Voters weren’t angry at everything, just with bad tax-increase proposals

I finally am done with my exhaustive analysis of the state elections last week. I mean that I am exhausted at the endless explanations of media pundits and left-leaning websites about the overwhelming repudiation of various tax proposals across the state.

That analysis is essentially this: Many Colorado voters are too dim or churlish to understand more money equates to brighter, more progressive-minded students and secondly, the results will have absolutely no effect on the 2012 election.

Much of the analysis seemed to have a hard time dealing with voter’s unequivocal position on more taxes in general and failed institutional models in particular. For instance, it was reported that Associated Press writer Kristen Wyatt tweeted (this is the new journalism in 140 characters or less) on election night “Everyone hates everything tonight.”

There you have a pithy analysis of voters as emotionally blinded and lashing out at “everything.” I’m not sure how many votes were cast in that spirit, but I’m going to take a wild guess it wasn’t many. In our part of the state, voters seemed pretty well informed on the issues, at least as they were presented, and voted based on their own analysis. They were not acting like Viking berserkers on a bender.

The sort of conclusion reached by Wyatt and others, however, achieves a couple of things. First, it falls into the template of voters being generally angry and just mistaken at whom they should be angry. It eliminates the possibility that they’ve examined policies of the last few years and found the results shockingly unacceptable.

This assumption feeds the second portion of the assessment that as voters are just having a momentary temper tantrum. It will not have any effect on President Obama’s re-election or his policies, which I affectionately refer to as “the speeding locomotive of economic despair.”

National politicos paid particular attention to Colorado because it was one of the few states to have a statewide initiative on taxes on its ballot and the state is an important pivot point in the upcoming national election. As the president and his party have become increasingly identified with higher taxation on somebody or something, voter reaction to tax increases in key states is important.

Just this week, the president’s election team, Organizing for America, opened a second state office in Fort Collins — because they’re not at all worried about Colorado.

Local Republicans responded by unkindly pointing out that for every 15,000 foreclosures in the country, the president’s campaign has opened up a new office. They then rudely suggest the president’s time would be better spent solving these kinds of problems, not campaigning.

They fail to realize the president seems to feel that staffing campaign offices is solving the problem. Clearly, he has created an economic environment where people have plenty of free time to volunteer.

Here in Mesa County and the surrounding area, we have crystallized our position as the state’s new home of active and informed conservatism. With a record turnout and a remarkably well-informed and overwhelming (74 percent to 26 percent) repudiation of the staggeringly bad Proposition 103, the state’s center-right core looks increasingly to us for leadership.

The lopsided defeat of School District 51’s mill levy override, however, is perhaps as much a lesson in messaging as message.

Some supporters, like state Sen. Steve King, wanted to see the override succeed with the hope it would be used to implement newly created legislation arising out of last year’s Senate Bill 191, which fundamentally altered the tenure and evaluation system in Colorado’s K–12 system. It allows for the enhanced use of individual merit and results to reward successful educators while simplifying the ability to correct those who achieve less desirable outcomes.

This message was lost by many well-meaning proponents, who understandably found it more comfortable to retreat to their base’s traditional argument that they simply needed money to be successful or at least keep up with the Jones’s of other districts. This was not the bold new approach to the educational paradigm that might have spurred some conservatives to support more taxation.

Conservatives listened to what was presented and responded. Such behavior will be the deciding factor next November.

Rick Wagner offers more thoughts on politics at his blog, The War on Wrong.


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