As a formerly conservative friend of mine put it, 2018 was a squirmy time to be a Republican, requiring twisted and back-breaking logic to even attempt to defend the daily tweet-storm of nonsense. And here in Colorado? A blue tsunami took the state GOP almost completely out of the seats of power, leaving scant scarlet remaining — mainly those lawmakers not (yet) up for re-election.
The GOP is locked in a legal and political nosedive with the POTUS and his cronies, and the rest of the world is watching it all happen. But Republicans have options, even here in suddenly-cerulean Colorado. Here are seven things the state GOP can resolve to do in 2019:
1. Dump Trump
First and foremost, Colorado Republicans should read the writing on the wall and work hard to separate themselves from the walking, lying and constantly golfing disaster that is the Trump administration. Respectful debate is important for our democracy; we need rational discourse on the right as well as the left. But nothing will get better until the GOP recognizes that its intellectuals have fled the party: the Bill Kristols, the George Wills, the Jennifer Rubins, the David Brookses and the Charles Krauthammers. What you have left are the Limbaughs and Hannitys, the Ingrahams and Coulters, the toadies and blowhards. Take a note from Walker Stapleton’s feckless campaign: He embraced Trump and was left with nothing more than swamp muck on his face. And speaking of the swamp…
2. Retire the Swamp Metaphor
The president himself has admitted that his now-ubiquitous “Drain the Swamp” slogan was a dumb line that he hated and didn’t think would work. The fact that it caught on does not speak well of those who still chant it. The Colorado GOP would do itself some good by leading the charge in cutting out all the swamp-talk, because Trump’s remaining fan base, including some politicos and pundits, can’t help but trot it out now and again even though its unintended irony is by now despairingly apparent. After all, you can’t drain the swamp if you are the swamp.
3. Don’t Just Oppose the Democrats
Colorado GOP Chairman Jeff Hays plainly stated that he’s just waiting for the Democrats to “inevitably overreach” so Republicans can start making power plays. But that’s a myopic and ineffective way to govern; it presumes that only the party in charge has a role to play in the way state politics run. Opposition politics may have been the name of the national politics game since early in the Clinton administration — and has been the only game the GOP has allowed since Obama’s two terms — but that’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works. The job of governing is to work with the other side of the aisle for the betterment of the people who elected you. That means that when things are working, cooperation and compromise are necessary. Don't just dig in your heels and obstruct until you can gerrymander your way back into power. This is true not only on the federal level, but in state legislatures, too. If everyone starts to work toward the betterment of the constituency — and if a constituency can once again come to mean all the people, not just the ones who voted for you — then things can get done. If we continue to just work to keep the “other side” from accomplishing anything, nothing will ever happen.
4. Take Sexual Harassment Seriously
The fact that it took Randy Baumgardner so long to resign — that he was allowed to resign at all, as opposed to being ousted alongside his Democratic House counterpart, Steve Lebsock — is a blemish on the state GOP record. The #MeToo movement is enough of a reason to act on credible allegations of sexual impropriety, but in addition to that, serving the public good should require a high ethical bar. Our representatives should be among the best of us. We should expect that of each other and ourselves. Politicians — and public figures in general (we’re looking at you, super-creepy Kevin Spacey) — need to be held to a higher standard. This goes for state Democrats, too, who have yet to oust Representative Jovan Melton after his violent history came to light.
5. Face Up to the Tough Issues Honestly
Colorado Republicans must take a position on health care — and not just being against Obamacare or promising to never remove coverage for pre-existing conditions, but working with Democrats to protect that coverage. The GOP will almost certainly have to take a position on education and infrastructure funding, and possibly on gun control (though given that state Democrats got burned for taking strong action on guns back in 2013, that may not be high on the agenda).
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6. Stop Whining
Now that you’ve lost the House and Senate and the governor’s office, it's time to take a hard look at yourself. It wasn’t something that was done to you. It wasn’t anything that was stolen or unfairly taken. It was the majority of Colorado voters finally having enough of the GOP’s shit. It’s just like a breakup: You can play the victim and refuse to change the behavior that brought about the end of the relationship in question, but you'll probably doom yourself to making those same mistakes again in the next romance you manage to find. Or you can take stock of yourself, honestly look at the mistakes you’ve made, and work hard to better the way you interact with people and society and, yes, yourself.
7. Be the Hero
Be the person that the GOP needs to finally stand up and say this is enough, to apologize to the country for not standing up sooner and calling off this Machiavellian charade of a presidency, this series of criminal indulgences, this plundering of America by a callous, solipsistic, privileged game-show host. So far, only those who are halfway out the door, like Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, have been able to stand against the Trumpian tide. Be the hero, Colorado GOP. Someone is going to do it, and their star will deservedly rise, perhaps to national heights. Cory Gardner, this may be your only viable shot at political survival. Might as well be you.