With the headline, “The swing state at the frontier of social change,” the latest Economist describes the polarization of Colorado’s current political season and the blowback that has put Democrats on the defensive this off-year.It describes the state’s swing toward the left and the Democrats use of their new power:
They have wasted no time. This year’s legislative session, says Floyd Ciruli, a Denver-based pollster, was one of the most left-wing he has ever seen. Along with the new gun laws Democratic leaders pushed bills to allow gay civil unions, require more use of renewable energy, lower tuition fees for illegal immigrants, allow voters to register on polling day and abolish the death penalty. All but the last were signed into law by Governor John Hickenlooper. Lawmakers also grappled with rules for the sale of marijuana, legalised by voters last year, and debated an income-tax rise to fund education, which is likely to be on the ballot in November. Ideas for more new taxes are lined up “like planes on tarmac”, says Mr. Ciruli.
Most of the new laws are backed by a majority of voters, says David Winkler of Project New America, a left-leaning think-tank. Still, after two years of split legislative control during which Mr. Hickenlooper could burnish his reputation as a consensus-seeking moderate, this year he has seen his approval ratings plummet among independents and Republicans. He still looks a good bet for re-election next year, partly because there is no obvious Republican alternative: Tom Tancredo, a veteran immigrant-baiter, is the leading candidate. The governor suggests that next year will see a return to bread-and-butter issues such as jobs. But Colorado has become a harder place to build political bridges. (Reporter Tom Nuttall)