In a new Colorado Politics article, reporter Hannah Metzger described the strong left-wing current running in the new Democratic majority in the Colorado state legislature. Liberal legislators and community organizers made it clear they intended to push a strong legislative agenda reflecting their view the electorate endorsed them and their views.
I suggested that Democratic legislative leaders would provide restraint, that the electorate could turn against them and voters mostly rejected the Republican brand not endorsed liberal Democratic proposals.
Floyd Ciruli, founder of the public policy research and consulting firm Ciruli Associates, said this will be one of the main challenges facing the progressive agenda, as moderate Democrats, such as House Speaker-designee Julie McCluskie, take the reins of the legislative session.
“It’s extremely important as to who the leadership is,” Ciruli said. “The new speaker from Dillon is pretty moderate. The chairmen and the vice chairmen have a lot of power. There’s a lot of new people, but they’re not necessarily in the position to dominate or set the agenda. My sense is that there will be at least some pressure from the opposite direction. They will be restrained by folks with more experience and leadership.”
Ciruli said longer-standing centrist Democrats may fear political backlash for pursuing progressive policies. He pointed to the 2013 recall of two Democratic senators in Colorado for supporting gun control legislation as evidence of what can happen when voters feel a party has overreached.
“We have moved much more progressive than that 2013 era, but that was a very liberal group and the backlash took place very quickly,” Ciruli said. “That made Democrats extremely, extremely cautious.”
Even with their massive majority, Democratic leadership, indeed, appears to be moving cautiously.
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Pollster Ciruli suggested that voters may have not been choosing Democrats as much as they were rejecting Republicans, an opinion he thinks some moderate members of the Democratic Party share.
“My thought is that new leadership in general is going to be very cautious of it. They won a great victory here, but it was a surprise. While it’s a welcome surprise for them, I think they recognized that it wasn’t because the Democratic brand was completely adopted by everyone. Rather, there was a sense that the Republicans collapsed,” Ciruli said. “There’s going to be a sense, particularly among the leadership, that they were pulled in by this wave and they could be pulled out by a new wave.”
While Ciruli and Democrat leaders will likely be cautious in picking their battles regarding progressive policies—rallying around crowd favorite issues, such as affordable housing—the weakened state of the Republican Party will make it difficult for voters to hold Democrats accountable, regardless of whether they under or over perform this session.
photo: Timothy Hurst/The Denver Gazette
Colorado lawmakers move further left, but will the laws follow suit?
Democratic candidates dominated Colorado’s November election, creating perhaps the most liberal-leaning legislature in state history. But that doesn’t mean the fight for progressive policies has been won.