Mike Littwin: Is the Colorado GOP afraid of its own base?
September 3, 2015
Maybe it's just a coincidence, but in the year in which small-d democracy — for both good and ill — has taken over the presidential season, the Colorado Republican establishment has chosen to opt out of the process.
If there's a fever out there — and there undoubtedly is — the typically anti-vax Republicans have gone full immunization protocol to combat it.
As you may have heard, the GOP executive committee members decided to do away with the popularity polls on caucus night in March because, we were told, they don't want Colorado delegates to be locked in to any one candidate in the unlikely case of an open convention next summer.
In other words, they don't want delegates to be tied to whatever candidate Colorado GOP caucus-goers might choose. Or to put it yet another way: The GOP committee members have rejected the chance for Colorado voters to play a key role in helping to determine the Republican nominee — in what has to be the wildest race in modern history — because that might mean having to, you know, follow the will of the people.
We know that the GOP strategy, followed closely in Colorado, is to keep the vote total as low as possible in November by making it as hard as possible to vote. And so we hear a lot about so-called voter fraud, even though — note to Scott Gessler — organized voter fraud in Colorado is basically a myth.
But, of course, the argument isn't really about voter fraud, just as it's not necessarily about Democrats being the champions of voter rights. Democrats generally do better when more people vote. And Republicans generally do better when they don't.
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But here's what I didn't figure — that Colorado Republicans may not want Republicans to vote either, at least not in the caucuses.
I learned about this possibility in a Denver Post editorial, which cited GOP chairman Steve House doing a radio interview with Craig Silverman. That's the same Steve House who was elected to replace Ryan Call after Call's successful run in the 2014 election. And the same House who was subject to a Cynthia Coffman-Tom Tancredo coup attempt. And the same House who survived the coup attempt because he went public with it and it became such a huge GOP embarrassment that the executive committee had to back down.
Anyway, here's what House said to Silverman on KNUS, via the Post edit — that when you have a presidential poll on caucus night that "instead of having 50 people show up you have 500 people show up."
And what exactly is the problem?
"When you add in the straw poll during that experience it inflates the number of people who come by a dramatic amount and all kinds of problems have ensued. And I think that's part of the reason why the county chairs on the executive committee especially were very opposed to doing it this way because they believe it will disrupt the overall process and won't gain us that much."
Yes, he actually said that. That too many voters is a problem. That putting Colorado in a place to actually influence the GOP race presents is a problem. No wonder the Post editorial was subtly headlined: "Worst reason yet for Colorado Republican caucus fiasco."
I mean, it's almost as if the Colorado GOP is afraid that the will of the people might mean Donald Trump, who has successfully combined that small-d democracy with large-D demagoguery to turn the Republican summer into the Summer of the Donald and into widespread anarchy. He's very, very rich, as you might have heard. And as Trump has emerged, the Super PAC billionaires have seen their candidates all but disappear, even as the Donald is starting to call for — get this — higher taxes for certain rich people.
Jeb! is cratering. Scott Walker is cratering, and now his latest strategy is to consider building a wall along the border with … Canada. Marco Rubio? John Kasich? Ted Cruz's strategy – which might even work — is to hang out with Trump until he finally implodes and then pick up as many of the anti-establishment pieces as he can.
No one who studies these things seriously believes that Trump will win, but Republican establishment leaders are so panicked by the idea that you could almost confuse them with the panicked Democratic establishment, which has also watched the summer of Trump and seen front-runner Hillary Clinton — still the heavy favorite, despite the email problem — somehow fritter much of that advantage away. The Bern is drawing the big crowds, exciting the liberal wing and the millennial wing. Joe Biden is threatening to get in the race. If it all blows up, will Elizabeth Warren change her mind?
Meanwhile, Republicans, who keep telling voters how terrible politicians are, have apparently convinced them that they're right. In the latest Monmouth poll out of Iowa, two of three said they wanted someone out of government as the nominee. And so the new challenger for Trump is, yes, mild-mannered neurosurgeon Ben Carson — who says Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery — who is actually tied with Trump in that Monmouth poll. Carly Fiorina is third. Cruz is fourth.
You get the idea. At this still-early-in-the-race point, to the surprise of nearly everyone, it's all about the outsiders and the more outside the better.
Unless, I guess, you're one of the insiders on the Colorado GOP executive committee.