Lessons from the Colorado Recall
This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published September 16, 2013 on The Washington Times website.
Americans will always rise above politics to defend the Constitution.
In 2008, when Barack Obama was running for his first term as president, we learned that differing with him on any issue, anytime, anywhere, was evidence of racism.
It still is, but Democratic National Committee Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz upped the ante in a tirade last week when Colorado voters ousted two prominent Democrats in a recall election for their role in enacting a strict state gun control law.
The Democrats, state Senate President John Morse and state Sen. Angela Giron, lost, she said, because the election wasn’t fair. Seriously. Democrats had enacted an election law expanding the use of mail-in ballots, but a judge ruled there was not enough time to administer it and people would actually have to show up at polling places to vote. How unfair.
The new, fun rule is: If Democrats lose an election, as Mrs. Wasserman Shultz explained, it’s due to “voter suppression, pure and simple,” whose corollary is “disagree with a Democrat and you’re a racist.”
One wonders how Mrs. Wasserman Schultz’s bold claim will be received by moderate Democrats who voted to recall the two senators. Despite the steady stream of bizarre policies flowing from the top of the party and its salons in San Francisco, Martha’s Vineyard and the New York Times editorial offices, not every Democrat is a gun-hating leftist. The worst that can be said about them is that they’re enablers, many of whom seem unaware of how far left their party has lurched.
There are lessons here for all Americans and for Tea Party conservatives in particular. The first lesson is that the recall process worked as envisioned by its creators. Tone-deaf public officials who gave the motorists’ sign of disapproval to their constituents suddenly found themselves out of office. They didn’t get a chance to pretend again just before an election that they were more conservative than they actually were.
The second lesson is that money isn’t everything, though it helps. Despite the nearly $3 million raised by billionaire New York City Mayor Michael “drink the big one and go to jail” Bloomberg, resulting in a more than five-to-one cash advantage for the anti-gun forces, the pro-Second Amendment recall posse, aided by the National Rifle Association’s $360,000, won anyway.
Third, if the Tea Party wants to accomplish anything, it has to remain independent. One reason the recall succeeded is that proponents wisely sidestepped the Republican Party, giving the gun issue center stage. It wasn’t the GOP vs. the donkey party. It was the people of Colorado against gun-grabbing zealots.
Former Pueblo policeman George Rivera, who will take Ms. Giron’s seat, told a Republican Party forum that the election “could send a strong message and a chill up and down every politician’s spine, Republicans and Democrats in Colorado.”
Meanwhile, the Democrats tried to fuzz up the stakes, going so far as to inject the abortion issue into it. How they did that is grist for another entire column.
When you have an issue that transcends politics, it’s wise not to hitch yourself to one party but rather to let the parties fight over you. The people promoting constitutional marriage amendments did just that in many states, such as North Carolina in 2012 and most dramatically in 2008 in California, garnering sizable majority votes among traditionally Democratic voters.
This doesn’t mean that, on balance, the Democratic Party is an equally convivial home for the Tea Party. Far from it. Tea Party members typically are not attracted to groups that loudly boo a convention vote to mention God in the party platform. The Republican Party, many of whose top officials think they have the Tea Party in their pocket, will have to earn trust the hard way: by ceasing to make excuses. They need to deliver policies aimed at restoring constitutional government and fiscal sanity and sending government thugs to jail. It would also help if they stopped affecting a deer-in-the-headlights look when asked moral questions that their constituents intuitively understand have straightforward answers.
In a way, the Republicans are responsible for citizens having to go to the trouble and expense of mounting a recall election. If the elephants had offered a real alternative to the zany donkeys who pretend to be mainstream just long enough to fool a majority of voters, the recall campaigns would not be necessary.
We’re living in a time when cultural elites deploy well-funded attacks on our most basic liberties and berate us for resisting them. Their radical agenda depends for success on dividing people into groups, using openly racial appeals and class warfare.
A party that, by contrast, unites the American people in a common quest for liberty and respect for America’s heritage can overcome the built-in advantage of the left’s control of the media, Hollywood, the schools and even boardrooms in much of corporate America.
When the people are temporarily fooled by posers, there is often the option of staging a recall election.
It’s the cure when, as a certain president recently said in another context, “we can’t wait.”