03/14/2008 09:02 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Lesson of Nixonland Haunts '08 Swing State

Back a few years ago, conservatives were considered tactical geniuses for putting anti-gay-marriage initiatives on the ballot as a way to drive up Republican turnout in critical elections. Whether their ploy worked to do that or not is an open question - but their focus on ballot initiatives continues today. Fortunately for progressives, as the Republican Party has imploded nationally, they have turned to the ballot initiative strategy of Richard Nixon - a strategy that my buddy Rick Perlstein's brilliant new book Nixonland shows drove the GOP into the ground. As I show in my new newspaper column out this week, Republicans in 2008 could face the same failure that Nixon faced back in 1958.

Here in Colorado - a major swing state in a major swing region - conservatives are championing the same so-called "right to work" ballot initiative that Nixon championed in 1958, and that subsequently lost Republicans 48 congressional seats. The right is hoping to use the initiative to drive up conservative turnout and keep Colorado in Republican hands in the presidential election. As I've shown in previous posts, "right to work" initiatives are designed to undermine the labor movement and decrease workers' wages. And a statewide poll shows that when Colorado voters learn about the initiative, they oppose it.

Why would the right in Colorado push such an unpopular anti-worker initiative in the face of a recession? Part of it has to do with sheer incompetence. The Colorado Republican Party is now run by Dick Wadhams - the same "guru" who ran George "Macaca" Allen's campaign, effectively ending the Virginia senator's career. Additionally, conservatives in Colorado - like conservatives nationally - are losing their grip on power, and when that happens extremism tends to become prevalent.

There's even more good news for progressives than the right's strategic idiocy: Labor unions are using the ballot initiative process very smartly. Specifically, unions are proposing a series of ballot initiatives that are putting the right in a very uncomfortable position. In recent years, unions have been on the defensive, and what labor is doing out here in Colorado could serve as a national model for other states looking to go on the progressive offensive.

Read the whole column at Creators, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Denver Post, The Ft. Collins Coloradoan, In These Times, Credo Action, TruthDig or Alternet. here for the details of what's going on, and what the national implications could be. The column relies on grassroots support, so if you'd like to see my column regularly in your local paper, use this directory to find the contact info for your local editorial page editors. Get get in touch with them and point them to my Creators Syndicate site. Thanks, as always, for your ongoing readership and help contacting local editors. This column couldn't be what it is without your help.