“Radicalifornia” Endnotes


As readers know, the state of California factored oddly heavily in the 2018 midterm elections in Colorado. Colorado Republicans attempted to capitalize on the “threat” of Colorado becoming more like the Golden State in all kinds of ways, from the horrors of life in San Francisco to the supposedly wrecked California economy–and, of course, a generous helping of dog-whistle subtext about hippie liberals and their “alternative lifestyles.”

But as it turns out, the states of Colorado and California did have something in common in the 2018 elections. For Republicans in both states, 2018 was an historic wipeout that has left the state’s Republican establishments wondering what the future (if any) looks like. As Politico reports:

In the wake of a near-political annihilation in California that has left even longtime conservative stronghold Orange County bereft of a single Republican in the House of Representatives, a growing chorus of GOP loyalists here say there’s only one hope for reviving the flatlining party: Blow it up and start again from scratch.

That harsh assessment comes as Republicans survey the damage from the devastation of a “blue tsunami” in California which wiped out five GOP-held House seats — with more still threatened — while handing every statewide seat and a supermajority to the Democrats in both houses of the state legislature this week…

For anyone with an understanding of California politics, the idea of the conservative bastion of Orange County failing to send a single Republican back to Congress for 2019 is practically unthinkable. California’s Democratic majorities in the State Assembly and Senate are now supermajorities–a critical hurdle since California requires a two-thirds legislative majority to pass a budget. California’s blue wave, like Colorado’s, delivered a sweep of statewide races to the Democrats.

“I believe that the party has to die before it can be rebuilt. And by die — I mean, completely decimated. And I think Tuesday night was a big step,’’ says veteran California GOP political consultant Mike Madrid. “There is no message. There is no messenger. There is no money. And there is no infrastructure.” [Pols emphasis]

It’s striking to us how you can change the name “Mike Madrid” to any number of veteran Republicans in Colorado, and the quote above would remain generally accurate. When Colorado Republicans warned that Colorado would become “like California” if Colorado Democrats won, it wasn’t just a warning about the culture.

They foresaw their own destruction. And they were right.

As we said during the campaign, demonizing California was a strategy fully dependent on cultural prejudice and a kind of weird talk radio intra-American xenophobia that was never going to appeal to a majority of Colorado voters. In 2016, less than 43% of Coloradans were born in the state at all. Not only did the “Radicalifornia” message miss the mark, it helped cement the Colorado GOP’s image of being ignorant and out of touch.

In both states, the results speak for themselves.


27 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. DENependent says:

    No. The Republicans in Colorado will be back. Yes, I know the 'burbs turned against them. Yes, I know changing population. Yes, Republicans are anti-American thieves rounding up the votes of useful idiots for oligarchs of various nationalities. It does not matter. Colorado is not California (yet).

    Colorado is simply not as far down the road of becoming a blue state. We're more like Oregon 15 years ago. Yeah, the Democrats are mostly winning and the demographics favor them, but in a red wave year the Republicans could still take control of one of the legislative branches or one of the executive seats. Colorado is not an impossible Republican lift like California.

    • bullshit! says:

      I agree Colorado isn't as close to being forever blue as California, but Colorado Republicans did totally misread the electorate by lining up with Trump. A red wave in California could bring another Arnie (shudder) or oddball Repug too. In both states the rural vote is shrinking and the urban vote is exploding.

      I think the GOP brand is on its way out.

      • DENependent says:

        On the way out, yes. I agree with that as it relates to Colorado.

        I also agree that the Republicans misread the electorate or at least could not see any way to separate from the national message while not losing their base like Charlie Baker did in Massachusetts. Which was an obvious mistake since Colorado voted for Clinton by a solid margin.

        I do not see the Republican brand as on the way out nationally. I think there is a chance Trump is reelected even against a generic moderate Democrat. I want to think that his chances are small, but I thought that last time.

      • davebarnes says:

        Yes, but…
        VT, NH, MA have GOPer governors.
        I know why Massachusetts does: The Dimocrats dominate the legislature and the voters/citizens like having a check on their craziness.

        • deathpigeon says:

          Governors of the opposite party from the partisan lean of a state, especially when they're incredibly partisan, tend to be really popular b/c the only way they can get elected is by appealing to a lot of people of the other party while also winning over their own party. So, basically, the partisan make up of those states get a very particular sort of Republican governor who tends to be very good at winning over Democrats.

    • Colorado Pols says:

      Certainly Colorado Republicans will be back, just like they'll be back in Orange County. Our point is about the efficacy of this message, and what it says about the messengers. 

      • DENependent says:

        Quality of the messengers, absolutely. The message.. eh. I am skeptical that this was about substance rather than emotion. I think that a Republican who dressed up his anti-immigrant, anti-government message in a "gosh-gee" folksy charm could easily win the governorship and carry one or two houses of the legislature along with him.

        This election was different because Democrats and unaffiliated voters showed up. They were highly motivated by being against "dat bastard". With a Democrat or moderate Republican in the white house I think the more usual midterm pattern is likely to return. High Republican turn out compensating for there being more Democrats.

      • Gilpin Guy says:

        What I find hilarious is that Republicans weren't touting the conservative revolution in Kansas.  If states are incubators for policies then Kansas was the shining star of conservative power but Colorado Republicans avoided talking about the results of a decade of Sam Brownback et al at the helm.  Not a peep out of Colorado Republicans about how superior the economy and education system was compared to California probably because Kansas is a disaster for government policy.  Kansas actually voted for a Democrat for governor rather and a Trump BFF in Kobach. 

    • ParkHill says:

      Inexorable Demographics – See the spread sheet at this article: Which Congressional Districts are Growing or Shrinking the most.

      Count me as one who believes that the Republican Party will be facing years of internal conflict; the right-wing is too powerful to give up to the moderates. Nationally, the Republicans dominate in a few core areas, but Colorado is following the path of CA, OR, WA. Next will be AZ and TX.

      Trump is just making the demographic changes kick in a little faster: Aging in White areas, mobility of millennials, and growth of Hispanic population means that Rural and rust belt areas are declining or stable in population. Colorado gets one more seat (Texas gains 2 or 3). The new Colorado districts will have to pick up most of their population from Urban and Suburban areas which are majority Democratic.

      The 2022 redistricting will give us eight, 700,000 person districts, which means that existing Colorado districts will lose between 50-125,000 people:

      District    2017pop    2022contrib
      CD 01    826,995    126,101
      CD 02    799,734    98,840
      CD 03    749,478    48,584
      CD 04    817,251    116,357
      CD 05    799,622    98,728
      CD 06    814,636    113,742
      CD 07    799,438    98,544

      I think the best the Republicans will be able to do is 3-5. but maybe only 2-6.

      • mamajama55 says:

        We need Fort Collins to be redistricted into CD4 if we're ever going to de-Buck. We did cut down his margin from +30 to +20, though. You can see that same  margin reduction even for Lamebrain in CD5. And Diane Mitsch Bush halved Tipton's margin from +14 in 2016 to +7 in 2018.

        I had written earlier that we kept the R margin to 10% in my county. Unfortunately, I was wrong. We never broke 30% for Democratic votes, and unaffiliateds swung right more than they swung left.

        But we did reduce it from a 1:3 Democratic  – Republican ratio in 2016 and 2014 to a 1:2 ratio in 2018 – which means that we did win over some unaffiliated voters. 

        We have to be aggressively registering  and persuading young and new voters.

        It doesn't help that virtually all of the media outlets in the area are Republican-controlled – Alden media owns the Fort Morgan Times and the Brush Tribune, as well as the Denver Post. Fox is on 24/7 in every bar and hotel in the area. Radio advertising is a big deal here, since people spend a lot of time driving from place to place, and the Republican candidates like Sonnenberg invested heavily in radio ads early. The oil and gas companies spent millions on radio and TV and billboards against Prop. 112, as well.

        Local candidates had small budgets and very little help from the state party, though our county party raised some funds for them.

        So the hill to climb for Democratic representation here got a little less steep, but is still a tough slog.



        • Mike W. says:

          It would certainly be competitive, but we'd come up short if we're talking all of Weld County. We'd probably come up ~9k short of winning a Northern Colorado mountain district (Weld, Larimer, Jackson, Grand, Routt and Moffat), and ~20k short of winning a North Colorado plains district (Larimer, Weld, Logan, Morgan, Sedgwick).

          It'd be great if we could've put Broomfield in with them but without any county splits, its just gotten too damn populous since the last census. 

          • DENependent says:

            How about part of Boulder county in the form of an appropriate town crossing the line or on the border? Erie comes to mind. The Boulder County portion of Longmont would probably be too large.

            • Not that partisan politics is going to get say in drawing the lines; that's now in the hands of an independent commission.

              • DENependent says:

                My intent is not partisan. I was speculating about drawing a district where the Republican winning is not a forgone conclusion. Weld plus Larimer is almost a swing district. Add in a few logical bits from the edge of Boulder County and it potentially makes for a tidy, logical, swing district.

                The same could potentially be done using Douglas County plus some of the south/east Suburbs. Again they have multiple cities that cross the lines such as Aurora going down into Douglas County.

      • DENependent says:

        Amendment Y mandates: "the commission to draw districts with a focus on communities of interest and political subdivisions, such as cities and counties, and then to maximize the number of competitive congressional seats to the extent possible"

        That says to me, given the number of Democrats in CD-1, the core of CD-2 and Republican in Rural areas and what is now CD-5, that we are likely to end up with districts that are 2-R, 3-D, 3-competitive. Why? Because there is plenty of R territory in the burbs as well as D territory. Even without bending over backwards drawing three compact and fairly balanced districts should not be hard.

        Given that Republicans could be down to 2-6 in a really bad year, but they are likely to average 3-5. They may get to 4-4 in a good year like 2010.

        • If competitiveness takes back seat to compact, contiguous, community, and minimum division, then I expect we might see 4D, 2R, and 2 competitive. Given the population growth areas, I think it will be harder to carve out truly competitive districts while following the other guidelines. You could maximize competitiveness, but you'd have to sacrifice all the more important criteria IMHO.

          CO-07 and CO-06 were drawn to be competitive in 2011; CO-02 and CO-03 were supposed to be borderline competitive. Since then all have moved away from the center, with only CO-03 being marginally close now (within 10 points on a good year). I just don't know if there are enough Republicans outside of Colorado Springs to competitively split the Front Range any more.

          • DENependent says:

            You may be correct, but I think you may underestimate the number of Republicans that could be found in some of the burbs to make districts that are as compact as the ones drawn last time and just as competitive.

            If you mean they will tend to turn a bit more blue over time.. yeah. Quite likely. The people moving to Colorado are fairly blue and there is a drift away from the Republican party.

  2. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    California: 5th largest economy in the world and a budget surplus of $9 billion.

    For the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, the far right wing led Republican government in Washington racked up a budget deficit around $780 billion.

  3. gertie97 says:

    The question is whether the Democrats can hold together without the progressive wing taking a too far, too fast tilt. Remember that the unaffiliateds won't go with too much toward the edge. Trump did that to Colorado Republicans.

    As for finding an Orange County shift in Colorado, watch for a Democrat to get elected in Mesa County. I just hope might happen in my lifetime but I'm not counting on it.



    • Conserv. Head Banger says:

      I thought Bernie Buescher was from Mesa County and he did get elected Secretary of State. Please advise if incorrect.

      • RepealAndReplace says:

        He was appointed secretary of state when Shorter Coffman took Tancredo's seat in Congress. Buescher then ran for the office but lost of Honey Badger in 2010.

        • gertie97 says:

          Correct, R&R. Bernie did get elected state rep in 2004 and served two terms. He was the odds-on favorite to be speaker of the Colorado House following the 2008 election, but was defeated narrowly by Republican Laura Bradford with the help of around $2 million from the oil & gas industry. We all remember how that turned out for Bradford, but the seat has been held by the GOP ever since. Given the overwhelming R registration advantage, the tendency of unaffiliates to break for Republicans and the conservative history of the county, it'll be a long while before a Democrat can break through again. Unfortunately.

    • deathpigeon says:

      "Unaffiliated" isn't the same as "moderate", so progressives taking things in that sorta direction would only turn off a portion of the unaffiliated voters, and not necessarily even the largest portion of them.

  4. Voyageur says:


    Trump stinks.


  5. Arvadonian1 says:

    I'd rather model ourselves after California than Mississippi….

  6. deathpigeon says:

    The Endnotes that really matter.

    Anyway, California sucks, but damn if the Republican Party is waaaaaay worse. Most of the issues California faces, such as shitty water policies, are issues which Republicans taking over California would end up making worse, not better.

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