America may witness a new political paradigm beginning on Tuesday.
On November 5, Coloradans in eleven northeast counties will vote on whether or not to remain as part of the Centennial State. The vote is nonbinding, but it should serve as a barometer measuring the anger and alienation that many rural conservatives are feeling about liberal polices coming from the state capitol in Denver.
Voters cast their ballots inside a polling station on the day of a recall vote for Democratic state Sen. Angela Giron, in Pueblo, Colo., Tuesday Sept. 10, 2013. Photo Credit: AP
The widening gulf between red and blue Americans isn’t happening just at the national level, but in the states, as we have discussed in our two previous articles. Conservatives, in particular, are more discontented than ever with liberal-dominated state governments that are heedless of their livelihoods, ways of life, beliefs, and values.
What do the battles between and within red and blue states mean? What insights can be provided into what may become a burgeoning movement to realign the states – a reorganization that might better reflect the citizenry’s cultures and values?
Rural Coloradoans believe that liberal Denverites’ green policies will strangle the energy and agricultural sectors of their economy, and prove a death knell for businesses, jobs, and incomes in the rural region. Via an aggressive legislative agenda, urban liberals have ridden roughshod over agrarian Colorado, and the rural folk are fighting back.
Changes in the state’s demographics, attributable largely to an influx of young professionals into metro Denver, are driving Colorado’s transition from right to hard left on the ideological spectrum. Young professionals and upwardly mobile migrants from California and back East have brought a preponderance of liberal views and Democratic voting patterns to the Centennial State.
From a Bloomberg report:
“Colorado is a perfect example of demographic change leading to political change,” said Seth Masket, a professor of political science at the University of Denver.
Again, from Bloomberg:
“We have different trends than other places,” said Governor John Hickenlooper. “There’s been a large influx of young, generally well-educated people that drives not just political change but also cultural change. Metropolitan Denver now has more live music venues than Nashville or Austin. That’s the kind of thing that is changing the energy.”
But as former Colorado State Senate president John Andrews remarked to us, the shifting demographics that won Democrats control in the state capitol have resulted in the “worst ideological jam down, right or left,” in his experience.
[sharequote align="center"]“I’m mad and not going to take it anymore”[/sharequote]
The Democrats’ left-heavy legislative agenda, which included stringent gun control measures, led to the recall of State Senate President John Morse (Colorado Springs) and Sen. Angela Giron (Pueblo) in September. The first such successful recall action in state history has emboldened the separation effort.
Andrews, who now directs Colorado’s Centennial Institute, said that in conversations with Weld County commissioners that the local leaders’ “instinct” is the ballot measures will pass in the “60-40 percet” range.
The separation movement isn’t “flaky or fringy,” said Andrews. “It’s a Howard Beale moment [for those rural counties],” he continued. “I’m mad and not going to take it anymore,” the former Senate president mused, referencing the most famous line from the movie “Network” (1976) to describe how rural Coloradoans feel about their status as victims of urban liberal highhandedness.
Andrews offered that successful votes in the northeastern rural counties won’t lead to statehood (or Moffat County joining Wyoming), but could produce a “continued wave” of discontent and protest if Hickenlooper and legislative Democrats don’t pay heed. The Governor has publicly declared the need to get more “feedback” from rural Coloradoans. His newfound willingness to listen is most likely in response to falling 2014 re-election poll numbers according to at least a pair of published surveys that project Hickenlooper deadlocked with Republican former congressman and presidential candidate Tom Tancredo.
While you would expect most urban-centric Colorado Democrats to oppose the realignment movement, two higher profile rural Republicans have announced their opposition as well.
Fox 31-Denver reports that State Senator Greg Brophy, a Republican who represents ten of the eleven counties to hold votes on Tuesday, has said he’ll cast his ballot against secession. Brophy’s running for the GOP nomination for governor.
“It’s a drastic thing, like a couple that’s been married for 50 years suddenly filing for divorce,” Brophy said Thursday. “I’m running for governor to be the marriage counselor, to help bring this state back together.
The other well-known Republican expressing opposition to the movement is Ken Buck, the GOP’s 2010 senatorial nominee, who’s running again in 2014. Mr. Buck, a resident of Weld County, announced that he is voting against realignment.
But 4th District Congressman Cory Gardner (R), who represents all of eastern Colorado in the US House including the realignment-voting counties, empathizes with those in favor. In a well document comment uttered the beginning of the local referendum process, Rep. Gardner said:
“The people of rural Colorado are mad, and they have every right to be. The governor and his Democrat colleagues in the statehouse have assaulted our way of life, and I don’t blame these people one bit for feeling attacked and unrepresented by the leaders of our state.
In this May 30, 2013 photo, Burl Scherler, of Scherler Farms, walks through a failed winter wheat crop on his farm in Sheridan Lake, Colo. Photo Credit: Andy Cross/AP
The urban-rural clash phenomenon isn’t unique to Colorado. Wrote Josh Kron for "The Atlantic" after last year’s presidential election:
This divide between blue city and red countryside has been growing for some time. Since 1984, more and more of America's major cities have voted blue each year, culminating in 2012, when 27 out of the nation's 30 most populous cities voted Democratic. According to Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections and "The New York Times", the 2012 election marked the fourth time in the last five federal election cycles that voters shifted away from the party of the sitting president. Despite that constant churn, one part of the electoral map has become a crystal clear constant. Cities, year by year, have become drenched in more blue. Everywhere else is that much more red.
Northeastern Colorado voters in eleven rural counties are likely to affirm that they are “much more red” than those from increasingly urbanizing Denver and surroundings. But will the Centennial State’s dominant Democrats and urban liberals get the message from their country cousins?
Wrote Mike Littwin about Tuesday’s votes for the "Denver Post":
There are the secessionists for the old, rural, Tea Partyish, frustrated by Denver/Washington, gun-hugging folks in parts of Colorado that feel ignored/left behind. They want Colorado to be the way it used to be — back, like, I don't know when, maybe before the Dust Bowl — or they'll start their own state.
If Littwin’s jaded comments reflect urban sensibilities in Colorado, Tuesday’s realignment results will be more like opening salvos in an escalating clash between Coloradoans – and Americans – who hold dramatically different worldviews. It’s going to be interesting and possibly trend-setting. We’ll analyze the results for you after the vote.
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