Hindsight, as I’ve heard it said, is 50-50. Look – we know the Republican Party took an old-fashioned butt-kicking. Senator Andrews sizes up what the Democrats did right and what he and other Republican leaders could have done better.
It was motivation, above all, that powered this Democrat victory. Democrats were driven and hungry from decades in the political wilderness. Republicans were complacent and soft from too long in power. Their motive for winning was to get in there and do things. Ours, it often seemed, was merely to stay in there. These attitudes translated into discipline and unity for Democrats, indulgence and disunity for Republicans. GOP factionalism was endemic and fatal.
The message gap was a consequence of this motivation gap. Democrats talked about making Colorado a better state, about not letting Republicans cut cherished programs, and about the GOP’s supposed obsession with “gays, guns, and God.” Republicans talked about . . . what? Other than denying their charges and hurling some back, we pretty much punted. Republican candidates picked their own issues locally. Churchill would have called it a pudding with no theme.
Our campaign had what one analyst termed a sort of Nixon-Ford tiredness and blandness. I had considered, back in 2003, framing a conservative Contract with Colorado to provide a single, statewide framework for all 75 state Senate and House races. But after sizing up the competing intra-party fiefdoms and tensions, I decided not to start that fight. Mea culpa; I should have fought.
So because of the yawning gaps in motivation and message between Republicans and Democrats, there was naturally a money chasm between the parties as well. Duh. They had the foresight and will to enact lopsided campaign-finance rules giving labor the advantage over business. We lacked the toughness to either defeat or circumvent those rules. They recruited several leftist millionaires to carpet-bomb us with 527 spending. Our millionaires were mostly AWOL.
The dollar disparity hurt, sure, but it was a symptom of a much deeper problem for Colorado’s GOP. A political party is an idea before it’s a checkbook, an organization, or a platform. The idea that has inspired Republicans from Lincoln to Reagan to George W. Bush is an
optimistic, assertive defense of ordered liberty and traditional values. That idea lost its voice in the Centennial State. Recovering it will be Job One for us in 2005.
I think he is “spot on,” as they say, though his ideas will need to be fleshed out ASAP.
Note: Also check out the Kestrel’s concise take on the piece.