Republicans have not been very competitive in Colorado elections in recent years, helping to turn what was once a swing state into a solid blue rectangle. Republican ineptitude was not a new story in 2020, but there was a different flavor to the Colorado GOP’s brand of nonsense in the weirdest year any of us can remember.
It was perhaps inevitable that Colorado Republicans would further descend into madness in 2020 after spending much of 2019 on rudderless grifting operations they called “recall attempts.” But it still would have been hard to predict just how absurd things would get for GOP politicians in our state. Nobody knew much about Lauren “Q*Bert” Boebert at this time a year ago, but now she’s the face of the Colorado Republican Party despite the fact that virtually every news outlet in the state reported that she basically has no idea what she’s talking about on any issue.
The coronavirus pandemic opened up a new rabbit hole for Republicans, who immediately responded to efforts to contain the spread of the virus by declaring that wearing a mask was against freedom and that stay-at-home orders were reminiscent of a “Gestapo-like mentality.” A group of Republican lawmakers, including then-House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, launched a ridiculous effort to convince Douglas County to end its association with the Tri-County Health Department IN THE MIDDLE OF A FREAKING PANDEMIC. Neville, for one, took this as an opportunity to convince a few idiots to give him money so that he could sue Gov. Jared Polis for making people wear masks.
The GOP attack on the Tri-County Health Department also included State Sen. Jim Smallwood, who contracted COVID-19 after inexplicably traveling to California when the state legislature paused all activity in mid-March. In other words, the people who were urging others to disregard health precautions were themselves becoming health risks because they disregarded health precautions. Meanwhile, Republicans were also busy trying to paint the COVID-19 outbreak as a racial issue…up until it turned out that deep red counties were being hit harder than anywhere else.
Republican attacks on the Tri-County Health Department ended up going nowhere from a practical standpoint, but they had very real and unsettling consequences elsewhere. In May, for example, Aurora police arrested a man for vandalizing a Tri-County Health office and making all sorts of violent threats. It was not a coincidence that these deranged actions happened after local Republicans began rattling cages about health department officials who were just trying to keep people safe.
Things got even weirder in May after global protests that followed the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers created a new opportunity for Colorado Republican leaders to play the fool. While the rest of us were gripped by rallies and calls for social justice, GOP leaders primarily complained about vandalism in Denver. Some Republican county party leaders were pretty sure that Floyd’s death was just a big ruse of some sort. Others fully supported violent counter-protests around the state. There was even a common refrain that the City of Denver was a burning pile of rubble…something that could be easily verified by anyone who just looked around.
It would take us too long to list every absurd thing that Colorado Republicans said or did in 2020, but here are a couple more examples:
♦ Congressman Ken Buck, who also serves as the State GOP Party Chairman, made a complete fool of himself on Fox News in trying to explain his idea that Antifa was funded by George Soros, or something.
♦ Neville compared the killing of Elijah McClain in 2019 to protestors who tried to super glue themselves to a railing at the state capitol.
♦ Lauren “Q*Bert” Boebert was far from the only Republican to express belief in QAnon conspiracy theories.
♦ This ridiculous Op-Ed from Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) speaks for itself.
♦ Rather than spend the last weeks of the 2020 election campaigning for Republicans, a group of activists instead devoted their time and effort on once again not recalling Gov. Polis.
Colorado Republicans enter the new year with their party in tatters. Their highest-ranking statewide elected official is CU Regent Heidi Ganahl, and the GOP might just elect disgraced former Secretary of State Scott Gessler as its new Party Chairman. Republicans need to find candidates for five big statewide races in 2022, but it’s hard to envision anyone but the most far-right candidates emerging from the various Primary elections. Heck, it could still be months before some in the GOP finally stop pretending that Donald Trump was re-elected as President.
Colorado Republicans had a lot of problems well before 2020. Thanks to a year of astonishingly-terrible decisions, the future of the state GOP is considerably bleaker today.