dan maes

Has GOP come undone?

(Denver Post, Oct. 10) “Not so fast,” warns the movie hero. He’ll make sure the cad or the con man doesn’t get away with it. One side in American politics has always been the party of “not so fast,” putting the brakes on expansive government power. Today that’s the Republican Party, and they serve the common good in doing it, even when unsuccessful. But I’m concerned that in the governor’s race this year, Colorado Republicans may be so unsuccessful that their restraining influence on political overreach is lost for a long time. Even the most fervent Democrats, if they remember the corruption of power, shouldn’t relish that prospect – though one can see why they’re keeping gleefully silent as Tom Tancredo and Dan Maes rip each other. Voting begins this week. The worry du jour last week was demotion of the GOP to minor-party status if Maes finishes under 10 percent. I don’t think he will, but he obviously won’t win either. In the likely outcome of Democrat John Hickenlooper winning, or the unlikely outcome of the freelancer Tancredo prevailing, the one certainty on Nov. 3 is a defeated, divided, and demoralized Republican establishment – which doesn’t augur well for constitutionalism.

What’s constitutionalism, and who cares? We all should. Our written constitution of self-government, in this state or the United States, is only as strong as the unwritten traditions of fair competition and civic virtue – habits of the heart, as they have been called – that sustain America as a caring community of free people. A jungle ethos of winning at any cost endangers all that. Let's not go there..

Too many on the right in Colorado, I’m sorry to say, already have. To be clear: While this party stalwart is firmly on record as supporting neither Maes nor Tancredo nor Hickenlooper, I have GOP friends in each man’s camp – and our friendship will survive the disagreement. The purpose here is to analyze attitudes, not to slam personalities. The slamming is what has to stop.

Reversing early assurances that he wouldn’t run an anti-Maes campaign, Tom has. On Dan’s side, a frothing anti-Tancredo screed is now online, slinging slurs like “chicken hawk.” It’s more bitter than a primary because there’s no intra-party comity to damp the invective. Tom says he’ll govern as a Republican if elected -- but it wasn’t long ago he emphatically disavowed the party label, and mocked Lincoln for good measure.

Political memories aren’t short. Even if Ken Buck wins, some congressional seats flip, and Democrats suffer legislative losses, a self-wounded GOP will be disadvantaged under the gold dome after this cannibalistic governor’s race. As tax pressures intensify and Obama girds for reelection, Colorado is going to need a party of “not so fast.” Who will it be? The American Constitution Party can’t mount a defense when liberals go on offense.

Whether Tancredo’s ambition succeeds this time, or fizzles as it did in the presidential primaries, many in my party will need to think long and hard about whether the end justifies the means. Maes’s undeniable weaknesses were but a relative excuse, not an absolute justification, for mass desertion of the Republican nominee. Somehow the McInnis disease, scorning party standard-bearers in 2006 and 2008, went epidemic in 2010.

Abandoning long-established institutions for “light and transient causes” violates conservative prudence, the Declaration of Independence warns. Many of the GOP’s finest, including four of Tom’s congressional colleagues, have gambled unconservatively this fall.

They used to say the Episcopal Church was the Republican regulars at prayer. The Tancredo movement seems like the regulars on a fling. Might all this, in hindsight, prove an overreaction? Have we destroyed the village to save it? “She’s come undone,” sang the Guess Who. I hope I’m wrong in applying that to our state’s Grand Old Party.

Expect a Flawed Governor

A 2010 Republican Survival PlanBy John Andrews

With reluctance, I will cast no vote for the office of Governor of Colorado in this year's general election. The choices are so unsatisfactory that I cannot in good conscience put my moral weight behind any of them. When my fellow citizens have made their choice on Nov. 2, no matter who wins, our state will be looking at a seriously flawed claimant to head the executive branch for the next four years. I say this without personal disrespect to any of the candidates. And I am confident that our constitutionally resilient self-government will come through the next governor's term all right, just as we always have since 1876. But it will occur with this elector having abstained (which matters little to anyone else, I know).

Having known every Colorado governor since 1962, and having been the Republican nominee for governor in 1990, I have a good idea of what it takes to do the job, and a high standard for any individual I would support in seeking the job.

The candidate who earns my endorsement and vote must measure up on four C's: character, competence, conservative principles, and continuity of institutions.

A word of explanation about the fourth: it is inseparable from the third. Conservatives conserve; they don't impulsively improvise. When someone asks to be entrusted as chief executive in willful disregard of our two-party system because his persona and the momentary circumstance are so compelling, it's hard to see such a candidacy as genuinely conservative. And so it's hard to grant the candidate our trust.

Applying my four C's to the major contenders for governor in 2010, how does each man score?

John Hickenlooper, the Democrat, is certainly no conservative. I believe we'll also have reason to doubt his character when all the revelations of this, the Mayor's first-ever tough partisan race, are known.

Dan Maes, the Republican, talks conservative and competent, but the super-salesman does not talk straight. The shine has worn off all his pretensions, raising grave questions of integrity.

Tom Tancredo, the ex-Republican now running as an independent (borrowing the American Constitution party line), doesn't put up a reassuring score on any of these four criteria either. Hearing of his crack about elbowing aside Lincoln himself if necessary, it seemed my old friend had somehow become a different person -- a person I'm sadly unable to vote for.

Splitting the Colorado Republican Party in order to rescue it (and ostensibly rescue the state) from an unusually deficient gubernatorial nominee has overtones of the misguided warrior who burned down the village in order to save it. The "rescue" appears likely to worsen our state's governance in the long run, by encouraging freelance personality trips and factional power plays at the expense of fair competition for the political center under rules that everyone accepts.

Maes would be a flawed governor, so would Hickenlooper -- but I prefer to risk 48 months of either one in power, rather than add momentum to a rule-or-ruin experiment with radical populism that could leave us with three (or eventually several) dysfunctional parties.

I look charitably upon fellow Republicans who reach a different conclusion from mine and actively support one or another of the candidates. I hope all of us who believe that the GOP, in most circumstances, governs best can build a firewall around our gubernatorial disagreement and discouragement in order to work aggressively for GOP victories in the legislature, constitutional offices, Congress, and US Senate. The opportunity 2010 presents, and the consequences of an all-ticket defeat, simply leave us no choice.

Expect a flawed governor. It's a certainty. Think long-term and prudentially, not impulsively. It's the conservative way. Cordon off the gubernatorial schism. It's fatal otherwise. And do our utmost, regardless of the Maes-Tancredo fight, to help other Colorado candidates ride the conservative tide and win. That's my 2010 Republican survival plan.

Maes should quit as GOP nominee

This morning I called Dan Maes to withdraw my endorsement and urge him to end his candidacy, for the public good. As a conscientious Republican who earlier voted for Dan, I cannot support a manifestly unfit nominee. He has flunked his job interview with the people of Colorado in the weeks since Scott McInnis faded. The party should cut Maes loose if he does not resign the nomination.

I intend to write in a vote for Jane Norton for Governor.

Long road to November

(Denver Post, Mar. 21) Political inexperience was the gold standard among 30 of my neighbors at a precinct caucus in Centennial last week. Fellow Republicans viewed the 2010 contenders for senator and governor with the hard eyes of swindle victims or jilted lovers. The less involved a candidate had been with our party’s time in state and national office over the past dozen years, the more acceptable he or she seemed for nomination this year. Caucus night in March was only the first step on a long road to election night in November, 225 days from now. But it dramatized the “once burned, twice shy” distrust of government that will shape the choices made by Colorado voters in GOP, Democratic, and independent ranks. Trust when broken is hard to restore. That’s the penalty box our whole political system is in right now. Unpredictable new forces are in play as this campaign unfolds. The Tuesday meeting at a school library near our house was older, white, and mostly men. Rainbow America we were not, but we gathered with a love for this land of liberty and a desire to make a difference. Before things started, there was laughter and applause when someone pointed to a presidential book display featuring Barack Obama and George Washington and quipped, “The goal is a government with less of him and more of HIM.”

In the precinct straw poll for a nominee to regain the US Senate seat from Democrats Michael Bennet or Andrew Romanoff, Sedalia businessman and former state Sen. Tom Wiens took 40%, followed by former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton with 37% and district attorney Ken Buck with 23%. In the trial heat for governor, Evergreen businessman and rookie candidate Dan Maes got a notable 44%, trailing former congressman Scott McInnis, the prohibitive favorite, who had 56%.

Our tiny sample largely tracked the statewide Republican tallies, though it was Ken Buck who ran close with Jane Norton in the overall count. More striking to me than the percentages was the mood in the room. A burly guy named Larry spoke for many with his warnings of the tax-and-spend taint attaching to an ex-congressman and an ex- lieutenant governor. Countering him with the case for McInnis and Norton was the more youthful and smooth-spoken Cole, but you could see many skeptical frowns.

I’m uncommitted in both races, and cast a secret ballot that night. Any of the GOP contenders, whatever their shortcomings or the party’s past lapses, would obviously work harder for limited government – the imperative right now, before our country goes bankrupt – than would a Sen. Bennet, a Sen. Romanoff, or a Gov. John Hickenlooper as liberal Democrats. That’s why my party must not self-immolate in the 2010 primary as we did in the 2006 gubernatorial bloodbath. The prize is November.

Dems actually face a tougher task with this year’s fed-up electorate than my side does. Their Colorado ticket will be a pair of entitlement-peddling, union-bought insiders by whatever names. Our nominees can definitely take outside position against that. Whether Republicans are ready to use power more responsibly this time, if trusted with it again, is another question. Bluntly acknowledging that question would be a good start; frontrunners take note.

Nothing can be taken for granted. Lent is a far piece from Halloween. What if an autumn house of horrors found America at war with Iran? The incumbent party might benefit decisively from a rally to the flag. Half a year is an eternity in politics, we’ve learned again and again.

“I’m giving the Republicans one more chance,” Doug told our caucus. Bitterly disillusioned by McCain after 2008, he’s back as a delegate this spring. As buyers’ remorse with Obama deepens, will voters similarly gamble and grant the GOP a do-over?