Democrats own all of Colorado’s governmental institutions and more. If they are extremely fortunate the state’s Republican Party will give them a gift this week beyond their wildest dreams. Republicans would virtually ensure all-Democratic victories well into the future.
The Republican Party’s Central Committee will meet in Pueblo on Saturday and decide whether to end Republican primaries and prevent all of Colorado’s million-plus registered Republicans from choosing nominees for public office. Instead, the GOP would choose candidates through a caucus-assembly process in which only a tiny fraction of the state’s Republicans participate.
It gets worse. If the Republican Party goes through with it, the move will ensure that all of Colorado’s 1.5 million unaffiliated voters can vote only for Democrats in future primaries.
This is nothing short of a plan for political suicide.
Republicans already face an uphill battle in their hopes of winning at least one statewide race in 2022 because the state named for red has turned blue. If they kill the primary, the party’s chances of winning a statewide race become approximately zero.
Unaffiliated voters — the largest voting bloc in Colorado — will choose Democrats on primary day, with no Republican option. Months later, on the day of the general election, it is reasonable to expect most of them to support whomever they voted for in the primary. Under this proposal, that would be Democrats 100% of the time.
Party insiders who want this change don’t like the new system imposed when voters enacted Propositions 107 and 108 in 2016.
The new system allows unaffiliated voters to participate in either major party’s primary without declaring affiliation. Each registered unaffiliated voter gets a Republican and Democratic ballot and may return only one.
Supporters of opting out of primaries claim unaffiliated voters will nominate lightweight Republicans who don’t represent the party’s traditional values and platforms. They don’t want so-called RINO’s — Republicans in Name Only — taking over the party. Precedent proves them wrong. Former President Donald Trump fared better in open primary states than in states with a caucus-assembly nominating process. Candidates who win assemblies are not necessarily more conservative than those who win primaries. They are simply more skilled at inside ball.
This proposal makes no sense pragmatically. By killing the primary, Republican activists — the dedicated few who participate in caucuses, assemblies, and conventions — will have absolute control over which Republicans get on the general ballot. Unaffiliated voters, who are otherwise open to voting Republican, would resent the move. They won’t care about whoever a select few put on the ballot without their input. They will likely spite Republicans by voting straight Democratic tickets in general elections. They will reasonably conclude that Democrats, not the other party, allowed them to play.
Rank-and-file Republicans would resent the move, as well. Imagine being a Trump-supporting, working-class Republican. You work an evening shift and can’t get to the caucus. You have never been an activist but you cast your ballot when you receive it in the mail. But your state party has decided you no longer have a say in choosing nominees. The state party could not do more to alienate its base if that was its intent.
If Democrats are smart, they will covertly lobby members of the Republican committee to approve this proposal. They could not ask for more.
Colorado has long flourished as a swing state in which people with loyalty to neither party try to choose the candidates with the best prospects of improving the state’s health, safety, and economy. That puts Republicans in a potential sweet spot in 2022, given the various sad results of one-party rule. If we become a Democrat-only primary state, consider Colorado an official appendage of California under sustained single-party control.
Whether Republicans love or hate the rules imposed by voters, they must stay in the game. Choose a future for the GOP. Choose life. As the old Queen song implores, “don’t try suicide, you’re just gonna hate it.”