GOP should study Colorado’s change in tint

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Ge­orge Will Ge­orge Will is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact him at [email protected]­

— So­cial sci­en­tists, say Colorado boost­ers, have plau­si­ble met­rics iden­ti­fy­ing their state as the hap­pi­est and health­i­est state, the for­mer qual­ity per­haps pro­duc­ing the lat­ter. Or the other way around. Or maybe the tan­gle of cau­sa­tion can­not be un­wo­ven. Be that as it may, 300 days of sun­shine — this Mile High City is prac­ti­cally cheekby-jowl with the sun — en­tice peo­ple into out­door ac­tiv­i­ties that help the state have chubby Amer­ica’s low­est obe­sity rate.

Among the least happy and healthy Colorado co­horts is the Repub­li­can Party, which is less svelte than ema­ci­ated. This state is in many ways a glimpse of the na­tion’s fu­ture, so when na­tional Repub­li­cans are done con­grat­u­lat­ing them­selves on hav­ing lost only the most im­por­tant half


of what the Con­sti­tu­tion’s Framers con­sid­ered the most im­por­tant branch — Congress is ac­corded Ar­ti­cle I for a rea­son — they should study Colorado’s chang­ing tint, from pur­ple to­ward blue.

When asked whether his party’s rout of Repub­li­cans on Nov. 6 in­di­cated that many vot­ers re­coiled when they saw “R” next to a can­di­date’s name, Gov.-elect Jared Po­lis de­murs, say­ing that what they ef­fec­tively saw was: “T.” Po­lis, and many of the Demo­cratic can­di­dates who will be in lop­sided ma­jori­ties in both cham­bers of the next state leg­is­la­ture, did not need much more help than Don­ald Trump. This flight from the pres­i­dent’s party mat­ters as a na­tional por­tent be­cause Den­ver and its suburbs, which un­du­late east to­ward the plains and west to­ward the moun­tains, con­tain 50 per­cent of the elec­torate. Eighty per­cent is in the boom­ing ur­ban­iza­tion of the Front Range from Fort Collins and Gree­ley down to Colorado Springs and Pueblo.

Also, Colorado’s pop­u­la­tion has a lower me­dian age than those of 38 states, and its His­panic per­cent­age, 21, is the na­tion’s sev­enth largest. The state ranks sec­ond be­hind Mas­sachusetts in the per­cent­age of res­i­dents with bach­e­lor’s de­grees. The state last elected a Repub­li­can gover­nor 16 years ago.

Po­lis, 43, was born and now lives in Boul­der, a univer­sity town that is the Paris Com­mune with ski­ing. He is a pro­gres­sive ap­ple that did not fall far from the tree: Both par­ents — one a poet, the other an artist — were an­ti­war war­riors in the 1960s. But rather than man­ning the bar­ri­cades to over­throw jack­booted cap­i­tal­ism, Po­lis opted for ac­qui­si­tion: As a Prince­ton sopho­more, he and two friends started an in­ter­net ac­cess com­pany. Soon he founded two other in­ter­ne­tre­lated com­pa­nies, even­tu­ally sell­ing the three for over a bil­lion, there­after de­vot­ing his over­flow­ing en­er­gies to pub­lic mat­ters, in­clud­ing ed­u­ca­tion, with char­ter schools aimed at help­ing im­mi­grants thrive. Po­lis was elected to Congress in 2008, be­came the first same-sex par­ent in the House and will now be­come Amer­ica’s first openly gay man elected gover­nor, a fact that is in­ter­est­ingly un­in­ter­est­ing to vot­ers.

Although Po­lis is ca­pa­ble of het­ero­doxy — in Congress he sup­ported the con­clu­sions of Barack Obama’s Simp­son-Bowles deficitre­duc­tion com­mis­sion more than Obama did — his pro­gres­sivism is high-oc­tane, from free all-day kinder­garten to com­plete state re­liance on re­new­able en­ergy sources — all that sun­shine and a good “wind pro­file” — by 2040. But Colorado, which in 2012 be­came the first state — in­deed, the world’s first ju­ris­dic­tion — to fully le­gal­ize the cul­ti­va­tion and sale of mar­i­juana, has lim­its to its thirst for pub­lic-pol­icy pi­o­neer­ing.

Two years ago, it re­sound­ingly re­jected, 79 per­cent (in­clud­ing Po­lis) to 21 per­cent, a bal­lot ini­tia­tive to create a state-run uni­ver­sal health care sys­tem. Even Boul­der County spurned it, 110,50968,312. This was two years af­ter Bernie San­ders’ Ver­mont flinched from the plan for a uni­ver­sal sin­gle-payer sys­tem. Ver­mont’s gover­nor who pro­posed it de­cided that dou­bling the state’s tax rev­enue with an 11.5 per­cent pay­roll tax, and busi­ness and pre­mi­ums cost­ing up to 9.5 per­cent of in­di­vid­ual’s in­come, “might hurt our econ­omy.” Might?

Colorado’s plan would have re­placed pri­vate in­sur­ance, which prob­a­bly dis­pleased the state’s por­tion of the 157 mil­lion Amer­i­cans who have em­ployer-pro­vided health in­sur­ance, most of whom like it. The is­sue got en­tan­gled with the pro­gres­sives’ sacra­ment: abor­tion. Be­cause Colorado’s con­sti­tu­tion pro­scribes pub­lic fund­ing of abor­tions, the state’s sin­gle­payer sys­tem would not have cov­ered this, so Planned Par­ent­hood and other pro-abor­tion groups op­posed the new sys­tem. Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial as­pi­rants might want to trim their sails re­gard­ing gov­ern­ment im­pe­ri­al­ism in health care.

Since Ge­orge W. Bush car­ried Colorado by 8.4 points and then 4.7 points, it has voted Demo­cratic in pres­i­den­tial elec­tions by an av­er­age mar­gin of 6.4 per­cent­age points. Be­cause it is in­creas­ingly young, ur­ban, ed­u­cated and di­verse, Repub­li­cans, who fancy them­selves sav­iors of “fly­over coun­try,” might just as well fly over Colorado.

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