DENVER — Modern Colorado is famously split fairly evenly among Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters. It’s often referred to as “the most purple state in the country,” and the people here — along with the politicians they elect — are pretty proud of that fact. They say their independent mindedness makes it possible for them to see beyond party lines.
Is it possible to make Washington, D.C. like Colorado? Two prominent Colorado Democrats, Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Michael Bennet, weighed in on that idea in the hours before the presidential debate Wednesday.
Both presidential candidates are promising to break the gridlock, hoping to return D.C. to a place of governing rather than a home of unending, meaningless rhetoric. Obama has promised Republicans will be more willing to play ball if he’s reelected. Romney’s allies have pointed to his record as a blue state governor as proof he’ll work across party lines.
TPM asked Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (CO) for his take on the theory that if Obama wins, Republicans after the election will be more willing deal than the Republicans of today. He said it’s possible, if the electorate makes it clear they’re not going to take it anymore.
“I think that people in Colorado — and I don’t see any reason to believe it wouldn’t be true in other parts of the country — are incredibly weary, bone-tired weary of the partisanship in Washington,” he said. “They identify quite rightfully and reasonably as something that’s holding us back. And burdening the country.”
Elected officials are going to pay the price if they don’t heed these deep concerns, he added. And gridlock, Bennet notes, is not endemic to the parties. It’s a sort of parasite that’s infected one side.
“I do think there’s difference in the Republican party. There are people that genuinely want to get work done [in Washington],” he said. “It’s a small group of people who’s ideology is they want to destroy the federal government.”
Bennet said the reign of those latter Republicans may be over after Nov. 6.
“Sometimes I wonder whether we’ll ever get those guys to work together,” he said, “but we may not need them to be able to move things forward.”
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper added that in order to get things moving in Washington, the ultra-negativity of modern campaigning has to be dialed back.
“The heat of television advertising and the skill with which negative attack ads are created and how successful they are makes it harder and hard for the country to come back together,” he told a panel hosted by the Atlantic in Denver Wednesday. “We are facing increasingly difficult challenges…and we really do need to focus on, as a nation, coming back together. That’s hard given the tenor of the campaigns.”
The governor suggested it may be up to politicians in the states to force Washington back into gear.
“Every governor, I think every elected official no matter who wins the election, we’ve got to move past this contentious, bitter, partisanship,” he said. Once the results are in, he said, politicians must “begin strategizing the day after the election.”