Lately here in Colorado, the public has been treated to a rather comprehensive seminar on why conservative politicians have now been thrown out of a state government formerly dominated by Republicans, and more broadly, about why the national GOP is on the ropes.
If I could set this post to a movie sound-effect, I wouldn't choose the Spaceballs clip where Rick Moranis says "now you see that evil will always triumph because good is dumb" because I think the GOP has that one down already. No, I'd play the Spaceballs clip where the voice tells them that "this ship will self-destruct in 20 seconds - this is your last chance to push the cancellation button." Except, I don't think the Republican Party can - or has the desire to - stop any of this.
Earlier this week, we found out that Republicans, under the direction of their standard-bearer Bill Owens, diverted severance taxes to their pet projects, and did nothing to close a gaping loophole that allowed Big Oil to escape paying the taxes it owed. As Law-and-Order Democrats have pushed forward to clean up the mess, the GOP has been totally silent - oh, except for their big backers in the oil and gas industry, who are now trying to stop Democrats' investigation into the matters. The situation almost perfectly mimics national Republicans' first passing a lobbyist-written Energy Bill that gave away billions to already wealthy oil and gas companies, and then opposing Democrats' efforts to repeal the largess and put the resources into more important energy priorities.
Now today, we see leading Colorado Republicans issuing a call to arms against a minor administrative rule change that would allow state employees to -- gasp! -- meet in rooms in state buildings. No really. I'm not kidding.
Led by a GOP legislator named Josh Penry -- you know, the one with the typical crazed look in his eyes -- Republicans are promising an all out assault on -- get this -- the Colorado Department of Personnel's decision to allow "the state to provide employee organizations with space to hold meetings, e-mail addresses of all employees and use of state mailrooms," according to the Rocky Mountain News. Call it the Republicans' Anti-Kickball Team Campaign, because yes -- at a time of skyrocketing health care costs, stagnating wages, an energy crisis and potential global catastrophe from climate change, Colorado Republicans have decided it is both smart politics and their Moral Duty and Responsibility to brand themselves as the party that's courageously trying to stop state employees from being allowed to email their Kickball Team schedules to each other.
The Rocky Mountain News says that "Republicans charge the policy will turn Colorado into a union paradise," which is first and foremost a strange phrase ("Union paradise"? Yeah, because coal miners, steelworkers and highway construction workers in America have traditionally lived LARGE. I'd like to see a few union pipefitters redo Coolio"s hit song about living the high life). But more importantly, the assertion is just plain absurd. Even more absurd is that these supposed "fiscal conservatives" are calling for the state to spend precious taxpayer dollars convening Constitutional Convention-style public meetings to debate the rule change as if it was a proposal to undermine the Colorado Way of Life.
And make no mistake about it -- the Republican effort to stop the rule goes way beyond kickball. Say a group of public employees wants to have an office-wide bake sale before work to raise money for the child of a sick employee. Nope, sorry. According to the GOP, that's not shouldn't be allowed to happen at the office, because allowing that would "turn Colorado into a union paradise." What about a state employee association sending out a flyer to others at the office about an emergency blood drive in the wake of a disaster? No again -- the Colorado Republican Party, channeling its anti-union brethren in Washington, hysterically says that's just part of the "governor"s mea culpa serenade to the disgruntled union bosses" and shouldn't be allowed. Seriously - you cannot make this up.
But my favorite example of how the conservative movement has self-destructed is the Right's public criticism of GOP federal judge Edward Nottingham for going to a strip club... Legally. As David Harsanyi correctly asks, "Why would these revelations cause so much consternation?" It's a good question -- and I'm glad to see Harsanyi, a libertarian, seems as concerned about the Right's overzealous outrage as any privacy-respecting American should be.
It's true, Colorado Republicans have now hired Dick Wadhams to lead them out of the wilderness -- but that seems about as smart as national Republicans having hired Karl Rove to build them a permanent majority. This is, after all, the same Dick Wadhams who publicly melted down when a local advocacy group had the temerity to ask a Republican candidate to disclose his campaign finances, the same Dick Wadhams who has previously made a career out of helping safe-seat Republican incumbents almost lose reelection, and the same Dick Wadhams who took the national Republican Party's leading candidate for president, George Allen, and not only commandeered his Senate reelection campaign into the ground, but helped turn Allen into a historical cautionary tale. And Wadhams hasn't been able to do anything about the extreme right-wing of his party now launching primary challenges to the merely-far-right wing of his party.
Here's a tip to GOP elites here and in Washington: If you want to know why you have been swept out of office, take a good look in the mirror. When you fire your car up to 110 miles an hour on a mountain road next to a cliff, and then deliberately jerk the steering wheel to the hard right, you shouldn't then ask why you are waking up in a hospital with your car totaled and your arms and legs in a cast.