Haters Hot And Heavy At DougCo PrideFest

UPDATE: 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark with an interesting take on the DougCo PrideFest protesters, noting that they’re meddling in other people’s parenting just like they accuse the government of doing:


Douglas County Pride Fest protester.

Denver7’s Micah Smith reports on an ugly but predictable episode Saturday afternoon at the scene of conservative exurban Douglas County’s PrideFest celebration–an event that went forward with an extra heaping of political controversy after local elected officials very publicly questioned the endeavor:

Douglas County PrideFest attendees and volunteers are sharing details surrounding Saturday’s Pride celebrations that were interrupted by more than 60 protesters at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.

“I received an email from someone outlining [a group’s] intentions on coming into our show,” Art Kerkezian, co-chair of Douglas County PrideFest said. “The drag show and the drag queens have always been the target.”

The group blocked a drag show performance and wore shirts that read “STAND TO PROTECT CHILDREN.”

Members of the Patriot Front militia group protest outside the DougCo Pride Fest Saturday.

Colorado Community Media via the DougCo News-Press:

Though the promises of a family-friendly drag show at PrideFest came true, about two dozen protesters stood outside the event, with some shouting messages on a bullhorn such as: “Why would you bring your children here to be groomed and assaulted by a bunch of queers?”

After two people walked up in opposition to one of the protest crowds — which gathered on behalf of Patriot Front, according to those with PrideFest — law enforcement escorted the two men away from the crowd, apparently without incident. (Patriot Front is a White supremacist group, according to the Anti-Defamation League. A person with that crowd told a Colorado Community Media reporter not to approach them.)

#BeerBellies4Kids disrupts DougCo PrideFest.

Saturday’s PrideFest event in Castle Rock was well-attended despite the gauntlet of far-right protesters attendees had to pass through, followed by the prolonged disruption of the event’s “G-rated” drag show by dozens of protesters wearing “STAND TO PROTECT CHILDREN” T-shirts. Denver7:

Eli Bazan, the founder of the Parasol Patrol, an organization that uses colorful umbrellas to shield kids from protesters, said volunteering at this year’s event was intense.

“This was the most hate that we’ve encountered in Colorado since 2019,” Bazan said. [Pols emphasis] “We did a lot of planning in the lead-up. We had lots of security meetings with volunteers and the head of security. We had agreed on several areas that need to be followed for security … And it seems that on the day of, none of those plans came to fruition.”

Colorado Community Media reports that at least some of the heightened tensions at this year’s event can be attributed to local Republican elected officials:

A call for volunteer security for PrideFest ahead of the event had elicited criticism from Douglas County Commissioner George Teal, one of the county’s elected leaders, earlier in the week. He described the call as seeking “some variety of vigilante security.”

Teal, in an Aug. 22 meeting of county officials, also referred to “the advocates of PrideFest” as “advocating vigilante violence, it sounds like.”

The “vigilante security” Teal was referring to is the Parasol Patrol, an organization that has provided ad-hoc security for LGBTQ+ events in the Denver area for several years. No one has ever accused Parasol Patrol of any kind of violence or vigilantism, unlike the Proud Boys and other militia types who showed up intending to disrupt the event. Even Commissioner George Teal’s Republican colleague Lora Thomas (though they don’t get along) acknowledged that the only issue Saturday was the right-wing agitators:

The vigorous attempt at disruption of this weekend’s DougCo PrideFest took place on a bad weekend nationally for hate crimes, with another apparently race-based mass shooting in Florida. Political tension across the nation is very high right now with Donald Trump’s slow grind toward accountability inflaming his diehard supporters even as a majority of Americans strongly support it. The renewed intensity of this protest is consistent with the steady rise in bias-motivated crimes in recent years. At the same time, beleaguered Colorado Republicans under their repellently radical new leadership are fuming in impotent rage over the state’s seemingly unshakeable Democratic majority politics.

It took this village of factors to produce the steaming, toxic stew of hateful reaction that took place Saturday in Castle Rock. While we remain optimistic about the long moral arc of history, there’s unfortunately a possibility of much more ugliness–and much worse–in the short run as we relitigate the “culture wars” Republicans have been losing for generations one more time.

Until then, support your local Parasol Patrol.

Dave Williams Keeps Doing (Not) His Job

No, not that way, Dave. Hey, Dave! Come back.

The Colorado Republican Party has a very specific list of responsibilities for the State Republican Party Chairman, which include things like making a budget and hiring staff members. The bylaws of the State Republican Central Committee don’t explicitly include that the GOP Chair’s primary job is to help Republican candidates win elections, but this is something that is more or less implied.

(Of course, it is also implied that the REPUBLICAN Party Chairperson should be working for the REPUBLICAN Party, instead of, say, the Libertarian Party, but we digress…) 

Dave Williams has been serving as the head of the State GOP for about six months now, and most of his time has been spent on projects neither implicitly nor explicitly related to his actual job. As we have chronicled in this space, Williams spends much of his time attacking other Republicans; making excuses for why the State Party has no money; and fundraising to pay a soon-to-be disbarred John Eastman for directing a lawsuit that is almost certainly doomed to fail.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, then, that Williams has wandered off in yet another direction unrelated to his job as GOP Chair. Williams recently emerged as the Registered Agent for a new effort to pass a ballot measure banning gender reassignment surgeries for minors in Colorado:

Sure, do THIS in 2024.

The (ahem) “Let Kids be Kids” campaign seems to be a response to Senate Bill 188, which was approved by the Colorado legislature last Spring and signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis. Called the “Protections for Accessing Reproductive Health Care Act,” SB-188 protects access to reproductive health care and gender-affirming medical care. As Serena Sonoma wrote for GLAAD in April:

Advocates and lawmakers celebrated in April after Gov. Jared Polis signed legislation protecting health care access for LGBTQ youth in Colorado.

Meredith Gleitz, Policy Manager at One Colorado, the state’s leading advocacy organization dedicated to advancing equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Coloradans and their families, called the measure “critical” for transgender people to be able to fairly access what is often lifesaving health care.

“Research shows that gender-affirming care improves mental health and overall well-being for transgender people, and is recognized and endorsed by 29 leading medical organizations. In spite of its medical necessity and health benefits, access to gender-affirming care is being politically targeted, to the detriment of providers and patients – and attacks are intensifying,” she said.

“Colorado needs shield legislation to protect patients and providers from interstate political attacks and to prevent further obstacles to accessing critical health care.”

Dave Williams

Across the country, 19 states have now passed laws banning gender-affirming care to some degree; according to the Human Rights Campaign, more than 1 in 3 transgender young people live in one of these states.

Initiatives like Williams’ proposal also help contribute to a rise in hate crimes targeting LGBTQ individuals. According to federal law enforcement statistics, 1 in 5 hate crimes now involve LGBTQ Americans.

There are no doubt plenty of right-wing Republicans in Colorado who would agree with a proposal to ban gender-affirming care for young people. However, polling shows that attempts to restrict LGBTQ health care options are absolutely NOT popular with a majority of voters nationwide. It’s a pretty fair guess that these numbers are even more lopsided in an increasingly-blue state like Colorado.

Regardless of anyone’s opinion on this issue, it’s not a great use of time for Dave Williams to be adding yet another thing to his plate that has nothing to do with his job as GOP Chairman. Every minute that Williams spends attacking LGBTQ Coloradans is another minute he is NOT spending on helping Republican candidates win elections in 2024.

On the other hand, perhaps winning elections is just no longer a priority for the Colorado Republican Party.

Ron Tupa is Not Going to be the First Person to Do This

Former State Rep. Ron Tupa embarks on the road to disappointment.

There are more than 3.9 million active registered voters in Colorado. Republicans account for about 24% of these voters, followed by Democrats at 27%. Active voters in Colorado registered as “Unaffiliated” make up most of the rest of the total, with 47% listed as of the end of July.

You could argue, as some do, that an “Unaffiliated” candidate in Colorado would thus have a YUGE advantage in a General Election over both Republicans and Democrats. The problem with this argument, as we’ve noted many times in the past, is that “Unaffiliated” is not a political party; it is merely a designation to indicate that someone has registered to vote but chosen not to affiliate with a particular political party. We know from registration and election data that most “Unaffiliated” voters tend to vote (more or less) for either Republicans or Democrats.

In fact, the last “Unaffiliated” candidate to win an election for a significant non-local office in Colorado was…um…

…As far as we know, it has NEVER happened in Colorado. Yet former state lawmaker Ron Tupa apparently thinks he can be the first person — ever — to break that streak.

He’s wrong.

Tupa is a longtime Boulder Democrat who served 14 years in the State House of Representatives and State Senate (1994-2008). Tupa changed his voter registration in April 2023 to “Unaffiliated,” and he recently filed paperwork to be a 2024 candidate for Congress in CO-07, the district that Democrat Brittany Pettersen won in 2022 by 15 points over Republican Erik Aadland.

Tupa’s official candidate filing for Congress in CO-07.

We don’t know why Tupa decided to run for Congress in CO-07 as an “Unaffiliated” candidate, but we have absolutely no hesitation in promising that he won’t be elected in 2024. In addition to trying to run as a “U,” Tupa doesn’t live in the actual district. The seventh congressional district — which meanders from northern Jefferson County all the way south to Cortez — does not include Boulder (there are no residency requirements for Congressional candidates, but it’s still never a good idea to run for an office that doesn’t even include your own neighborhood).

Tupa’s residency is probably the least of his problems as a candidate. He’s been out of sight and mind in Colorado politics for way too long to suddenly attempt a bid for anything, let alone a strong Democratic Congressional seat. Tupa, 57, was first elected to the State House in the same year that Colorado voters approved term limits. Seriously.

We’ll be watching to see if Tupa publicly states a reason for this quixotic new campaign. We may not yet know how this all started, but again, we already know how it will end.

Rep. Ken DeGraaf Doesn’t Want Facts, He Wants To Believe

Rep. Ken DeGraaf (R).

A trip into the fever swamps of conservative conspiracy theorizing can be entertaining as long as you leave a few reality-based breadcrumbs to find your way back. One currently circulating tall tale on conservative social media concerns a “Chinese COVID bioweapons lab” allegedly uncovered in central California. Local media doesn’t appear to have helped the situation much with sensationalist headlines like “Chinese-run lab in California illegally stored vials of COVID-19, other diseases,” but as the Sacramento Bee reported earlier this month below that alarming headline, the beginning of a biological World War Three this was not:

Prestige Biotech Inc., a company whose owners live in China, was using the building near Reedley’s downtown for storing and shipping an array of diagnostic test kits for COVID-19, pregnancy, drugs and more after apparently being booted out of their Fresno location in late 2022 by their landlord. The inventory of biological agents in the refrigerators include coronavirus and other exotic contagions, such as malaria, Hepatitis B and C, chlamydia, human herpes, and rubella, among others, used in the production of various test kits. [Pols emphasis]

Now, eight months after the surprising discovery, and about five months after the lab was shut down, local, state and federal agencies continue to investigate and clean up a business that has existed within a murky and muddled realm of regulatory authority. It’s apparently a first-of-its kind situation for investigators in the U.S. – even as court documents show that the company is in the midst of efforts to relocate back to Fresno.

“We’re finding out that with these private labs, there really isn’t as much regulation as there is for publicly funded labs, labs that receive grants,” said Harper, who has been involved in the investigation since Dec. 19. “There’s no one technically looking for them.”

Is it great news to learn that an unlicensed business had all of these dangerous pathogens on site? Of course not. But there’s a huge difference between operating a lab to produce test kits for diseases and producing biological weapons. Although the story is receiving a lot of press now, as the AP reports, authorities have been investigating for months and found no evidence of any threatening intent:

The discovery last December launched investigations by federal, state and local authorities who found no criminal activity at the medical lab owned by Prestige Biotech Inc., a company registered in Las Vegas, and no evidence of a threat to public health or national security. Nonetheless, it was just the beginning of a case that this summer fueled fears, rumors and conspiracy theories online about China purportedly trying to engineer biological weapons in rural America.

There’s always a period before credible media outlets investigate when exaggerated stories like these spread like wildfire–much faster in most cases than the accurate story that debunks the truly crazy stuff low-information viewers and readers are panicking over. It’s worse for those who come across misinformation weeks and even months after it was disproven and breathlessly spread it for another round.

Which is exactly what Colorado Rep. Ken “Skin” DeGraaf did a few days ago:

This is Rep. DeGraaf linking to a month-old video of a local politician making claims that have since been debunked as “unwarranted hysteria.” The additional information in numerous updated news stories that Rep. DeGraaf needed to know, namely that this was not a “bioweapons lab,” let alone a lab having anything to do with public health hero Dr. Anthony Fauci, was just a Google away.

But if there’s anything we’ve learned from Rep. DeGraaf in his free-wheeling freshman term, it’s that DeGraaf doesn’t want to know the real story. “Fauci bioweapons labs” is what Rep. DeGraaf wants to believe, and that’s where he stops reading.

It’s nothing new, but it used to come from your crackpot uncle, not your elected officials.

Why Republican Presidential Debates = BDSM (feat. Seth Masket)

This week on the Get More Smarter Podcast, your hosts Jason Bane and Ian Silverii have a lot to discuss. Our 8th favorite member of Congress from Colorado is trailing her leading Democratic challenger by two points. Will she realize thatshe’s the problem? The Colorado Republican/Libertarian Party alliance is getting sadder and stupider, as we predicted, reinforcing the idea that instead of playing stupid games with less than 40% of the voting population of a state like Colorado, maybe the Grand Old Party should try to appeal to another 10% of voters if they’d like to win an election in the next decade? And we have a couple of great listener comments to pass along.

BUT FIRST, eight Republican hopefuls debated one another in Milwaukee for the chance to maybe get to be Donald Trump’s running mate, as long as they don’t piss him off too much. We break it down with our returning guest, Professor Seth Masket (aka SMOTUS) of the University of Denver, who has some new results of his county chair survey and some spicy takes on the debate.

Listen to previous episodes of The Get More Smarter Podcast at GetMoreSmarter.com.

Questions? Comments? Complaints? Let us have it at AngryRants@getmoresmarter.com. Or send emails to jason@getmoresmarter.com or ian@getmoresmarter.com.

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify |

Monday Open Thread

“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.”

–Lee Iacocca

Unserious Lawyers Charged With Serious Crimes: Dan Caplis’ Praise of Jenna Ellis & Trump’s Legal Team

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Dan Caplis and (according to Dan), “some of the greatest legal talent in American history.”

Dan Caplis is a serious lawyer, or so he says. So serious, in fact, that he’s trademarked the phrase, “a serious firm for serious cases.” Jenna Ellis is not a serious lawyer, but she has been charged with serious crimes. She also admitted, in her formal censure by Colorado’s Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel, to spreading misinformation about the 2020 election no fewer than ten times, including on Dan Caplis’ KNUS radio show.

And yet, following the charges in Georgia filed against Ellis, John Eastman, and the rest of Trump’s legal team for trying to overturn the 2020 election, Caplis took to the airwaves last week to claim he never liked their legal strategy.

“Those who say that the Democrat D.A. in Georgia is trying to criminalize political disagreement, trying to make it illegal to contest an election, at least for a Republican to contest in election, those people are right, in my opinion,” said Caplis. “While I never agreed with that political strategy, and I always thought the legal theory was way way way off and wrong — and I said so on air— it shouldn’t be illegal to make those arguments.”

These days Caplis says he believes President Biden “won a very close election over President Trump,” and that he hasn’t seen proof that the election was stolen. Back in 2020, however, Caplis was an enthusiastic advocate of Ellis and the Trump legal team.

Caplis had Ellis as a guest on his show numerous times following the 2020 election. During each appearance he showered her with praise while repeating the underlying demand of Ellis, Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Sidney Powell, and the rest of the Trump legal team: slow down the electoral process; we need more time to investigate allegations of fraud.

In reviewing their on-air conversations (as well as the false statements for which Ellis was censured, the difference between Ellis’s and Caplis’s claims about election fraud come down to a matter of certainty. Ellis flat-out said the election was stolen, while Caplis, even while asserting there was “substantial fraud” always framed his statements as merely “asking questions.”


Weekend Open Thread

“I look to the future because that’s where I’m going to spend the rest of my life.”

–George Burns

Coffman Ditches “Strong Mayor” Initiative, but Damage is Done

Heavy is the clown crown.

Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman used the occasion of a Friday news dump to announce that his politically-disastrous proposal to turn Aurora into a “strong mayor” city was being dropped on account of the fact that it was killing his chances of being re-elected in November.

Okay, that’s not what Coffman said exactly, but it’s not hard to read between the lines here. As Max Levy reports for The Aurora Sentinel:

Saying challenges from opponents caused them to miss a procedural deadline, supporters of a proposal to empower Aurora’s mayor announced Friday they are ending their 2023 campaign and want to bring the ballot initiative back in 2025.

“I’m disappointed that the ballot measure is not on the 2023 ballot to give the opportunity for voters to decide the issue, but I’m glad that it can be on the ballot in 2025 without having to gather signatures again,” said Mayor Mike Coffman in a statement. [Pols emphasis]

A City of Aurora spokesman did not immediately confirm whether the campaign would be able to resume in 2025 without repeating the process of gathering signatures and submitting paperwork to the city clerk’s office.

The city also did not immediately clarify whether an Aug. 30 hearing where opponents were scheduled to challenge the clerk’s finding that the petitions submitted by the campaign conformed to city rules would still take place.

Don’t expect Democrat Juan Marcano to stop talking about Coffman’s attempted power grab even if the ballot initiative won’t move forward.

It’s not entirely clear exactly what happened that made proponents of the “strong mayor” ballot proposal unable to move forward with an initiative that did have enough voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot (even if many of those voters might have been duped into adding their name to said petition).

But for now, at least, the “what” is less important than the “why.” And the “why” is pretty damn obvious: Team Coffman clearly decided that it was better to toss the “strong mayor” initiative overboard and hope Coffman’s badly-leaking boat could still cough and wheeze its way to Election Day on November 7. Coffman didn’t want a “strong mayor” system of government if it looked like he wouldn’t get to be the strong mayor himself.

This entire saga is the worst self-own by a Colorado politician since Levi Tillemann was macing himself in the face. Coffman finally acknowledged earlier this month that he personally came up with the idea for the “strong mayor” initiative — he had refused to discuss his position while proponents waited to see if it qualified for the ballot — and when he finally spoke, he promptly jammed both feet into his mouth (Coffman also donated $10,000 of his own money to the initiative campaign, which was revealed later).

Coffman’s “strong mayor” proposal was widely condemned and opposed by the majority of the Aurora City Council — both Democrats and Republicans — and Coffman was shelled with criticism from both The Denver Post and The Aurora Sentinel. Dave Perry, the editor of the Sentinel, wrote in an editorial that Coffman’s initiative was a “colossal scam” and a “swindle.”

“Because neither the public nor the staff here at the Sentinel are stupid, it quickly became clear that it was indeed Coffman who contrived all this, and then he refused to admit it — repeatedly.”

— Aurora Sentinel editorial (8/9/23)

The initiative campaign itself quickly became a referendum on Coffman as mayor because of how poorly it was handled by everyone involved. Charlie Richardson, a former city council member and city manager in Aurora who has been a vocal critic of Coffman’s attempted power grab, absolutely unloaded on the campaign in his comments to the Sentinel today:

“This could be studied in a political science class on how absolutely not to do a strong mayor initiative,” Richardson said of the campaign, mentioning how supporters continued submitting signatures to the clerk’s office after June 6, which was the latest the city said it could accept signatures by and still have enough time to complete the necessary pre-election processes.

“Nevertheless, they proceeded,” Richardson said. “And so people spent a lot of money, a lot of time and effort for something that was essentially dead on arrival.” [Pols emphasis]

Can we just, you know, pretend this never happened?

Aurora was already shaping up to be the most important battleground of the November 2023 election even before the “strong mayor” debacle shredded whatever was left of Coffman’s credibility in the city. The Mayor himself was on thin ice with voters anyway after his narrow 2019 victory for mayor resulted in few solutions and more problems for city residents. But the “strong mayor” initiative seemed to be the impetus for Democrats to align behind one candidate — City Council Member Juan Marcano — in order to take down the longtime Republican elected official.

For Coffman, ditching this stupid “strong mayor” initiative won’t stop the internal bleeding caused by his half-truths and doublespeak on his involvement in the process. It’s a little like a football team switching to a backup quarterback when trailing by 40 points in the fourth quarter. As Mark Harden wrote for The Denver Post:

“Aurorans…should consider whether Coffman – the mastermind of the plan’s misleading rollout, who spent months obscuring his role – can be trusted to assume a strong mayor’s powers.”

Questions about Coffman’s integrity and honesty don’t go away along with the ballot initiative, which gained so much bad attention that it turned the Aurora municipal election into a must-watch final few months. It might be time, in fact, to bring out the old, “I misspoke and I apologize” routine once again.

If Coffman loses his bid for re-election, and we’d bet against him at this point, he’ll need only place blame on the guy in his bathroom mirror.

fOVPhkSabcM USuBzteDsR

Universal Preschool Program Takes First Steps

Governor Jared Polis visiting a Denver preschool earlier this month.

Colorado’s new universal preschool program is still being rolled out across the state, and despite a few hiccups for one of Gov. Jared Polis’s signature issues, tens of thousands of families are taking advantage of the opportunity.

As Ann Schimke reports for Chalkbeat Colorado, participants in the program are happy to get started:

The new $322 million program offers 10 to 30 hours a week of tuition-free preschool to 4-year-olds statewide and 10 hours to some 3-year-olds.

Up to 40,000 4-year-olds are expected to participate in the program this school year, double the enrollment of Colorado’s previous state-funded preschool program.

Many parents and early childhood advocates are excited about the state’s effort to help more families with preschool costs and prepare kids for kindergarten. [Pols emphasis] At the same time, some aspects of universal preschool rollout have been rushed, confusing, and punctuated by eleventh hour changes.

Thousands of families who had expected the state to cover full-day preschool based on meeting certain criteria found out in late July the program would only pay for half-day classes. Most recently, school district officials sued over the program, claiming the state is harming students with disabilities and breaking funding promises to families and schools. Religious preschools also have sued, alleging that anti-discrimination requirements violate their religious beliefs.

We wrote last week about one of those lawsuits, a ridiculous challenge from the Denver Catholic Archdiocese complaining that it should get state funding even though it openly discriminates against LGBTQ families. While there have been challenges in rolling out the new Universal Preschool program (also dubbed UPK, for “Universal Pre-Kindergarten), some of the complaints have been a tad overwrought considering that this is a BRAND NEW initiative that has room for 56,000 eligible children in Colorado:

For her part, Auraria Early Learning Center Director Emily Nelson said she’s pleased with how universal preschool is shaping up. There have been challenges, but that’s true with any new system, she said.

“I feel good with where we’re at,” she said. “I feel like parents have the information they need.” 

She’s heard some parents express relief that the state is helping defray tuition costs. [Pols emphasis] Under universal preschool, the state covers the cost of 15 hours a week at the center, dropping monthly full-day tuition from $1,531 to $921. Some parents get additional assistance through campus scholarships or a taxpayer-funded tuition credit program called the Denver Preschool Program.

Like many providers across Colorado, Nelson had empty universal preschool seats on the first day of school — eight between her two 4-year-old classrooms. Statewide, about 56,000 4-year-old seats are available, well above the number that will be needed even if more families sign up in the coming months.

“Statewide, about 56,000 4-year-old seats are available, well above the number that will be needed even if more families sign up in the coming months.”

— Chalkbeat Colorado (8/23/23)

In a recent Op-Ed published in The Denver Post, two of the leaders of the UPK initiative — Nicole Riehl and Sue Renner — explained that some program complaints are related to a “mixed delivery” implementation system that was very much intentional:

At issue is the ability of families to select programs that best meet their preschool and childcare needs. A mixed delivery system offers families such flexibility. Mixed delivery is a system that distributes funding across multiple providers of early childhood education, including licensed center-and family-based childcare programs, Head Start, Early Head Start, public schools, and community-based organizations to ensure access to high-quality, affordable care and learning options for children through age five and their families.

Requiring families to secure services exclusively from a school district, as a recent school district lawsuit would enable, does not allow families the flexibility to select a provider who can meet their children’s needs for year-round stability. [Pols emphasis]

Research has long shown that early childhood education has a significant impact on how children learn and grow in later years. While the Polis administration is working on ironing out the wrinkles with the new UPK program, that shouldn’t overshadow the significance of what is a massive statewide accomplishment.

Buck Bucks Freedom Caucus Once Again, But Won’t Really Help

The button Rep. Ken Buck could press but won’t.

Members of Congress are out of Washington for the August recess, but as the Washington Post reported Wednesday, a daunting pile of unfinished business awaits to be worked out when members return next month–and the narrow GOP House majority is divided on whether to govern like grownups, or once again force the nation down the familiar path of self-induced fiscal crisis:

The far-right House Freedom Caucus escalated the stakes Monday by releasing a list of demands to support a short-term, stopgap funding bill that will likely be needed to prevent a government shutdown at the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30…

CRs generally extend existing funding levels and are usually free of such big policy provisions, but the group is seeking to leverage House Republicans’ razor thin majority to force a shutdown showdown right from the start.

The group’s escalatory and “unrealistic” tactics are becoming an increasing source of frustration for some of their GOP colleagues.

If you didn’t know better, once again, you might mistake Rep. Ken Buck for a reasonable voice in this conflict between Rep. Lauren Boebert’s far-right Freedom Caucus and Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Buck was quoted in this story both distancing himself from the Freedom Caucus’ demands and seemingly lamenting a shutdown:

One of the Freedom Caucus’s own members, Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), said in an interview that he didn’t support the group’s move. (The group needs support from an overwhelming majority of its members to take an official position.)

“They’ve locked themselves into not voting for the CR if those things aren’t met,” Buck said, adding that Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) might need to start looking for Democratic votes. [Pols emphasis]

For Buck to suggest that it may be necessary once again for Speaker McCarthy to seek support across the aisle to pass the spending bills needed to keep the government open is nothing short of heretical coming from a member of the Freedom Caucus. The imposition of this latest list of demands from the Freedom Caucus appears to have shifted Buck’s opinion toward suggesting McCarthy make another end run around his fellow Republicans into the loving arms of Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. As recently as last week, as reported in the Colorado Sun’s Unaffiliated newsletter, Buck was glumly predicting an “inevitable” shutdown:

Buck had a pessimistic view of the coming debate on the federal budget. He said a federal government shutdown is inevitable. “We are going to shut down,” he said. “There is no simple answer other than reducing spending.” [Pols emphasis] The Democrats at the luncheon expressed hope that Republicans wouldn’t let that happen.

Freedom Caucus members not named Ken Buck have already threatened to challenge McCarthy’s speakership, using the expanded power to do so they gained in the deal to allow McCarthy to take the job, if he repeats the deal made with the White House on the debt ceiling last spring and passes major legislation with Democratic support. But that now appears to be the course that Ken Buck is advocating for Kevin McCarthy to take.

So why doesn’t Buck get an atta-boy for suggesting this reasonable yet politically extremely risky course of action? That’s simple: Buck has nothing invested in the outcome. Based on Buck’s well-established voting record, he’s almost certain to vote against any spending deal that emerges. Buck’s preferred solution to the nation’s fiscal issues, as readers know, is to make America’s retirement age the highest in the world–and since nothing close to that drastic remedy ever comes up for a vote, Buck votes against basically every spending bill from either party.

Buck, who often votes against CRs, [Pols emphasis] said the Freedom Caucus should be focusing its efforts on reducing the top-line spending amount.

Ken Buck can identify the problem, and articulate a solution to the problem, but Buck has no intention of actually himself helping solve the problem. As Virginia Woolf said, “on the outskirts of every agony sits some observant fellow who points.”

History will record that is the best Ken Buck could manage.