Friday, September 13, 2013

Parsing the Colorado recall election

The results of the Colorado recall election are in, and two Democratic lawmakers have been ousted.  Now the analysis begins. The New York Times published this yesterday.  The headline is "Recall Vote on Guns Exposes Rift in Colorado's Blue Veneer," and its analysis makes scant reference to the rural-urban divide.  Jack Healy and Dan Frosch write:
While some voters in the two districts groused about the flood of donations Mr. Bloomberg and outside groups made in the recall campaigns, analysts in Colorado said the election results were shaped by an eruption of local discontent from voters who say their leaders are ignoring the concerns of gun owners and abandoning Colorado’s rural, libertarian roots. 
After years of gains propelled by shifting demographics and voter attitudes, Democrats now control the state legislature and the governor’s mansion, and make up most of Colorado’s Congressional delegation. But state officials said that the recalls showed how Colorado’s political pendulum could still swing in surprising directions, and that deep rifts still lay beneath its increasingly blue veneer.
They quote former Democratic governor Bill Ritter:
This is a state with a wide variety of interests at stake.  The Democratic Party cannot be the party of metro Denver and Boulder. It has to be the party who understands the values, views and aspirations of people who live outside of those areas.
"Hard Lessons of the Colorado Recall" is the headline for a Times editorial also yesterday.  It seeks to diminish the significance of the recall vote by referring to "two small districts in Colorado."  It closes with these lines:  
In truth, the recall fight showed that something sensible and stirring could emerge among politicians, at least in Colorado, even if two worthy incumbents were sacrificed. The state’s new laws survive, and Colorado residents are safer for them.
NPR's coverage, 6 Lessons from the Colorado Gun Wars, doesn't reference rurality at all, and it focuses more on voters' upset over outside efforts--namely of those NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg--to influence the election's outcome with his $350K donation.  The heading for this lesson was "Grass Roots vs Greenbacks":  
The election was widely seen as a proxy battle between the National Rifle Association and the new group created by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called Mayors Against Illegal Guns. In fact, Bloomberg contributed $350,000 to try to defeat the recalls. There was plenty of outside money spent in the fight: Denver political analyst and pollster Floyd Ciruli said the airwaves were so saturated with ads it felt like the frenzied height of a presidential election in parts of this battleground state. Gun rights groups were significantly outspent, explains Ciruli, but carried the day mostly through a very effective grass-roots campaign.
I am reminded of this post, which illustrates on a smaller scale how rural folks can bet their backs up when urban folks--or any outsiders--assert themselves.

While the NPR story didn't use the word "rural," it uses some proxies for rurality in writing of a "Western state with a strong gun culture" and libertarian rejection of the "nanny state" associated with Bloomberg's efforts to stop the sale of huge sugary drinks in NYC.    

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