Election 2018FeaturedNews

INSIGHTS | What this election meant in the scope of time

Author: Joey Bunch - November 12, 2018 - Updated: November 21, 2018

U.S. Rep. Jerod Polis, Colorado’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee, left, stands with U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and former state Rep. Dianne Primavera, Polis’ lieutenant governor running mate, at the launch of the state Democrats’ 2018 campaign bus tour on Oct. 23, at Washington Park in Denver. (Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

Colorado is going to change because of the way people cast their ballots this year. That’s true, perhaps, every election, but this one more than most.

Yet it won’t be as awful or everlasting a thing as most giddy or depressed partisans will have you believe in the days and weeks ahead, especially those asking for political donations.

The impact of this election will be seen in retrospect in two years when policies come to pass. Democrats control every statewide office for the first time in decades. They majority of appointees on the state Supreme Court were placed there by Democrats.

The left is in the driver’s seat in our state for at least the next two years, the same way President Trump has controlled the national agenda the last two.

Polis is the nation’s first openly gay candidate to be elected governor. And there are reasons for Democrats and Republicans to be proud of that. For GOP nominee Walker Stapleton it was a non-issue. Neither he nor his campaign said a single word to me about that. In the primaries, however, an operative for one of Polis’ opponents tried to convince me that a vote for Polis in June was a vote for Stapleton in November, because Colorado wasn’t yet ready for a gay governor.

In that regard, Republicans showed more campaign restraint than a few Democrats.

Colorado elected its first African-American to Congress, Joe Neguse of Boulder, the son of immigrants from the war-torn African nation of Eritrea, who beat Republican Peter Yu, who could have been Colorado’s first Asian-American congressional member.

In House District 20 in Arvada, the seat vacated by Republican (and former Democrat) Lang Sias to become Stapleton’s running mate, Brianna Titone, who was vying to become the state’s first transgender legislator, was as of late Nov. 7 leading Republican Vicki Pyne by a handful of votes out of 45,113 cast. A recount was expected.

It’s way too soon to call Colorado a blue state. We’re still a swing state.

Let’s see how we swing in two more years. It was just two years ago we were talking about U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman being unbeatable. This year, he was beatable. In two years, his Democratic replacement, Jason Crow, might be, too — maybe even by Coffman.

But there’s that Trump thing.

“My only hope of winning was to localize the race — a referendum on my leadership — and if the race was nationalized as a referendum on  the president that I simply could not win this race,” Coffman said in his concession speech on election night.

This election in Colorado stated very boldly that the national mood mattered. Normally in a mid-term election, candidates affiliated with the party in the White House try to localize the elections, to remind voters that even if they don’t like Washington politics, the  candidate in Colorado is one of them.

A little less Trump on the campaign trail might have helped some Republicans in Colorado, where the GOP nominee lost to Hillary Clinton by 5 points in 2016. September polling showed Trump had a 42 percent overall approval rating in Colorado.

The weekend before the election, Ian Silverii, the boss of the liberal ProgressNow Colorado juggernaut, gave me the political weather report in Colorado: “Fairly unpredictable, but right now it’s looking like it’ll be somewhere between a blue wave and a total monsoon.”

His words thunder to me now. Ian knows how fickle this state’s electorate can be.

Colorado Democrats turned out huge to elect Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, by 9 points and 5 points in the state, respectively. But in 2010 and 2014, his casual supporters “didn’t feel like they needed to show up in midterms to defend the guy” by electing more Democrats, Ian said.

“Now the exact opposite is true. With Colorado Republicans not having loved Trump much to begin with, their enthusiasm in this midterm election is totally depressed, whereas Democrats are fired up and ready to give Trump and his cronies what they’ve got coming, a historical political inversion of the last decade,” he said.

Democrats might feel the giddy urge to go after impeachment of the president originating in the newly acquired U.S. House, or they could open all manner of investigations aimed at further staining the White House.

The truth is, they need weakened Trump and a deflated GOP now more than ever. Trump on the ticket appears to be an easy ride to put a Democrat back in the White House in 2020, and take out Colorado Republican Cory Gardner from the U.S. Senate.

On the eve of the election, Jon Caldara, the leader of the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute, told his conservative supporters in a mass email a hard and essential truth: “Politics is the lagging indicator of change. Culture is the leading indicator. And the Left invests in changing political culture.”

To the winners and the losers from Election Day: “This, too, shall pass away.”

Until Judgment Day comes, there’s always another election.

Last spring I shared that wisdom and hope with the Foothills Republican Club in Littleton, and I wrongly said it came from the Bible. (The Book of Matthew says, “Heaven and Earth shall pass away, but my words will endure.”) I spoke to them again two days after the election and set the record straight.

It was a Republican, no less, Abraham Lincoln, who popularized the aged European aphorism in America. It was 1859, when honest Abe was a senator from Illinois, a year before he was elected president.

“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations,” Lincoln told the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society. “They presented him the words, ‘And this, too, shall pass away.’

“How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride. How consoling in the depths of affliction!”

I’ve never heard a better advice post-election.

Because this, too, shall pass away.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.