by Jon Caldara
Congress’ debacle on health care is only the latest example of how Republicans snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Victory here defined as merely counting your votes before you fumble the issue that got you into office.
Two decades ago, and speaking more coarsely than would be fitting for a family newspaper, I dubbed it Caldara’s First Political Axiom: There is nothing Republicans can’t, um, screw up.
My leftist friends (yes, they exist) are quick to tell me that their team is a hot ball of crazy too, and I’m sure their in-fighting is as dysfunctional as any family Thanksgiving dinner. But when it comes to moving the political football, the left is a well-oiled machine by comparison to the Republican’s tribute to the Keystone Cops.
Measure the size and scope of government in any area over the last century and you can’t come to any other conclusion: The leftist march continues with just the occasional chance for them to catch their breath when Republicans think they’re in charge. The goal isn’t how many elected seats, governors or legislatures a party controls. The measurement must be policy change.
So, my command-and-control junky friends, don’t give me any sob stories of how the crackpots on your team have slowed you down.
First, at least in Colorado, Republicans are good at not getting into power. Our primary battles leave the victor so bloodied and broke he goes into the general election ready to surrender. In 2006 Bob Beauprez was drained and labeled “both-ways Bob” by Marc Holtzman before losing to Democrat Bill Ritter. And think about this, Ritter, a mere district attorney and a pro-life Catholic, had no primary challenger. No really, just think about that.
In 2010, that amazing Tea Party year, Colorado Republicans held an unheard of 9-point generic poll advantage in the race for governor. Then the monkey poop-flinging-fest between McInnis-Penry-Tancredo-Maes led the eventual Republican nominee to get whopping 11 percent of the vote in the general election. And, as usual, the Democrat, this time a big-city mayor, didn’t even have a primary challenger.
And second, when Republicans do win, they can’t govern. By that I mean when in power they can’t reverse the growth and expanding scope of government, which many of us foolishly believe is what Republicans are supposed to do. And by the way, just slowing the growth of government isn’t a victory.
George W. Bush became the first Republican president to have a Republican congress in nearly 50 years and how did they govern? Spending grew at a faster rate than when LBJ was president, debt soared, bridges to nowhere were funded and they took away free speech with campaign finance limits. But on the bright side, they outlawed light bulbs.
By contrast, when Obama had control of Congress lawmakers spent $700 billion we didn’t have on stimulus projects that didn’t exist — and nationalized health care. When Gov. John Hickenlooper had control of the legislature, he expanded Medicaid, became Michael Bloomberg’s plaything on gun control, weakened our election integrity with all-mail ballots and same-day voter registration, and increased energy prices.
Even now, with control of only the State Senate, Colorado Republicans are working to help Democrats raise the sales tax 21 percent and mess with the Hospital Provider Fee (read tax) to grow state spending. We can’t win for losing.
So then, why can’t Republicans break Caldara’s First Political Axiom? The answer is one of motivation. When Republicans lose, we become depressed. But when Democrats lose, they become unemployed.
Private-sector unions, public-sector unions, trail lawyers, enviros, contractors, bond dealers, higher education, the welfare industry must all work together to see their bottom lines grow. With the possible exception of the military industrial complex, most groups on the right don’t get more money when we win.
Our goal is to just be left alone. Not what you call a real team sport.
Our team has a short-term view of political victory. We keep putting our resources into personalities, “if only so-and-so wins, he’ll fix it and I can go back to my life.”
The left puts time and money, much of it ours, into building political infrastructure and changing culture year after year, decade after decade, so that the gravitational force pulls even Republicans into growing government.
An ideological group of Republicans stopped Obamacare-lite and maybe brought forward a bigger question: Are Republicans just Democrat-lite?
This article originally appeared in the Denver Post, April 2, 2017.