increases, Colorado should strive to support actual, real-world solutions, even when they’re sometimes inconvenient.
5. Support Pot
Colorado Senator Cory Gardner tried to protect states with legal marijuana laws on the federal level in late 2018, in part because the state needs it, and in part because Gardner is beginning his re-election campaign for 2020 and has to be able to point to something he did, or at least tried to do, while in Washington. But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley was having none of it, making the point that such legislation deserved its own debate on the Senate floor. Colorado’s legislature may not be able to directly influence such proposals, but they can certainly protect the interests of the industry on a state level and maintain pressure on representatives (especially Gardner) to codify some of the safeguards that would mainstream the marijuana industry and maximize its financial impact on state coffers.
6. Honor Y and Z
The other thing that voters did back in November 2018, aside from putting Democrats firmly in charge, was to approve two ballot initiatives that were created to combat gerrymandering in the state. Amendments Y and Z were huge steps in state politics and another way in which Colorado is leading a national political conversation. Now that Democrats are in control of essentially all of state government, it would be relatively simple to undermine the good intentions of Y and Z in favor of making Colorado more blue-friendly in years to come. Resist this urge, Dems. Doing so is not only the right thing to do, it also satisfies the people who elected you. And that needs to mean something again.
7. Fulfill Your Promises
Democrats were given a mandate in the midterms, mainly because of the big issues like education and health care. There has to be action on both these fronts, and much more of it, in order for this next political era in Colorado to be considered successful. It’s a tall order — health care perhaps most pointedly, seeing as how it’s both a national and a state issue that pretty much everyone agrees is of massive importance. Of course, it’s not enough to just walk the talk; Democrats also have to be respectful of the other side of the aisle and those Coloradans who voted red. Being elected to public office is an invitation to statesmanship. The challenge to every politician is the same: Live up to it.
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