Democratic losses in Tuesday’s recall 
were something more than ‘symbolic’

To hear the Democratic response to this week’s historic recall election, you’d think that the narrow defeat of Senate President John Morse and the landslide loss handed down to Sen. Angela Giron was a sign signifying zilch.

Democratic Party elders alternatively referred to the losses as “symbolic,” “isolated” or “outliers.” Nothing will change as a result, both Morse and the state’s Democratic Party chairman insisted defiantly.

Part of this, of course, is just spin. Losing sucks, as every Colorado Republican can attest to over and over. And when you lose, especially under a glaring national spotlight, party leaders have no choice but to put the best possible face on a bad set of facts.

In the words of a friend this week, “Put lipstick all over that pig.”

There is great risk for Democrats, however, in actually believing their own spin. Consider the nature of their defeats this week.

According to various reports, the network of progressive groups fighting the recall spent seven times more than recall supporters in the Morse race and still managed to lose in a district where President Barack Obama won by 20-plus points 10 months ago.

In the Democratic stronghold of Pueblo, Giron’s camp seemed to believe that reflexive partisanship would be her saving grace. In fairness, this wasn’t a horrible assumption.

When you take all the Republicans and all the Libertarians and add in all the independents in that district, the number of voting citizens on your tally sheet still doesn’t equal the number of voting citizens who call themselves Democrats. And, still, the Democrats lost.

If losses under these scenarios are merely “symbolic,” then so was Chernobyl.

The truth is, the recalls were a damning indictment of a political party that has moved badly out of the mainstream.

Think about this statement: John Hickenlooper is the most liberal governor in the history of Colorado.

Two years ago, it would have been absurd thing to say — in fact the opposite of the truth. Today, it is indisputable, tragic fact.

Over the next 60 days, we will hear a lot about the latest plan from Colorado’s wayward Democratic Party to — how to say this — muck up Colorado. The next effort is to increase the state’s income taxes by nearly $1 billion. But the plan is regressive and sloppy.

The first $75,000 in household income each and every household earns would see a bump from 4.63 percent to 5 percent. And for all you Jaguar-driving, moneybaggers who have a combined household income of $75,000, your tax rate will spike from the current rate to 5.9 percent.

This isn’t one of those Al Gore “wealthiest one percent” tax increases. This tax hits families — hard.

The idea that K-12 is underfunded, meanwhile, is canard. Since school funding requirements were placed in Colorado’s Constitution, education funding has increased by more than $1 billion. That doesn’t count the billions more in local property tax hikes.

The initiative also contains one of the most egregious drafting errors in the history of the pen. To avoid criticism that the tax increase would harm business, the sponsors of the measure left the corporate tax rate at its current 4.63 percent. Fair enough. But because a huge percentage of small business owners in the state (e.g. LLC’s, general partnerships, etc.) file as individuals, the tax-increase will slam precisely the businesses with the least margin to spare — namely, small businesses — while holding big businesses harmless.

Viewed side-by-side, a family with two incomes of $36,000 and a significant segment of small businesses in this state, will see a 27 percent increase in their taxes, while the corporations occupying the top floors of Denver’s swankiest high rises will see no tax increase at all.

That the Democratic power structure would lend its name to something so absurd says all that you need to know about the state of that party. This tax hike is a dog, and it is doomed to fail.

When it does, Democrat spinmeisters will, no doubt, call the loss “symbolic.” A therapist would call it something else: denial. For Democrats in Colorado these days, it has reached a clinical state.

Josh Penry is a former minority leader of the Colorado Senate. He is a graduate of Grand Junction High School and Mesa State College.


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