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February 13, 2009 08:12 PM UTC

"Colorado Model" For Republicans Everywhere?

  • 16 Comments
  • by: Colorado Pols

Interesting, if repetitive, commentary from conservative Denis Calabrese, writing for Newsweek:

Conservatives may advocate privatization for government, but Democrats put it into action in politics. All the key party functions have simply been outsourced. The big donors entrepreneurially moved their funding of key political functions outside the traditional party structure, building and paying for separate, private organizations that, taken together, do everything our old-fashioned political parties used to do…

Colorado is a great case study. In just 10 years the state has switched from red to blue, with much of this shift happening since 2004…No doubt some Colorado voters changed their views on politics over the past decade. But the real reason for the radical change is a brilliant political privatization plan by Colorado’s “Gang of Four.”

The group-Tim Gill, Rutt Bridges, Jared Polis and Pat Stryker-are wealthy Coloradans who support liberal politics. Fed up with that sense of unreturned affection that is common among donors who really care about policy, the Gang gave up on hoping for the best from their Democratic Party allies and instead funded every important political-party function outside the party, with private dollars.

Under the umbrella of the Colorado Democracy Alliance, the group built and funded an array of new, private organizations to handle the normal tasks of a political party. The Colorado branch of Progressive Majority recruits and trains candidates, Colorado Ethics Watch investigates, files complaints and even sues, Colorado Media Matters fights “conservative disinformation,” the Colorado Center on Law and Policy handles constitutional litigation, the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute, Bell Policy Center and Big Horn Center provide messaging, research and policy agendas, Democracy for Colorado, New Era Colorado, Progress Now Colorado and other advocacy groups recruit, identify and activate the grassroots for pressure campaigns and get-out-the-vote efforts. How expensive is this effort? Donations are private so no one knows for sure, but this is easily a multimillion dollar project…

When pundits analyze the current clout of liberals, they tend to focus on magnetic personalities like Barack Obama, Democratic effectiveness on the Internet, or Republican missteps like social conservatives alienating moderates or the immigration issue alienating Latino voters. All these may be true, but are only marginal reasons. The real tide has been turned on the ground through the actions of a relative handful of very large-dollar donors. Through vehicles like the national Democracy Alliance and its state affiliates, working with the innovative Colorado model of privatizing traditional political-party functions, they’ve created an effective strategy to dramatically alter political and policy outcomes now and for years to come.

The road back for Republicans is a simple two step process: (1) stand for something, and (2) start retooling the ground game. If we are the party of entrepreneurs, privatization and innovation, then we’d better start acting like it.

What? Colorado has wealthy Democratic donors?

It’s an interesting (if completely unoriginal) theory, although it is a little outdated. The whole “Gang of Four” thing is really, really out of date – Jared Polis hasn’t been a major donor for a few years, in large part in anticipation of his run for Congress in 2008 – and the Bighorn Center went belly-up a few years ago. Most of these pundit columns are just rewrites of pundit columns from months or years earlier. This same article has been written about a dozen times before, including nonsense variations where Colorado Pols is somehow included in the big conspiracy.

Do Colorado’s wealthy donors help Democrats win in this state? Absolutely. But to give sole credit to this “privatization” model lets inept (Bob Schaffer, Dick Wadhams), inane (John Andrews, Doug Lamborn) and downright incompetent (Bob Beauprez, Jon Caldera) Republican “leaders” off the hook.

After all, you can’t build a new Republican campaign model if you’re still playing with broken pieces.

Comments

16 thoughts on ““Colorado Model” For Republicans Everywhere?

  1. The Newsweek article seems to agree with the Republican Party that all they need do is up-grade the Party’s use of technology and outsource party functions and the Party will return to power.  Underlying this notion is the assumption the public can be led like cattle if only the right technology and messaging are utilized. I don’t believe its that simple and I certainly don’t believe that is why Democrats are winning in Colorado.

    I’m not trying to completely discredit what the “gang of 4 ” accomplished but there were fundamental shifts in the public perception of the Republican Party that they were able to take advantage of but they did not create that perception. The Republicans created it by taking ludicrious postions on major issues like Ref. “C” in 2005. That was the dividing line where huge numbers of formally loyal Republicans (call them RINO’s if you like) became disenchanted with the party and began voting for Democrats, especially up and down the front range.

    Democrats took control of this state because the public realized the Republican Party no longer had any intention of governing. The Republican program is based on the notion of destroying the government which the public rejected.

    1. The real question is, why aren’t the GOP’s Gangs of 4 or 10 or whatever as motivated as the Gang of 4 has been?

      It seems that Owens, Andrews,  et al managed to turn off Colorado’s wealthy Repubs with their emphasis on social issues instead of on fiscal and economic issues. It also didn’t help that Owens supported Ref C, which was an act of betrayal for many Republicans.

      If a GOP gov and General Assembly act like fanatics, smart, wealthy Republicans are turned off and close their wallets.

      So far, the state’s GOP hasn’t come up with sales pitch that turns on anyone other than the social issues folks, and they’re not going to win elections without independents or real Republicans who don’t agree with them.

      So the Gang of 4 obviously have played a big role in taking over the state. But they also have been lucky or smart enough to step in when the GOP had opened itself up for a robust attack.

      Now that Dems are showing how they misgovern, maybe some Republicans will get angry and put up or shut up.

      1. An added thought.

        Historians say that in wars, if one side is fighting in support of a religious cause, it will beat enemies fighting for ideologies.

        It seems to me that a major motivation for the Gang of 4 has been its alarm and anger about the social issues and religious issues backed by the state’s GOP leaders. This fear of religious oppression and in the personalities of John Andrews, Bill Armstrong and Jim Dobson very likely was a huge motivation for not only Tim Gill and Jared Polis but also the other two members of the Gang.

        So the GOP not only has to think about its base but how its defiance of our history of a separation of church and state helps the Dems bring big money into the game.

        So far, the big money people aren’t as motivated by their opposition to gay marriage and abortions as their counter parts on the left are.

        1. making so much sense?  Don’t think this explains it all by a long shot but definitely part of the puzzle.

          And it’s not just being less motivated by abortion and gay rights issues.  There is also at least some motivation against those issues.

          In canvassing some pretty affluent neighborhoods during the past three elections, 2004, 06 and 08, ran into a lot of moderate, more fiscal conservative Rs who were supporting one or another of the moderate Dems because they felt the religious right had taken over their party to the extent that they were no longer comfortable with it.

          This was especially true among some corporate type R women. Some were growing uncomfortable with a Col GOP that seemed to be catering too much to the keep-em-barefoot-and-pregnant crowd. A little too Christian Taliban for some traditional R tastes.

          1. Years ago a group of women R Reps. were telling me that in a lot of ways they thought it easier to be a repub. woman than a Dem, they were trying to convert me.  Something about how the GOP didn’t really care as long as you were smart, a bit harsh, and could talk the more traditional points (small gov’t, personal responsibility, etc.).

            Without naming names, the highest ranking woman involved has since told me to stay Dem. and avoid the crazy.  She hasn’t changed her affiliation, but she’s no longer politically active.  I guess the irony got to her.

  2. I got fed up with the Republicans focus on stupid things while the government went under.  I think a lot of Coloradans felt that way too.  So far, the Dems have been able to stay focused on competent government.  Who knows if / when that will change, but I think that is the key.

  3. I also find this article a bit unfair to the Dem party structure, at least in Boulder.  Media Matters and so on have a different role than volunteers and precinct leaders and so on.

    1. It always amuses me to hear the poor Rs, who always had the big money advantage and loved it, complaining about being outspent and out-teched now. boo-hoo.  

      1. Republicans haven’t had significantly less money overall, they’ve just spent it poorly. The Trailhead Group was a perfect example of that in 2006. They were flush with cash, but spent like drunken sailors with no real strategy for who should get money and why.

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