Guest column: What we learned from the midterms in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District |

Guest column: What we learned from the midterms in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District

Steve Mandell
Guest Column

The recent elections in our Third Congressional District may be a turning point. But where it is leading us is far from settled. Nevertheless, there are four lessons from the recent election worth exploring.

  1. The rejection of extremism is growing, including among Republicans. Yet, we remain bitterly divided.

Colorado’s Third Congressional District is a microcosm of the divide in the U.S.

  • Red counties, blue counties. Lauren Boebert won a majority in fourteen counties while Adam Frisch won thirteen. Frisch flipped two counties (Alamosa and Huerfano), but Boebert none.
    • Enthusiasm for Boebert declines. In 2020, Boebert received more than sixty percent of the vote in nine counties. This time, only five counties delivered those results (Delta, Delores, Moffat, Montrose, and Rio Blanco). In contrast, voters gave Frisch more than sixty percent of the vote in eight counties (Costilla, Eagle, Gunnison, LaPlata, Ouray, Pitkin, San Juan, and San Miguel).
    • Garfield County Republicans are turning. Frisch beat Boebert in Garfield County by 3,426 votes, almost twice the margin of the 2020 election when another Democrat ran against Boebert. Even worse for Boebert, this gain takes into account a 2022 turnout that saw 6,360 fewer voters, a 21 percent decrease from 2020.
  • Republican Party divisions will continue and intensify. Western Slope Republicans are divided over Trump.

Republican leaders in Mesa County and Montrose Counties say it is clear that unaffiliated voters, overwhelmingly, do not like Trump. Cody Davis, a Mesa County Commissioner recently wrote in a Grand Junction Daily Sentinel op-ed that it was okay to move on from Trump. Montrose County GOP Central Committee Chair Scot Riba believes that Trump turns off independent voters but was not willing to dump Trump until he saw who officially files for the nomination.

As for Garfield GOP leaders, Executive Committee members Greg Rippy and Lisa Weimer have not returned phone messages or emails asking for a comment on the controversy about Trump.

However, given Trump’s cult following, it is likely that many of the conspiracy-minded, true believers are not ready to move on. They won’t give up their Trump flags, banners or hats, or Trump pillowcases, Trump presidential socks, or their Trump talking pen. We will see if Republicans, as they’ve done many times before, backtrack and capitulate to Trump in order to keep the support of his base.

  • Trumpism is more than narcissistic personality. It is a rejection of Western Slope tradition and values.

Moving on from Trump and his narcissistic personality is different from moving on from Trumpism. But the Trump policies that Republican politicians like DeSantis and Pence admire, have little in common with the values of Western Coloradoans.

Westerners value individuality and independence. They believe the federal government should stay out of our personal lives. Yet the current Supreme Court is establishing the legal basis to set up morality police state that pries into our personal lives and relationships.

There is a long tradition here of accepting personal responsibility. Political extremists talk about freedom, then deny the responsibility to the community that comes with it. They think freedom means being able to harass and threaten election workers and educators in the name of free speech. Whether it’s dog poop or vaccination, bratty children or leaving trash in public spaces, they interpret freedom to mean they can do whatever they please, regardless of the harm it causes others.

  • The voice and influence of moderates is growing.

The razor slim Republican control of congress gives leverage not only to the Freedom Caucus but also to moderates. As Politico’s Katherine Tully-McManus reports, the Problem-Solver Caucus, a congressional group seeking bi-partisan cooperation, is “suddenly a sought-after group, with everyone from the Freedom Caucus to Democratic Senators reaching out.”

The Problem-Solvers caucus is growing with almost 90 members. One possibility, Tully-McManus reports, would see the Problem-Solvers “only endorsing bills that have both Republican and Democratic co-sponsors when introduced.”

A year ago, it was difficult to find a Republican willing to speak out publicly. Today, Republicans and former Republicans are not only speaking out, but reaching out to like-minded Republicans across the Third District.

The bottom line: We can feel better about the fact that resistance to extremism is growing. But the authoritarian threat to democracy is real and serious. Lauren Boebert still holds power. Extremists have made gains in other parts of the country. It will take conservatives, liberals, and moderates, working together, if there is a chance of overcoming extremism.

Steve Mandell is a researcher and writer living in Montrose, Colorado.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.