Steamboat Springs So you didn't know that Aug. 1 was Colorado Day, the anniversary of our admission to statehood in 1876? That's no surprise, since many now regard this as a dusty bit of historical trivia, irrelevant today. It's not.
Colorado only was allowed by Congress to become one of the United States on the condition that its form of government would be "not repugnant to the principles of the Declaration of Independence." This is a good time, once a year at least, to see how we measure up to that standard, sort of like taking a physical on your birthday.
The principles to be cherished are that we're all created equal; that our rights are God-given, not manmade; that government must therefore be limited not unlimited; and that tyranny whether from monarchs or majorities is an ever-present danger.
What this means is that the power of the state, its laws and taxes, commands and prohibitions, police and jails, meet boundaries in our lives and liberties that they may not trespass. Not everything is political. If someone believes everything is political, even the carbon dioxide we exhale, even men's and women's restrooms, he's crossways to the Spirit of '76, 1776 and 1876. That's why Colorado Day still matters.
A study text for this year's self-examination was provided by the Weekly Standard, a national conservative magazine, in its July 21 cover story by Fred Barnes, "The Colorado Model: The Democrats' Plan for Turning Red States Blue." The Dems' electoral winning streak here since 2004 isn't just cyclical, Barnes contends. He thinks they've invented a whole new way of doing politics, potent and ready for export.
The darker implications of Barnes's analysis deserve attention no matter which party you favor - since a competitive and open political system is in everyone's interest. If he is right, a lockdown for one side could happen in Colorado.
What the Standard calls "the Colorado Model" consists of a single, shadowy power supply with a seven-way delivery system that molds public opinion and ultimately moves votes. The Democratic Party itself plays little role until Election Day. But ostensibly unrelated outside groups churn out a permanent campaign every day year-round, like turbines driven by a river of undisclosed money from rich liberals.
Voter attitudes in our state constantly are pushed leftward, as Fred Barnes tells it, by such silent partners as (1) the Bell Policy Center crunching numbers, (2) Progress Now mobilizing activists, Colorado Ethics Watch (3) investigating and (4) litigating, (5) Colorado Media Matters scolding PC violators, (6) the Center for Progressive Leadership training cadres, and (7) ColoradoPols.com rousing the blogosphere. It's some machine, and its end product is Democratic dominance.
Conspiracy theory? Hardly so, not when it's all done in the daylight (financial disclosure excepted). Not when the liberals boast of what they do and we conservatives extend grudging admiration. Some of us founded the Independence Institute two decades ago in the belief that the battle of ideas ultimately determines the battle of votes. The other side's "Colorado Model" takes the same premise and has trumped us for now. Fair is fair.
Where a problem may arise is in the sophisticated and coordinated scale of this new swarm offense from the left. Inside their echo chamber, with the mainstream media naively cooperating, how can you be sure what's true? How much power do you want Tim Gill, Pat Stryker, George Soros, and a few other zillionaires to have?
If by leveraging the liberties of limited government, the zealots of unlimited government were to entrench themselves in power, what freedoms would remain for the rest of us? What antitrust law restrains the progressive cartel? These questions need pondering if we're to make each Aug. 1 a truly happy Colorado Day.
John Andrews of Centennial was president of the Colorado Senate in 2003-05. He is now a Claremont Institute fellow, a member of the Conservative Leadership Counsel of Northwest Colorado, and host of Backbone Radio, Sundays at 5pm online at 710knus.com. You can e-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org