In the Democratic primary race for U.S. Senate in Colorado, to see who will have the opportunity to take on the incumbent, Republican Cory Gardner, in 2020, former Gov. John Hickenlooper has been expected to be formidable since he left the presidential campaign trail in August. That was partly why he left, and why pundits and party insiders encouraged him to leave a national effort that wasn’t gaining traction. Back in Colorado, they said, he could do more good, with his moderate appeal, by taking the state’s other Senate seat for the Democrats and just maybe be part of turning the Senate blue.
That it has not gone as simply as all that should be no surprise. Hick jumped in the Senate primary race like an adult doing a cannonball at a children’s pool party. Democrat candidates to his left, which was most of them, said, “Hey! We were already in here!” – and then some dried off and went home.
Still in the race is Andrew Romanoff, the former state House speaker who tried to unseat Sen. Michael Bennet in the 2010 U.S. Senate Democratic primary, when Bennet had the endorsement of former President Barack Obama; and at last count, six women.
Romanoff has emerged as the favorite of the left in this race, garnering support from the statewide Trump resistance group Indivisible Colorado Environment as well as the recent endorsement of the national Sunrise Movement. Colorado Public Radio accurately headlined a story last week “National Climate Activists Kick Off US Senate Effort By Trying To Take Down Hickenlooper,” referring to Sunrise, which has made a name for itself mobilizing youth and children to fight climate change by backing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and her Green New Deal resolution.
Coming out for Romanoff is part of a national plan by Sunrise “to sideline moderate Democrats in races that could decide control of the Senate.” Boulder Sunrise Coordinator Michele Weindling told CPR her group would highlight “all the reasons why Hickenlooper is so dangerous” for Colorado.
The former governor has criticized aspects of the Green New Deal but also has his own agenda on climate change, advocating a national carbon tax and net-zero emissions by 2050. That puts him well to the left of Gardner, but, Weindling said, “Hickenlooper and Cory Gardner are one and the same to us.”
Presumably this is so because neither would support the overnight elimination of the state’s energy industry. It’s a dangerous tact.
Conservative news media and the National Republican Senatorial Committee love it, of course, detailing the intra-party squabbles like children in a schoolyard chanting “Fight, fight!” One assumes they hope Romanoff can take down Hickenlooper and then be easy pickings for Gardner.
Among the risks for Democrats is that this could instead cede control of the Senate to Republicans for at least another two years. We suppose you have to weigh that against the fact that primary races for statewide offices may be the best chance for hard left and hard right activists (and their children) to make their voices heard. We wish it could be done with more finesse, but that is like the bullfrog who wished he had wings so he wouldn’t bump his keister every time he jumped.
After Obama suggested several times recently that his party errs when its candidates go too far left, he was met with the ultimate “OK, Boomer” response. Young activists in particular see no reason why they should heed someone whose winning electoral coalition every one of the Democratic presidential candidates hopes to emulate.
“While Obama’s recent denunciations of the left are disappointing, they are not exactly surprising,” Guardian columnist Arwa Mahdawi wrote last week. “After all, while he may have promised hope and change, Obama was never truly progressive.”
Translation: Why should we listen to Obama if he doesn’t agree with us?
The takeaway: Do not preach moderation to people who believe their hair and yours are ablaze and that socialism is a fire extinguisher. It’s a trap! If socialism should prove a fire accelerant instead, they will blame moderate Democrats and Republicans for striking the matches.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the group Indivisible Colorado, which is separate from Indivisible Colorado Environment.