( – promoted by Colorado Pols)
For political observers, the Republican primary contest in Colorado’s Fourth Congressional district is a foregone conclusion. State representative Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is the run-away favorite to challenge incumbent Democrat Betsy Markey in November. Gardner carries the blessing of the national party as one of the RNC’s ‘Young Guns,’ a national organization designed for the top GOP challengers in the country, and he has been the presumptive favorite since he entered the race almost a year ago. In fact, Fort Collins City Councilman Diggs Brown, Gardner’s most competitive challenger, dropped out after finishing a distant second in a preference poll taken during the Republican caucuses on March 17th.
Not all of Gardner’s opponents have taken his impressive showing as a reason to quit, however. Dean Madere of Loveland has decided to continue with his insurgency campaign . Only entering the race last November, Madere’s candidacy is the product of the burgeoning 9-12 and Tea Party Movements in Northern Colorado, where he also draws most of his support. His campaign war-chest is so meager that he isn’t required to file a campaign financial report. Nevertheless, despite the diminutive size of his grassroots campaign, his supporters are motivated and passionate, and because of that, he still managed to register 11% in the preference poll done at the GOP caucuses in March.
Over the weekend, I sat down with Madere and talked with him about his involvement with the Tea Party movement, his campaign, and the direction he would like to take the country if he were elected to Congress.
Madere has always been a politically minded person, but it wasn’t until the onslaught of the financial crisis and all the bailouts over the last couple of years that he took to political activism. A territory manager of a heating and conditioning company, Madere became one of the original organizing members of the Glenn Beck inspired 9-12 group in Loveland, which came together last April after he and his family participated in the “Tax Day” tea parties that were organized all over the country to protest the federal government policies.
While there, Madere connected with like-minded people, who would ultimately join him to become the original members of the first 9-12 meetings. According to Madere website, the group was intended to further “the causes of Liberty, Freedom, and the founding principles of our country.” For Madere, however, the 9-12 Project wasn’t enough. With the encouragement of his family and friends, he decided that he needed to make a larger impact and “not just stand by and let career politicians make the decisions” affecting his family and friends every day. He decided to run for Congress.
When he declared his candidacy last November, both the Colorado Independent and the Colorado Statesman tied him to Sarah Palin, calling him a would-be Palin for CD-4. “Sarah Palin means different things to different people,” Madere told me as he laughed at the association. “I have never come out and said ‘I am the Sarah Palin candidate.’ That is something that other people have said about me.”
Madere does, however, see similarities with Palin, but it is less substantive than it is due to a similar personal narrative.
“For me, the connection is that we have both challenged the [Republican] Party. We both came out of nowhere to challenge the party to get better,” he explained to me. “For me, the challenge is that I want the party to get back to its real roots; I want the party to stand for something. I want the party to stand for fiscal responsibility, and not just talk about it.”
“When the Republicans had control of Congress, they blew it,” he blurted out to me.
According to Madere, he and Palin both came from relative obscurity to challenge and reform the GOP. Beyond that, though, the similarities begin to fade. Unlike Palin, Madere is a deep thinker, and he has a degree in political science from the University of Houston. In part because of his education, he has developed governing political philosophy, and he prides himself in his love and understanding of the Constitution.
Last year, he and a colleague, Jeff Mast, started the Founding Fathers Education Association, an organization dedicated to this country’s founding documents and the ideas that they represent.
“I am a constitutional conservative,” he explained to me. “I believe in really getting back to those [founding] principles,” which highlights the protection of individual liberty and limited government. Indeed, as Madere writes in his campaign website’s blog, that one of his biggest issues in this campaign is “fixing the structure of our government.” “We have to push forward our constitutional values, he declared last November, “and make it clear that this country is a republic, not a democracy.”
In this sense, Madere is a radical. He is a radical not because he is an extremist in any sense of the word, but because he is unconventional. He is a radical not because he is an anti-government revolutionary either. He is a radical because he is Utopian. More than any of the other candidates, Madere is a true Jeffersonian Republican.
For Madere, the best protection of liberty is through a decentralized republic that promotes individual productivity and state authority above national prerogatives. As a result, in many ways, he would like to return the United States to the original Constitution and the governing framework that it created.
He has a narrow view of federal authority and of the Constitution’s Interstate Commerce clause, and he is a fierce advocate of states’ rights and the Tenth Amendment. He is not fond of the Sixteenth Amendment. And when asked about repealing the Seventeenth Amendment, he suggested that it would be a good idea because it would help re-address the balance of power between the federal government and the states.
“I am not an anti-government person,” he explained. “I’m not an anarchist. I just believe that the states need to have more control and the federal government needs to have less control.” “We need to get the federal government back to its proper role,” he insisted.
“I don’t believe,” he writes in his blog, “that our federal government has the right to impose federal mandates on our states for such things as health care, energy policy, and education. These are matters best left to the states.” Even with respect to programs like Medicare and Medicaid, he believes that they are good programs that have a place, but they belong at the state level.
“There are great ideas that are being debated in Washington that are good ideas that technically the federal government doesn’t have the authority to do but are great ideas so let’s take them down to the states and do them.”
Last month, at a primary debate at Mountain View High School in Loveland, Madere suggested abolishing the income tax and restoring the import tariff as the federal government’s primary source of revenue. When I asked him to clarify his views, especially the implication that he would abolish Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, he explained that “this is where the big picture needs to be examined. When you send the money and the power to Washington, your vote matters less and your dollars are wasted because now you are sending your money there and the bureaucracy eats that money up.”
“If the federal government got back to its proper role, then we wouldn’t need the income tax to be what it is today, he concluded.”
Tom Lucero, the other GOP primary candidate trying to grab the nomination from Gardner, has latched onto Madere’s comments and argued that he wants to drop everyone on their heads from the country’s social safety net-i.e. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
Flustered by the misguided implication that he wanted to “drop people on their heads,” Madere stated emphatically that “Social Security is a contract. We have made a contract with all of the people who have paid into Social Security. We need to honor our end of the contract as government. We can’t just drop people on their head.”
Ultimately, however, Madere explained to me that he would like to incrementally scale back Social Security as a government program and reconstitute it in the private sector.
If the Jeffersonian republican ideal of state sovereignty and decentralized authority are the best mechanisms for protecting individual liberty, then the person best suited to ensure that framework is not a career politician, but a citizen statesman. That, Madere believes, is what separates him from Cory Gardner. Unlike Gardner-whose resume and long history of public service are hallmarks of a career politician-Madere believes he is “more of what the founders envisioned.” “I am not a career politician,” he added. “I tell people that I am running to be your representative, not a politician.”
As the interview ended, Madere made a passionate plea telling me that “the better representative is somebody who comes from a place where they are not interested in being a career politician. And out of the three remaining candidates in this race, I possess that. I have another job; I have a career. This, for me, is something I feel that I need to do because I think that’s what Washington needs to see. They need to see someone who is not there to play games, not there to satisfy the party, and not there to satisfy his wallet. Cory is obviously following a career path.”
Madere’s vision for the United States offers a stark and vivid contrast to the trajectory the country has taken since the end of World War II. During this period of protracted economic recession and fiscal uncertainty, however, his ideas take on a renewed political saliency for a growing segment of the electorate. It is no surprise then that despite his campaign’s small operation, he has managed to elicit the amount of support that he has already gained, especially among the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party. His passion is contagious, his amiable personality is infectious, and his image as an average American guy and political outsider jives well with the prevailing populist discontent directed toward established political elites in Northern Colorado and across the country.
However, like Thomas Jefferson, who saw his idyllic republic slip away due to the rise of modern industry and its requirement for a centralized state, Madere’s republican vision will be as elusive as Jefferson’s was ephemeral. The challenges and complexities of the modern economy present problems that are too large to be dealt with at a state level. Furthermore, even though he has tapped into a reservoir of discontent, as the recession recedes, it is an open question whether the vibrancy of Madere’s candidacy, as well as vitality of the Tea Party movement in general, can persist in a stronger economy.