‘Alice in Wonderland’ scenarios continue in GOP nominating process
“Curiouser and curiouser” was Alice’s surprised reaction when the Victorian-era school girl fell through the rabbit hole in Lewis Carrols’ “Alice in Wonderland.”
That might very well also be the grammatically questionable but altogether understandable reaction from most folks to recent developments in the Republican Party’s nominating processes for local, state and national offices around here.
How else could you describe a scenario in which a two-term sitting congressman loses a third of the delegates at last Friday’s GOP’s Third District assembly to an Orchard Mesa peach grower with little district-wide name recognition and a criminal record?
Seriously, is Scott Tipton, sporting a legislative philosophy that would seem to make the tea party a natural ally, not conservative enough? Is there really any chance at all that David Cox, who wants to impeach the president and pledges to “expose, attack and destroy” the criminal operation that is Washington politics, will be your next congressman?
It boggles the mind. But perhaps it shouldn’t.
After all, Tipton’s embarrassment comes just a few short weeks after state Sen. Steve King’s second-place finish to relatively unknown John Pennington for the nomination to be Mesa County sheriff. And to the derailment of sitting Mesa County commissioner Steve Acquafresca’s coronation as a candidate to return to the Colorado Legislature by local businessman Dan Thurlow, who came out of seeming retirement from active politics to gain a 2-1 edge among delegates to the county Republican assembly.
It’d be easy, but only partially correct, to attribute these surprises in the nominating process to anger and unrest on the part of a substantial portion of the electorate over what is seen as unresponsive and profligate government at all levels.
“Throw the bastards out and let’s get some new ones” seems to be the driving sentiment, regardless of whether or not the targets of the bitterness are liberal Democrats, or, in these cases, Republicans that most sentient human beings would accurately describe as conservative.
The contributing reality, the one that makes it possible for party processes to be impacted disproportionately by the folks who populate groups like the Mesa County Patriots and the Western Slope Conservative Alliance, is the fact that those who used to be called the country club wing of the Republican party are on the sidelines, largely opting out of the internal party processes and instead exercising their community influence in other ways.
While some wonder if the pendulum might ever swing back or if it’s stuck in the far right position, others responsible for the swing have questions themselves.
I recall discussing about a year ago the ongoing starboard drift of the local GOP with one of the leaders of the successful effort to oust the country club set a decade or so ago. Even he, without prompting, offered the opinion that “things have gone too far” along with a fairly unflattering assessment of some current leaders.
There’ll also be no shortage of contenders charging to the right as the hunt for the GOP gubernatorial nomination continues.
Tom Tancredo, the one-trick pony anti-immigration activist and former congressman, made the primary ballot prior to the state assembly via the petition route. Former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, defeated by Democrat Bill Ritter in 2006 in an earlier gubernatorial try, will presumably do the same. At the GOP assembly, delegates added two more contenders, former state Sen. Mike Kopp, the top-line designee, and current Secretary of State Scott Gessler.
Given the need to differentiate themselves and the current philosophical state of the Colorado GOP, that’ll make for an interesting few months leading up to the primary election.
None of the four will want to be seen as a “moderate” alternative. The need to cater to conservative party activists will leave whichever one emerges not only severely battle-scarred but also shackled with stances and rhetoric that won’t play well with typically moderate Coloradans, particularly those much-sought-after unaffiliated voters.
We’ll see how this all plays out soon enough and whether Jane Austen was right in “Pride and Prejudice” when she wrote that “angry people are not always wise.”