Check Out The Blueprint: Its Political Lessons Are Well Worth Absorbing

Last Tuesday I received a review copy of The Blueprint: How the Democrats Won Colorado (and Why Republicans Everywhere Should Care by award-winning 9News political reporter Adam Schrager and former Republican state representative Rob Witwer. Despite having a lot on my plate, I found time to read the book in two evenings.

The book is a quick read but remarkably packed with substance. Political insiders who have followed the past three election cycles in Colorado will find a good amount of familiar material, and may learn a few things on the way. Everyone else, buckle up. The transformation of Colorado’s political power structures from Republican to Democratic dominance is a worthwhile and important study — one that points to the importance of a permanent and coordinated infrastructure. But not at state party headquarters.

“Because of campaign finance reform, political parties are essentially dead,” co-author Rob Witwer told me in a Friday interview, when asked what his most significant and startling discovery was in researching the book. “The infrastructure necessary to support a political movement can only be done through a network of non-profit entities.”

Recent electoral history (especially 2004 and 2006) makes Witwer’s case, something he and Schrager lay out effectively in the book. To get a flavor of The Blueprint, simply check out the excerpt printed in yesterday’s Denver Post perspective section. The stunning upset takeover of the Colorado state legislature was launched with a “Roundtable” gathering of the familiar “Gang of Four” liberal money machine.

But their money wouldn’t have won them the power and acclaim if not spent effectively. “What the Left’s donors figured out was you can have a much bigger impact on public policy if you flood local races with resources then if you just chip around the edges on big races,” said Witwer. “And that’s what they did.”

(Similarly, I advise the Tea Party and other liberty-oriented grassroots groups to focus their energies and efforts on key state legislative races — both at the primary and general election. Maximum effectiveness and results. The difference is the movement is a lot more organic and less coordinated than the Left’s orchestrated power grab. I’m guessing that the “power of the people” and the few existing organizations out there may have to shake things up a bit to rouse the interest of the big money crowd on the conservative side.)

At the same time, the book pays attention to some of the internecine GOP bloodbaths that aided and abetted the Left’s ascendancy, and rightfully so. “Republicans lost as much as Democrats won,” Witwer asserted, noting the numerous intra-party battles–some of which resulted in conservatives blasting moderates and sitting on their hands during the general election, and some which resulted in moderates taking their marbles and going to support the Democrat.

“It’s not just one side or the other, it’s a divided party,” said Witwer. But he and I are both hopeful that the effect of being in the political minority will more sharply focus Colorado Republicans on unity going into the fall of 2010.

Conservatives and traditional Republican donors have been behind the curve on what has made the Democrats successful here. Yet according to Witwer, there is some good news: “There are people on the Right who have definitely figured out and are trying to replicate it. There’s no question in my mind that the Left is still ahead of the Right on infrastructure.”

Will our side ever catch up? Who can know for sure? But the drastically different political environment of 2010 poses an interesting challenge to test the thesis of the book–namely, that infrastructure plays a powerful role in determining electoral success.

How well can the Democrats defend their gains in Colorado as opposed to other states where the “model” is less entrenched? Will they hold off just enough close races to maintain majorities in the state house and senate? Will they be able to help pass the keys to the governor’s mansion from one Democrat to another? Will they stop Republicans from winning back one of the state’s U.S. Senate seats and a majority of the House delegation?

“Their model is designed to minimize the effects of bad years, and maximize the effects of good years,” Witwer noted. “This will be a test of the infrastructure of both sides.”

Of potentially good news is the fact national Democrats have quickly moved themselves into a significantly more severe and blatant version of the hyper-partisan arrogance that helped to fuel the fire of Republican defeat here in 2003 and 2004: the kind that motivated Tim Gill and Pat Stryker to put their money into action.

Meanwhile, state Democrats have played the fiscally irresponsible game for too long, and soaked taxpayers have about had enough. Are there any rich Colorado John Galts out there willing to give us a chance to turn back from the Big Government blob the party in power has come to embrace?

I can’t say it too many times: Wake up, conservatives and liberty-lovers, before it’s too late. Check out The Blueprint. It’s chock full of food for thought, colorful stories and shrewd insights from key Colorado figures — Left and Right. The Lefties will have their own reasons to enjoy and savor this book, but I recommend it to anyone interested in the long-term success of the conservative principles of limited government, liberty and personal responsibility.

Political acumen is a necessary — albeit not sufficient — ingredient to achieve that success. Schrager and Witwer’s book will help you get smart … and quick.

P.S.: Glad to know the tiny bit of information I provided was of some small help, at least enough to earn an acknowledgment on page xxv.


  1. Chris Rawlings says

    Ben, the story after the 2000 and 2004 elections was that the right was successful primarily because of their unique GOTV effort which was far superior to the Democrats’. The Democrats replicated it in 2006 and 2008 and won. Now the story, at least in Colorado, is that the Democrats’ savvy infrastructure helped that party win control in a traditionally Republican state. Though Witwer is right that the left still has a better grasp of this than conservatives, I think you’ll find that 2010 will be a lot like the Democrats’ 2006, where Republicans have found a way to at least come close to matching the left’s money advantage. It might even be more spectacular than that, given the national tenor which places the Republicans in good shape heading into November.

    Also, keep in mind that the Democrats’ success probably has more to do with Republican ineptitude than anything else at all. Placing the blame on money only shifts blame from the party elite where it belongs. Referendum I was heavily funded by the Fab Four, supported by wonder boy Hickenlooper, and placed on the ballot in a great year for Democrats. Yet it still lost. Ideas, even underfunded ones, still win.

    Repubilcans will win and they will win big in November because their ideas are truer and finer than the Democrats’. That won’t win every election, but it will win this one. The sense I get is that the GOP will do better in Colorado than it will nationally, despite Witwer’s reservations. But, alas, for long term electoral success the GOP will absolutely need a well-funded activist infrastructure, a sort of trojan horse, like Tim Gill’s and Pat Stryker’s.

  2. says

    Chris, Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts so extensively. I do hope you are correct in your analysis. But remember that while the Republican GOTV effort in 2004 was successful nationally, that was the year the Colorado Model pulled off some stunning upsets here in the state level races. I encourage fiscal conservatives and liberty-minded people and groups to get engaged in key state legislative races. That’s where the most impact will be made.

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