Silverii: Who is to blame for the GOPs ballot of extremists?

The results of the 2022 Colorado Republican Party assemblies went about as well as they could have – for every Democrat in Colorado. For the Republican establishment, the outcome of the nomination process was just about as close to a worst-case scenario as they could have imagined.

And, ironically, the establishment has no one to blame but themselves. The GOP spent years coddling conspiracists, promoting cynical opportunism, and refusing to deal with the very real threats to democracy that the Republican base represents. It should be no surprise, then, that the GOP nominated unelectable lunatics that will imperil their best chance at victory in decades in Colorado this November.

Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, who has been indicted by a grand jury for tampering with election equipment and identity theft, is still facing multiple additional investigations. Republicans elected Peters to be the top-line choice on the June primary ballot for Secretary of State against establishment choice Pam Anderson, who opted to collect petitions for ballot access instead of facing the GOP grassroots.

Not long afterward, proud Jan. 6 insurrection participant, election denier, and sworn enemy of photocopiers everywhere, state Rep. Ron Hanks knocked three much better funded, much less wacky candidates out of the race for the U.S. Senate. Hanks was the sole Republican to make the ballot through the nomination process, and will now face establishment pick Joe O’Dea in the June primary.

Earlier in the day, Greg Lopez, a former Democrat and once the mayor of Parker, won top-line in the gubernatorial nomination contest over Heidi Ganahl after promising to pardon Peters for the crimes she committed against her own office in trying to prove the Big Lie.

And then there’s attorney general hopeful John Kellner, the only known candidate entering Saturday’s assembly. Kellner proved to be so unpopular that 42% of delegates voted instead for a guy who is neither a licensed attorney in the State of Colorado nor a registered Republican. At least Kellner gets to skate by without a primary on these technicalities, but that’s not exactly a vote of confidence from the base.

After the ballot was set with hardcore right-wingers taking top line in all three contested primaries for statewide office, the GOP establishment and their media mouthpieces promptly freaked out. Establishment types shouted from the pages of this newspaper, Newsweek, and virtually every talk radio station in the state that failure to get in line behind their well-groomed candidates dooms Republicans this November.

And yet, unwavering fealty to Donald Trump remains a primary litmus test for Republicans. Republican consultants and establishment types merely watched as Trump decimated their party, content in the belief that Trump was a convenient vessel for many of their long-standing political priorities–hundreds of lifetime judicial appointments for unqualified judges; a huge tax cut for the biggest and most profitable corporations; and a public lands drilling bonanza for the fossil fuel industry, just to name a few.

Some of the same GOP establishment admonishing the base today for the crime of believing Trump’s Big Lie are also the same folks who literally invited one of the nation’s foremost peddlers of election conspiracies, Arizona Congressman Andy Biggs, to headline the Colorado GOP’s annual fundraising dinner the night before the assembly.

A short list of things the vast majority of Colorado voters would find objectionable about Rep. Biggs include his vote against condemning anti-Semitism, his vote against the DREAM Act, his vote against health care for 9/11 first responders, and his vote against the Violence Against Women Act.

The establishment’s chosen nominee for governor, Heidi Ganahl makes mealy-mouthed plausibly-deniable statements like  “Joe Biden is our president,” that purposefully don’t counter the lie that the 2020 election was stolen. A year ago, the state GOP chairperson ran for her current position on the lie that Dominion Voting Machines were suspect and warranted a recount of the 2020 election in Colorado (which Donald Trump lost by more than13 points).

Republicans are rightly terrified by the Hanks candidacy, but the base will have trouble supporting Joe O’Dea, who donated to Democrats for a decade – writing checks to his hopeful opponent Sen. Michael Bennet, Sen. John Hickenlooper, Gov. Bill Ritter, former Senate President John Morse, and even the late, great ultra-progressive state Sen. Ken Gordon.

Establishment Republicans wouldn’t be in this mess if they had stood firm on their principles after the first time Trump said he would only accept the results of the 2016 election if he won. You can draw a straight line from their acquiescence there to Trump’s total takeover of the party to their current political predicament in Colorado. The lunatics may have taken over the asylum, but it was the GOP establishment who handed them the keys.

Ian Silverii is the founder of The Bighorn Company and the former director of ProgressNow Colorado. His wife Brittany Pettersen is running for Congress as a Democrat in House District 7. Follow him on Twitter @iansilverii.

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