At this time last year, Colorado was known as a purple state. John Hickenlooper was known as a moderate, and he had specifically avoided engaging in discussion of gun control in the months leading up to the election. Though the Aurora theater shooting occurred in Colorado, no new gun legislation was proposed or promoted in the state.
On November 6th, however, all of that seemed to change. Due to a corrupt 2011 redistricting scheme which favored Democrats, Democrats took both the State House and Senate, and many people thought Colorado had gone blue permanently. After the Sandy Hook shooting later that month, Hickenlooper immediately took the opportunity to push a gun control agenda.
Indeed, the Democrat legislature and governor worked together to create the most radically progressive legislation in the state’s 137 year history. As part of that agenda, state Democrats worked to pass radical gun control legislation which made Colorado the battleground for gun control on a national scale. Republicans fought hard against this, with a filibuster and convincing some Democrats to switch sides, which did prevent a few of the bills from passing even the legislature, but they were not able to stop the majority of the laws.
Among the laws which passed were background check legislation which prevented people from lending or bequeathing firearms to family members, taking away guns without due process, and magazine capacity limits which pushed companies employing over a thousand people out of the state and set the stage for nearly every firearm manufactured to be illegal.
To make matters worse the “moderate” and “most popular governor in the country” signed the bills knowing how unpopular they were – especially among the state’s rural population – and knowing that they were ambiguous enough to allow for severe problems with enforcement.
This prompted a statewide outcry. All Colorado sheriffs vocally opposed the legislation, and nearly all of them joined John Caldara and the Independence Institute in a lawsuit attempting to overturn it. Numerous counties have put the issue of secession from the state on next year’s ballot. The most watched reaction, though, was the attempted recall of two State Senators, Angela Giron and John Morse.
John Morse was President of the Senate, and both he and Giron hailed from traditionally Democratic districts. No politician has successfully been recalled in Colorado’s history. Democrats had, perhaps predictably, also passed laws which would allow for easier voter fraud in the 2012 session. Those supporting the recall were outspent 8 to 1. Yet, on Tuesday, the recall succeeded, not just against one, but both.
Morse lost by a smaller margin, 51% to 49%, but Giron, whose district lies in the rural Democratic stronghold of Pueblo, lost by a margin of 56% to 44%. Even Democrats supported the ouster, especially Giron’s where they made up 20% of recall votes. In their analysis of the recall, Democrat leaders noted that Pueblo, though more Democratic, was less “liberal” than Morse’s more affluent district, because it was motivated primarily by blue collar and union interests.
This explanation highlights exactly what makes the recall petition so noteworthy. Many people who vote for the Democrats do not embrace the vast majority of the progressive agenda. As soon as Democrats pushed an extreme progressive agenda, including gun control, those people saw a separation between their own interests and Bloomberg-style liberals, and they joined libertarians and conservatives in pushing back.
This victory showed that grassroots efforts can make a difference, and it showed that Colorado is not the pure blue state that so many believed it was this spring. It also showed that gun control is not as popular as liberals claim. Equally importantly, though, it showed that if Democrats push too hard, they will alienate vital parts of their own base.
Nationwide, they can’t continue to use rhetoric to get votes from blue collar and rural voters while exclusively serving the interests of New York and California liberals. It’s hardly a surprise that Hickenlooper is only polling even with Tancredo in Giron’s district today, though he won by a 14 point margin in 2010.
Democrats accuse Republicans of growing more extreme, and point to that trend as the reason the GOP has been losing votes recently. Democrats would do well to heed their own advice, because the more they repeat the mistake they did in Colorado 2013, the greater risk they face of permanently alienating key voting blocs.